How Colitis Is Treated (2023)

Colitis, which is inflammation in the large intestine, is a symptom of a disease or condition. It can be caused either by conditions that are chronic or those that come on suddenly (which is called acute).

Some of the causes of colitis include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), microscopic colitis, ischemic colitis, pseudomembranous colitis (sometimes calledClostridioides difficile or antibiotic-associatedcolitis), and allergic colitis.

Treating colitis will mean dealing with the underlying condition that’s causing it. Because the causes are so different, there is no one treatment that will be used for every type of colitis.

This article will discuss how each type of colitis is treated. In most cases, treatments will include medications and/or changes to diet. For some conditions, certain types of surgery might also be used.

How Colitis Is Treated (1)

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

For some of the causes of colitis, part of the treatment plan may include care that can be done at home. Changes to diet might also be used for some conditions, either long-term or for a short period of time.

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Some of the conditions that cause colitis may also cause diarrhea and/or vomiting. Drinking enough fluids to replace those lost through diarrhea is important. People with diarrhea should watch for signs of dehydration. If you have severe diarrhea, check with a healthcare professional about the best ways to replace lost fluids.

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Treatment for IBDs includes many different factors. There is no one diet that is recommended for all cases of IBD. It’s recommended that people with IBD work with a registered dietitian to develop an eating plan.

Some of the diets that may be used as a template include the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD), the Mediterranean diet, and theIBD anti-Inflammatory diet. There has not been enough research to recommend one diet for everyone. Although, one study showed that the SCD and the Mediterranean diet were about the same in helping reduce symptoms.

Stress doesn’t cause colitis or IBD. However, depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions may lead to a worsening of symptoms for some people. Stress relief and mental health care may be used as part of a treatment plan.

Regular exercise is recommended for most people, including those with colitis caused by IBD. It’s thought that exercise may have benefits in fighting inflammation. Physical activity may be recommended as part of an overall plan to cope with the disease and its symptoms.

Smoking may worsen symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Stopping smoking is recommended for all people who live with a form of IBD, regardless of how it affects the digestive system or other parts of the body.

Microscopic Colitis

There is not enough research available to help guide lifestyle decisions or dietary changes for people living with microscopic colitis. Some people may find it helpful to work with a dietitian in order to develop a healthful eating plan that doesn't worsen symptoms. However, it is recommended that people who live with this condition stop smoking.

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Ischemic Colitis

It’s not thought that ischemic colitis can be prevented. There are several risk factors, some of which can’t be changed (such as female sex and being over the age of 65). Preventing constipation and controlling any underlying conditions are important to living a healthy lifestyle.

Allergic Colitis in Infants

In some cases, this type of colitis is thought to be related to a food allergy. For breastfed infants, it might be recommended that the breastfeeding parent take certain foods that commonly cause allergies out of their diet.

In some cases, this may mean first stopping foods containing dairy. Other foods that cause common food allergies might be stopped as well if the colitis doesn’t improve.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Therapies

There aren't many over-the-counter remedies that may be recommended to treat the cause of colitis. Vitamin and mineral supplements might be recommended in some cases.


Colitis may cause bleeding from the colon. If there is enough blood loss, it can cause anemia. Iron or other supplements may be recommended. It’s important to check with a physician rather than self-diagnosing and self-treating iron deficiency anemia to ensure iron is needed and that the right type and dose of iron are being used.


Some causes of colitis are also associated with diarrhea and/or vomiting. Self-care for vomiting and diarrhea may include moving to a bland diet or a diet of mostly liquids until food can be kept down.

Taking in enough fluids to replace any that are lost is important in preventing dehydration. This may include water, sports drinks, or store-bought or homemade oral rehydration solution.

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Clostridioides difficile Colitis

While it is not part of any official treatment guidelines, there is a theory that probiotics may be helpful for preventing Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile) infection.

In one study, a yeast calledSaccharomyces boulardiihelped reduce the risk of infection in hospitalized patients. Patients should always discuss any use of probiotics with their physician to ensure they’re being used properly.


There are many prescription medications and therapies used to treat colitis. The treatments used will be different based on the cause of colitis. In most cases, therapies are aimed at treating the underlying cause of the inflammation.

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

There are a variety of prescription medications that might be used to treat IBD. Your gastroenterologist will usually prescribe these medications. Not every drug will work for every patient.

Which medication or combination of medications are used will depend on which form of IBD is causing the colitis (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), how deep the inflammation is, and if there are other symptoms that need treatment.

Some of the types of drugs usedinclude5-aminosalicylic acid medications (5-ASA), corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and biologics.

Microscopic Colitis

Therearen’t any guidelines on how to treat microscopic colitis. However, some prescription medications may be used, including cholestyramine, 5-ASA drugs, corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha drugs.

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Ischemic Colitis

Medications may be used to provide some relief from the signs and symptoms of this condition. Pain relief,antibiotics, and fluids may be given to patients that are hospitalized for ischemic colitis.

