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Colitis

Find a Specialist Near You

Specialists at Houston Methodist Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders are experts in conditions of the colon. We offer custom regimens to treat your gut discomfort.

 

Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease of the colon (large intestine) triggered by an autoimmune response to various causes. The body’s immune system reacts to bacterial infection and works to fight it. Though a natural response to infection, this process can irritate the lining of the colon. Repeated irritation causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the group of organs responsible for proper digestion. 

 

Your doctors can confirm a diagnosis of colitis when specific markers are present in the large intestine. 

 

An accurate examination is critical to a colitis diagnosis. Left undiagnosed, the disease can cause complications that may require surgery to repair.

Compassionate Approach to Care

Colitis can affect anyone at any age. Schedule an appointment at the first sign of GI discomfort and anytime it occurs on a regular or constant basis. 

 

Specialists at the Underwood Center take a research-backed approach to medical care. Houston Methodist Hospital is ranked No. 5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for Gastroenterology & GI Surgery. U.S. News & World Report has also named Houston Methodist Hospital the No. 1 hospital in Texas every year since the award began and one of the nation’s best as a nationally ranked Honor Roll hospital.

 

Our doctors specialize in colitis and have access to state-of-the-art equipment and clinical trials. We use the most advanced diagnostic tools to identify the cause of your symptoms and collaborate on a plan for treatment. Potential tests and equipment include a(n):

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy – examination of a tissue sample
  • Colonoscopy – procedure that tests for colon inflammation, colon polyps, colon cancer
  • Computerized tomography – (X-ray) scan of the abdomen
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – rectal examination with a tube and an attached light and camera
  • Intestinal ultrasound – ultrasound of the large and small intestine
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the abdomen
  • Stool culture – check for bacterial infection

Colitis Conditions We Treat

There are several types of colitis disease. Treatment depends on the symptoms and severity of each condition. Our multidisciplinary team of medical professionals handles the following:

 

Colitis Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Prevention

What are common causes of colitis?

The main cause of colitis is often unknown. Common causes include:

  • Decreased blood flow to the colon 
  • Food poisoning due to bacteria
  • Infections caused by a virus or a parasite
  • Past radiation to the large intestine
  • Immune system causing inflammation
  • Inflammation from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications

What are the warning signs of colitis?

Colitis has some symptoms that mimic benign (non-cancerous) gastrointestinal troubles. We warn against the dismissal of the signs because they could signal the onset of a more severe condition. It is important to schedule an appointment if any of the following occur:

  • Bloody stools
  • Constant abdominal pain
  • Cramps
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Persistent bloating
  • Sensation of needing to pass stool despite an empty bowel

What is the best treatment for colitis?

Based on your specific type of colitis, your doctor will recommend a plan with therapies that remove the toxin(s). We will also help you reduce inflammation and immune system activity. Typically, a treatment plan will include clear liquids, rest and medication for less-severe issues such as diarrhea. Other issues, such as those listed below, will require custom regimens:

  1. Infection – We may recommend a course of antibiotics for the specific type of diagnosed infection. If the body can rid itself of the disease, as in the case of Salmonella, you will not need antibiotics.
  2. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – The Fondren Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Program at the Houston Methodist Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders gives subspecialty care for the complex nature of this disease. Our specialists will recommend a range of management options.
  3. Ischemic colitis – Increased blood flow to the affected part of the large intestine is the priority in the treatment of ischemic colitis. From there, we may recommend surgery, if necessary, to remove portions of the bowel with insufficient blood flow.

Can I prevent the return of colitis symptoms?

You cannot prevent a flare-up, but a strict diet can help reduce the risk of colitis returning. Avoid consuming foods that you know can trigger or have triggered flares in the past.  Some common food or drink triggers include: 

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Dairy
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit with pulp or seeds
  • Foods with sulfur or sulfate
  • High-fiber foods – whole-grain bread
  • Hot sauces and spicy foods
  • Legumes – beans, peas
  • Meats
  • Nuts and crunchy nut butters
  • Popcorn
  • Raw vegetables
  • Refined sugar
  • Seeds – sunflower, pumpkin
  • Sugar-free gum and candy

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