Supplements for Ulcerative Colitis: What Should You Take?

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With ulcerative colitis (UC), your body loses many essential nutrients and vitamins it needs to function well. UC can deplete you of things like iron and vitamin D, steal your energy, and hurt your joints. While it's relatively easy for people without UC to get the nutrients and vitamins they need from food, it's difficult for UC patients. Read on for a rundown of supplements you should consider with UC. As always, speak with your gastroenterologist (GI doctor) before taking a new supplement.


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Calcium

According to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation (CCF), calcium is a great supplement to consider, especially if you're taking steroids to manage your UC. Steroids can weaken your bones, so it's important to get your recommended dose of calcium to keep up your bone integrity and density. It's even better to pair a calcium supplement with a vitamin D supplement to make absorption easier on your body.


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Vitamin D

According to CCF, vitamin D is also important to add to your supplement regimen. Not only does it work well when paired with calcium, but high levels of vitamin D have been correlated to less active UC. It's believed that vitamin D helps to reduce intestinal inflammation. If you use steroids to treat your UC, they can cause vitamin D resistance, so you want to make sure to add this supplement to your regimen.


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Folic acid

Folic acid is something to consider taking if you're on sulfasalazine or methotrexate medications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), folic acid is a B vitamin that helps us make new cells. Medications like sulfasalazine and methotrexate can interfere with the ability to absorb folic acid. Especially if you're a woman with UC who is thinking about trying to get pregnant, you want to consider this supplement.


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Vitamins A, E, and K

Vitamins A, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins that a UC body needs. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin A is important for vision, your immune system, and reproductive health, Vitamin E helps protect cells from free radical damage. Lastly, vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and healthy bones. If your UC is causing inflammation in your small bowel, or if you have a blockage, you might have trouble absorbing these vitamins due to an inability to absorb fat, which means you could be missing out on these essential nutrients.


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Iron

If you have UC, iron may be one of your top concerns. According to CCF, there are two reasons why an iron deficiency can occur in a UC patient: inflammation in the body and blood loss from intestinal ulcers. A low amount of iron in your system can also lead to anemia. Make sure you consult your GI before you take an iron supplement. If you take an iron supplement in pill form, taking it with orange juice can help reduce the effect on your stomach. You can also consider a liquid iron supplement if the pills are too difficult for you to digest, or if you have an ostomy.


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Multivitamins

It might be worth your while to add a general multivitamin to your regimen as well. According to the NIH, studies on multivitamins suggest that multivitamins have a positive impact on gastroenterologic disease. While a multivitamin may not prevent or ease your symptoms, if you're on a restricted diet, or you’re having difficulty digesting certain foods, a multivitamin can keep you covered with what you might be missing from your diet.


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Determine your regimen based on your needs

There's a lot to consider when it comes vitamins and supplements. Many of us with UC are already taking a few different types of medications, sometimes multiple times a day, so adding more pills can seem daunting. However, it can be important to your overall health and wellbeing to incorporate some of these supplements. Make sure that you discuss supplements with your GI and complete blood testing prior to adding any supplements to your routine.