C. difficile Colitis

Even though this condition may occur after treatment with antibiotics, that is also the first treatment that might be tried. Antibiotic resistance, where some strains of bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, can complicate treatment.

Surgeries and Specialist-Driven Procedures

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Surgery may be used to treat colitis that’s caused by IBD. This includes either the partial or the total removal of the colon. Surgery might be used when medications have failed to control the disease or there is a risk of colon cancer.

When theentire colon is removed, there must be another way for stool to leave the body. That could mean placing an ileostomy, in which a piece of the small intestine is brought through the abdomen, which is called a stoma. An appliance is worn on the abdomen overthe stoma to collect stool.

In ulcerative colitis, a type of surgery called an ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA), or commonly, a j-pouch may be performed. In an IPAA, the end of the small intestine is used to create a holding space for stool (much like a rectum). It is then attached to the anus and stool is passed out the bottom.

Ischemic Colitis

In some cases, surgery might be used to treat this potentially life-threatening condition. Damaged parts of theintestine may need to be removed or any affected arteries may need to be repaired.

C. difficile Colitis

Another treatment that’s used under the care of a physician is a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT). Stool from a healthy donor that has beenspecially treated is put into the colon of the person withC. difficile colitis. In November 2022, the FDA approved Rebyota, a fecal microbiota product, to prevent the recurrence ofC. difficileinfections in adults. It is for use after an individual has completed antibiotic treatment for recurrentC. difficileinfections.

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The treatments for colitis will depend on the underlying cause. For most types, medication and a change in diet are used. For some types, surgery may be needed.

A Word From Verywell

The reasons for the development of colitis are varied, as are the treatments. The key is to get the cause of colitis diagnosed so that it can be treated early and effectively. One of the most important things to know about the early diagnosis and treatment is that bleeding from the rectum is not normal. Blood in or on the stool is a reason to see a doctor, even if it has happened before.


How Colitis Is Treated? ›

Ulcerative colitis treatment usually involves either medication therapy or surgery. Several categories of medications may be effective in treating ulcerative colitis. The type you take will depend on the severity of your condition. The medications that work well for some people may not work for others.

What is the best treatment for colitis? ›

Aminosalicylates. Aminosalicylates, also known as 5-ASAs, are medicines that help to reduce inflammation. This in turn allows damaged tissue to heal. They're usually the first treatment option for mild or moderate ulcerative colitis.

Does colitis go away? ›

Ulcerative colitis can usually be controlled with medicines. If not controlled, it can be cured by surgically removing the colon. Viral, bacterial and parasitic colitis can be cured with appropriate medicines. Pseudomembranous colitis can usually be cured with appropriate antibiotics.

How long does it take for colitis to heal? ›

Acute colitis that is caused by a temporary infection, food intolerance or radiation exposure typically goes away by itself. Some types of infections may need treatment to go away, especially parasite infections. Most infections take about a week to go away, while radiation colitis takes a few months.

What triggers colitis? ›

Causes of colitis include: Infections caused by a virus or a parasite. Food poisoning due to bacteria. Crohn disease.

What foods soothe colitis? ›

Low-residue diet
  • white bread.
  • refined (non-wholegrain) breakfast cereals, such as cornflakes.
  • white rice, refined (low-fibre) pasta and noodles.
  • cooked vegetables (but not the peel, seeds or stalks)
  • lean meat and fish.
  • eggs.

What should you avoid if you have colitis? ›

The Worst Foods For Those With Ulcerative Colitis
  • Watch Out For Fiber. Whole grain cereals and breads are difficult to digest and lead to flare ups if you have UC. ...
  • Nuts And Seeds. These foods are difficult to digest and aggravate the symptoms. ...
  • Dairy. ...
  • Unhealthy Fats. ...
  • Caffeine. ...
  • Alcohol. ...
  • Certain Vegetables. ...
  • Spicy Foods.
May 5, 2020

Is colitis very serious? ›

Although ulcerative colitis usually isn't fatal, it's a serious disease. In some cases, ulcerative colitis may cause life-threatening complications.

What are the warning signs of colitis? ›

The two most prevalent types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease and they share many common symptoms.
  • Diarrhea. One of the worst symptoms of IBD is persistent diarrhea that can often be bloody. ...
  • Abdominal pain. Pain in your abdomen is a telltale symptom of IBD. ...
  • Rectal bleeding. ...
  • Weight loss. ...
  • Fatigue.

What are the 3 types of colitis? ›

Types and causes
  • proctosigmoiditis, which affects the rectum and lower portion of the colon.
  • left-sided ulcerative colitis, which affects the left side of the colon beginning at the rectum.
  • pancolitis, which affects the entire large intestine.

What makes colitis worse? ›

In general, high-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, are excellent sources of nutrition. However, if you have ulcerative colitis, these foods may make your symptoms worse. Steer clear of nuts, seeds, corn and popcorn, and see if you notice a difference in your symptoms.

