Ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is an inflammation that affects the large intestine (colon) and rectum, whereas Crohn’s disease, another type of IBD, can affect any part of the digestive tract from mouth to rectum. According to Crohn’s & Colitis, approximately 700,000 people in the U.S. are affected by ulcerative colitis, which most often starts occurring between the ages of 15 and 30. Over time, long-lasting inflammation and ulcers develop that can lead to a range of symptoms, including:
• Blood, mucus, or pus in stools
• Abdominal pain and cramping
• Rectal pain
• Urgency to have a bowel movement
• Inability to move bowels, despite urgent feeling
• Weight loss
It can also cause skin conditions such as psoriasis, hives, acne, vitiligo, and other types of rashes. During flares, patients may also experience swollen or painful joints, red, irritated eyes, or mouth ulcers. The chronic inflammation that causes these symptoms is also a major risk factor for colon cancer.
While the underlying cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, it is currently believed to be an autoimmune condition related to a combination of risk factors including genetics, the environment, and an overactive immune system. Recent studies have suggested that there are at least 25 genetic links to IBD risk.
These studies, led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at Hinxton in the United Kingdom, also found that a family of transmembrane proteins called integrins play an important role in risk. Integrins link cells and their environment, acting as bridges for interactions between the immune system and the rest of the body. Some of the genetic links risked to IBD may also “raise expression of certain integrins when stimulated by the immune system,” according to the study, but more research is needed.
A variety of types of medications, including anti-inflammatory drugs, aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, pain relievers, and antidiarrheal drugs may help relieve some symptoms, but they do not treat the cause. One recent study discovered that soy protein may also help alleviate symptoms.
Researchers at the Pennsylvania State University studying the effects of replacing 12 percent of dietary protein with soy protein concentrate found that “soy protein concentrate mitigates markers of colonic inflammation and loss of gut barrier function,” stated Amy Wopperer, researcher .
Another study indicates that nanoparticles made from ginger “appear to help in intestinal repair by encouraging the survival and proliferation of cells in the lining of the colon. They also appear to lower the production of proteins that promote inflammation and to raise the levels of proteins that fight inflammation,” according to the study, conducted at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University.
Ultimately, increased research funding and participation in clinical studies is the best way to discover new treatments—and, ultimately, a cure—for ulcerative colitis. Meridien Research has several ulcerative colitis research studies that are enrolling in St. Petersburg currently. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at 1-888-777-8839 or visit our individual study pages.