Ulcerative Colitis: a comprehensive guide

Ulcerative Colitis - symptoms, causes, and treatment

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes the colon to become swollen (or inflamed) and in severe cases, painful sores (ulcers) are formed in the lining of the colon. Symptoms of this condition tend to occur and develop over time. Though it is still unclear how the condition occurs, studies suggest that both environmental and genetic factors play a role.


Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis can often flare up, and then disappear (go into remission) for months, or even years in some cases. However, without treatment of the symptoms when they occur, the condition will indefinitely return.

  • Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Rectal pain
  • Rectal bleeding — passing small amount of blood with stool
  • Urgency to defecate
  • Inability to defecate despite urgency
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Causes and risk factors

As mentioned, there is no confirmed cause for the condition. However, the HSE have noted factors that may be causing ulcerative colitis, and at the very least aggravating the condition.

  • Air pollution
  • Diet – It is known that diets that are high in carbohydrates and fats (typical western diet) are known to aggravate the disease, but not cause it. 
  • Genetic – Evidence suggests that when a close relative suffers with ulcerative colitis, you are more likely develop the condition.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for the ulcerative colitis. However, measures can be taken to treat and suppress the condition which is done in two ways:

  • Managing active ulcerative colitis with the aim of supressing (remising) the condition, and maintaining remission.
  • The above measures will require the assistance of healthcare professionals such as GP’s, doctors, and specialist nurses

Living with ulcerative colitis 

The NHS believe that a low residue diet can improve symptoms of the condition during a ‘flare-up’. These healthy diets for Ulcerative Colitis are lower in fibre which aid in reducing the number of stools you pass.

Foods in a low residue diet:

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Lean meat and fish
  • Eggs



HSE.ie. 2020. Preventing Ulcerative Colitis - HSE.ie. [online] Available at: https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/p/pancolitis/preventing-ulcerative-colitis.html

nhs.uk. 2020. Ulcerative Colitis - Living With. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ulcerative-colitis/living-with/

Mayo Clinic. 2020. Ulcerative Colitis - Symptoms And Causes. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ulcerative-colitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353326 [Accessed 18 September 2020].