Does colitis always show up on colonoscopy? ›

In Microscopic Colitis, the bowel lining usually appears normal during colonoscopy. However, when biopsies (tissue samples) are taken from the bowel lining and examined under a microscope, changes in the lining can be seen – hence the name Microscopic Colitis.

How do you test for colitis? ›

Sigmoidoscopy. A diagnosis of ulcerative colitis can be confirmed by examining the level and extent of bowel inflammation. This is initially done by using a sigmoidoscope, a thin, flexible tube containing a camera that's inserted into your rectum (bottom).

Is colitis brought on by stress? ›

Chronic stress can cause excessive growth of pro-inflammatory bacteria and thus induce increased susceptibility to colitis in subjects after fecal microbiota transplant. Stress is known to cause low-grade intestinal inflammation via increased bacterial translocation and the production of poisons (87).

Where does colitis hurt? ›

Ulcerative colitis (UC) involves inflammation of the lining of the large intestine. People with UC tend to experience pain in the left side of the abdomen or in the rectum. The severity and frequency of pain vary depending on the extent of the inflammation.

Where does colitis start? ›

The inflammation in ulcerative colitis usually starts in your rectum, which is close to your anus (where poop leaves your body). The inflammation can spread and affect a portion of your entire colon. When the inflammation occurs in your rectum and lower part of your colon, it's called ulcerative proctitis.

How do you get rid of a colitis flare fast? ›

Your doctor may prescribe suppositories and enemas. Some drugs, like corticosteroids and “5-ASAs,” can quickly get your UC inflammation under control. For day-to-day care, you might take 5-ASAs and meds that curb your immune system, such as azathioprine or 6-MP. Sometimes doctors also prescribe “biologic” drugs for UC.

Can I eat salad with colitis? ›

Vegetables to Avoid with Ulcerative Colitis

Be careful with large amounts of tough, uncooked greens, too, such as kale salads. While leafy greens that have been cooked until soft (and possibly blended or pureed) may be tolerable for some, the rough texture of the raw greens can be irritating, Warren notes.

Can I eat pizza with ulcerative colitis? ›

Short answer: yes, if tolerated! Pizza is a food that can be categorized into the Western Diet, which research has linked to the increased prevalence of IBD. But pizza can feel like a slice of normalcy. There's a case to be made for enjoying pizza occasionally, if you tolerate it!

How long do colitis flare ups last? ›

Flare-ups might take days or weeks. Remission might last for months or even years. You may go from a mild flare-up to a severe one and back again. Or, it may get more advanced and spread to other parts of your colon.

What happens if colitis is left untreated? ›

If ulcerative colitis remains untreated, the inflammation can spread to the deeper layers of your colon and result in a very dangerous complication called toxic megacolon. This condition can lead to life-threatening infections, kidney failure, or a colon rupture and needs to be treated immediately.

Does colitis fix itself? ›

You may need medicine to treat ischemic colitis or prevent infection. Or you may need surgery if your colon has been damaged. Most often, however, ischemic colitis heals on its own.

What is the average age to get colitis? ›

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has two forms: Ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's. These conditions cause chronic inflammation of all or part of the gastrointestinal tract. A person can develop UC at any age throughout their life, but doctors diagnose most people in their mid-30s.

How many times a day do you poop with colitis? ›

Those with mild ulcerative colitis are said to have less than four bowel movements each day with intermittent rectal bleeding. Moderate to severe ulcerative colitis is defined as passing more than six stools a day with frequent rectal bleeding.

What are red flags for colitis? ›

Abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea are the most common warning signs of UC, and can range from mild and intermittent to severe and chronic. The pain of UC is quite common and can significantly impact quality of life.

What does colitis stool look like? ›

Color: You might notice bright red, maroon or black color indicating the presence of blood. You may also notice more mucus in the stool than normal. Odor: The odor of the stool may be increasingly foul compared to the typical smell. Texture: Presence of UC typically causes loose, watery stools.

What is the most common medication for colitis? ›

Balsalazide, mesalamine, olsalazine, and sulfasalazine are the main medications used to treat ulcerative colitis. They come in pills and suppositories. Let your doctor know if you are allergic to sulfa before taking one of these drugs.


1. Ulcerative colitis - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology
(Osmosis from Elsevier)
2. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention | Mass General Brigham
(Mass General Brigham)
3. Inflammatory bowel disease: triggers, diet tips and treatment
(Top Doctors UK)
4. COLITIS DIET - What to Eat & What to Avoid Triggers & Symptoms -Dr. Rajasekhar M R | Doctors' Circle
(Doctors' Circle World's Largest Health Platform)
5. How to Manage Ulcerative Colitis Without Medication
(Diet vs Disease - FODMAP Dietitians Joe & Taylor)
6. What to do if you have a Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis flare | GI Society
(Gastrointestinal Society)


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