If you've just been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, you probably have some questions. You may also have heard some things about UC that simply aren't true. Check out the most frequently asked questions and common myths in the sections below.
Q. Is UC caused by stress?
A. While stress does not cause UC, some people find that it aggravates their symptoms. If you do find that stress bothers you, try things like relaxation techniques, gentle exercise and meditation. Leading a balanced lifestyle can help you manage your disease.
There is no such thing as a “UC diet.” Everyone is different– your nutritional approach should be customized to fit YOU. When you are in remission there is no need to avoid any particular kind of food. In general, a healthy diet includes daily portions of protein, vegetables and fruit, grain and milk products (if you can tolerate dairy).
Some foods, however, are harder to digest than others. These include foods containing insoluble fibre, seeds and nuts, and raw fruits and veggies. Some people find that keeping a food diary helps them identify “trigger” foods and foods that are “safe” when they experience a flare. Check out UCan Enjoy Delicious Food for ideas and great recipes.
You may have heard that it is more difficult to conceive if you have UC. Research has shown that during a flare, women with UC have a decreased rate of fertility compared with women without UC. The good news is that women whose UC is in remission have just about the same fertility rates as women in the general population. The key is this: if your disease is not active and you are healthy and well nourished, you are just as likely to get pregnant as anyone else!
If you conceive when your disease is in remission, most studies show that you are as likely to have a normal pregnancy as a woman who does not have UC. The important fact to remember is that you should plan your pregnancy at a time when your body is healthy and your UC is under control. If you are planning on starting a family, talk to your doctor about the medications that you are taking to control your UC, as some medications may not be recommended during pregnancy.
The link between genetics and UC is still being explored. Some studies have shown that there is a slightly increased risk that children will develop UC if one or both parents have it. However, there is a greater possibility that your children will not develop UC. So, while family history may be a consideration, it should not be the only one in your decision to start a family.
If you want to start a family, think you might be pregnant or are breast-feeding, talk to your doctor about continuing to take your medication.
Vacation travel is well within the reach of anyone who is already managing UC. Any good vacation requires planning. Although you may not be able to predict a flare, vacation travel should be done during periods of remission. In a case where you may experience a flare away from home, there are many things you can do to be prepared. Find tips and ideas in UCan Travel.
Most people with UC never develop colon cancer. However, two factors that increase the risk are the duration of the disease and how much of the colon is affected. If only the rectum and lower colon are involved, the risk is the same as the general population. If the whole colon is involved, or if UC has been present for more than 8 to 10 years, the risk is higher.
Organizations such as the Crohn's and Colitis Canada (CCC), the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) provide updated information about ongoing research and trials for UC. You can also ask your gastroenterologist about ongoing trials and research.
Some people with UC who do not respond to or cannot tolerate medical treatment may eventually need surgery to remove part or all of the colon. The type of surgery will depend on the severity of the disease and the person's needs and lifestyle. Surgery will essentially "cure" the disease as it will not return anywhere else in the gastrointestinal tract. Talk to your doctor, and get as much information as you can from patient advocacy groups, such as those listed in Stay Connected if you are faced with this decision.
Myth: Flares are a normal part of living with UC.
Reality: Flares are not a "normal" part of well-controlled UC. If you are having flares, you and your doctor should discuss ways to bring your UC into remission.
No one knows for sure what causes UC, but many scientists think it is a combination of genetics, an abnormal reaction of your immune system, and possibly, even a virus or bacteria.
UC is a chronic disease. You should continue to take your medication as long as your doctor has prescribed.
UC is not caused by stress. However, stress can aggravate the condition. Finding ways to control your stress and live a balanced lifestyle can help.
Diet does not cause UC, although some foods can trigger a flare. Keeping a food diary can help you identify your “trigger” foods, as well as those that are “safe” when you experience a flare.
Flares are not a “normal” part of well-controlled UC. If you are having flares, you and your doctor should discuss ways to bring your UC into remission.
Since symptoms of UC can vary from person to person, it’s important for you to ask questions and discuss issues that are of specific concern to you. Whether you are newly diagnosed, experiencing UC flares, in remission, or acting as a caregiver for someone with UC, your questions may change over time, depending on where you are in your journey.
Use this interactive guide to prepare a written list of topics and questions to bring to your next appointment. It’s quick and easy, and may help you leave your doctor’s office with some answers.