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What is Colitis?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Colitis is an inflammation of the lining of the colon. Some of the common symptoms of this condition include abdominal cramping, frequent loose stools or persistent diarrhea, loss of control of bowel function, fever, and weight loss. There are many potential causes of colon inflammation, and its treatment typically depends on the cause.

Some forms of colitis might be caused by infection through bacteria, certain viruses and some parasites. For example, it might be caused by exposure to salmonella bacteria or an amoebic infection. Antibiotics or anti-parasitic medication typically are required to treat colon inflammation that has any of these causes.

Viruses such as rotavirus and norovirus also can cause colon inflammation and can result in dehydration, particularly in people who are very young or very old. Rest and increased fluid intake are often prescribed in these cases. If a person becomes severely dehydrated, however, he or she might need care in a hospital to receive intravenous fluids.

Certain diseases can predispose patients to attacks of colitis. The most frequent cause of colon inflammation in people who have intestinal diseases is Crohn’s disease, which is a degenerative intestinal disorder. A person who has Crohn’s disease is more prone to colon inflammation and to other serious conditions such as perforated bowel. He or she should see a healthcare professional immediately whenever any symptoms of colon inflammation are present, because any of these symptoms can necessitate medical treatment.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also can cause bouts of colitis. IBS is difficult to diagnose and to treat, so anyone who has had frequent recurrences of colitis symptoms should contact a healthcare professional. This is especially true if bacteria or parasites causes the symptoms, because the IBS can worsen and might need immediate treatment.

Although antibiotics are used to treat bacterial colitis, they also can be indicated as a cause of colon inflammation in some cases. Additional causes might include taking birth control medication or having autoimmune disorders. Smoking also can cause inflammation of the colon or contribute to the worsening of the symptoms.

People can reduce their risk of getting an inflamed colon by using sanitary cooking and eating practices, avoiding caffeinated beverages and not taking medications such as ibuprofen to treat irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel conditions. The treatment for people who have frequent bouts of colitis will focus on trying to reduce symptoms such as diarrhea and stomach cramping. Sometimes, treatment of the symptoms is the only way to address colon inflammation. Even with treatment, however, people who have Crohn’s disease, other autoimmune diseases or known stomach disorders should be vigilant if they suspect colitis, because other more serious conditions might have the same symptoms.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon344440 — On Aug 09, 2013

I had colitis for seven years. It started out of the blue at age 22, and stopped when I was 29.

I didn't take any medication for it and while I understand that it can be very helpful for a lot of sufferers, I would advise you not to take a doctor's advice at face value.

This is not a 'death sentence'. I have been completely colitis free for four years, not one episode. I didn't have diarrhea, blood loss or anything at all. I put this down to 'realklising' my system. I drink hot water and lemon before I eat anything every morning and throughout the day. Apparently, despite being acidic, it has an alkaline effect on the body.

All I know is that I had severe colitis which stopped as soon as I started doing this so you might as well give it a go. Good luck to everyone suffering. Don't give up hope. Stay positive and keep on researching natural remedies as something may work for you.

By anon342003 — On Jul 16, 2013

I have colitis. I was given antibodies and medicines. However, a week after being discharged, I am still discharging what seem to be mucous from my rectum. It looks like phlegm and contains small specks of blood. Is this normal? Or is my body just getting over the inflammation?

By fereshteh — On Nov 27, 2011

My husband has colitis and 10 cm of his rectum has inflammation. He had blood during toileting and also abdominal pain in his stomach, after three months of using 1. cortenema; 2. asacol enema and also mesalazine. His bleeding has stopped and now he is decreasing gradually the amount of his drugs. Is there any other way to decrease the risk of the disease returning? Which factors should we consider during this disease?

By anon167407 — On Apr 12, 2011

I have had UC for 20 years and I developed a mobile app to help me track my symptoms. It helped me and my doc and it is now my full time passion. The app is called GI Monitor - available for iPhone and Android - and it's free. I hope it can help you like it helped me. Tracking your symptoms, diet and medications to establish correlations and communicate effectively with your doctor is vital. Best - Brett

By anon77296 — On Apr 13, 2010

I have recently been diagnosed with mercury toxicity by my naturopath. You guys should look into it, most people have some amount of mercury in their system due to dental amalgams.

