The cause of ulcerative colitis is not known, but heredity and an overactive immune response are suspected factors. Food allergies may also be a factor (D'Arienzo et al. 2000).
Poor absorption of food and nutritional deficiencies often result due to degeneration of the intestinal mucosa. In addition, many people with colitis have a decreased food intake which adds to nutritional deficiencies.
Conventional treatment aims to reduce inflammation, reduce symptoms, and replace any lost fluid or nutrients. While symptoms can be alleviated by dietary changes and drug therapies, there are specific nutritional therapies that have been shown to be effective without inducing side effects.
Fish oil may be a useful therapeutic agent in the management of colitis. Studies on the use of dietary supplements of fish-oil-derived fatty acids have indicated a beneficial effect on inflammatory bowel disease (Ross 1993; Steinhart 1997; Almallah et al. 1998). Many published studies suggest that marine fish-oil supplements, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may reduce the inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis.
Dietary fiber is found in many plant foods, such as fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains, and is essential to good health. Insoluble fiber found in such foods as fruit pulp, vegetable peels and skins, and grain brans adds bulk to stools and hastens the movement of food through the digestive tract, helping to prevent constipation and diarrhea. Soluble fiber found in fruits, vegetables, grains, oatmeal, and dried beans helps to lower cholesterol and prevent such diseases as colon cancer and diabetes.
Colitis patients often suffer from multiple nutrient deficiencies (Wasser et al. 1995). Supplementation with a multinutrient formula such as Life Extension Mix could prevent complications of long-term nutritional deficiencies. Studies have shown potential lethal effects caused by colitis-induced nutritional deficiencies. Free radicals have been implicated in the colitis inflammatory process (Ramakrishna et al. 1997). Vitamin E and selenium are two nutrients that appear to be especially effective in suppressing free radical-generated inflammation.