I've been having severe stomach problems, trembling and panic attacks. Since I've been doing the chelation my symptoms are improving.

My brother has crohn's disease and it runs in my family. Many autoimmune diseases are caused by mercury.

Go see a naturopath and see if you they can test you so you can get to the bottom of things. Good luck!

By anon75046 — On Apr 05, 2010

i have colitis and very depressed I'm only 24 years old. is this something to really worry about? i have a colonoscopy soon but am really scared of the results. my stomach is always rumbling. is this normal?

By anon61286 — On Jan 19, 2010

Dear anon2960: In answer to your question if it's possible to wash out colitis completely from your system: No, I don't think so. But it is most definitely possible for your colitis to be in remission for years and years and years.

I'm almost 16 now and I've been in remission for 10 years! My advice is just to get to really know your body, to look at the patterns and see what triggers most outbreaks of colitis.

In my case, things like foods with high fructose corn syrup and very processed foods push me over the edge, so I stay completely away from them. I eat organic foods and do a lot of scratch cooking (so you can keep the junk out :] plus in my opinion it's way more delicious), and I feel a lot healthier and have few to zero outbreaks (and even when I do, it's very light version of most colitis symptoms).

I really hope that any of this advice helps you. Good luck!

By anon29692 — On Apr 06, 2009

In response to anon630,

I have had ulcerative colitis for three years and have been on high doses of steroids, told I need surgery, and been on Remicade (an extremely expensive, dangerous drug that ultimately caused my liver to come very close to shutting down) Anyway, I eventually went on Lialda and started taking a cortenema and canasa suppositories. The Cortenema has cortisone in it, a steroid, but since it is more of a "topical" application it does not wreck you systematically.

Now I just take lialda and immodium and am seeing a licensed acupuncturist/herbalist. The bleeding and urgency has stopped after three years of hell. I feel your pain! So, I recommend the Cortenema to help get you off of oral steroids and consider seeing an acupuncturist. I think staying away from ibuprofen and caffeine have helped as well.

good luck.

By aztecbrick — On Jun 25, 2008

Possibly I have IBS or IBD. I live 80 miles from the testing facility for a stool sample. I cannot be assured that when my bowels finally move that it will be in the daytime. How long before I have to have the sample to the facility? Can I refrigerate or freeze the sample? If so, for how long?

By antheashaw — On Jan 07, 2008

In response to: Posted by: Anonymous

hi i am undergoing tests at present for crohns as my bowel movements are irregular and bruising has appeared on my legs and not fading over the last month or two. has anyone who suffers from crohns ever heard of this is as a symptom?

This sound like Erythema nodosum which can also appear as raised purple/red bumps and indicates a deep seated inflammatory condition, it was one of the original symptoms I had prior to my Crohns diagnosis being confirmed. I have now had the condition for almost three years and since it developing I have noticed that I bruise very easily and that they take a longer than normal time to go. Discussing with fellow Crohns patients have also confirmed that this is something that I now need to live with.

By anon2960 — On Aug 02, 2007

Is it possible to wash the the disease colitis out of your system, about 10 years ago I was diagnosed as having ulcerative colitis, and I had a terrible time with it, loose stools, bleeding, weight loss, I lost nearly 4 stone, and at times I was constipated,and as I'm sure you know could'nt bear to strain with it. Well to come to the point, I rigged up a device for giving myself colonic irrigation, this used to help with the constipation and also help clean me up, naturally I'm still taking the various medicines prescribed for me, but for the last 2 years I've been free of all the misery and pain I used to have, I haven't had the courage to stop taking the medicines in case it comes back, but I do wonder, am I cured?, have I washed it away?. I would appreciate your opinion.

By anon2942 — On Aug 01, 2007

hi i am undergoing tests at present for crohns as my bowel movements are irregular and bruising has appeared on my legs and not fading over the last month or two.has anyone who suffers from crohns ever heard of this is this a symptom?

By anon630 — On Apr 30, 2007

Hi, Ive had ulcerative colitis for 8 year now, im only 18 and i cannot do things my mates can do ie swimming coz i bleed a lot, is there any other medication for colitis other than steroids as im sick of putting weight on??

the doctors are running out of ideas can you help?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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