Causes of ulcerative colitis


The exact cause of ulcerative colitis, which leads to inflammation in the colon, is not yet known.
It stands to reason that several environmental factors play a role and that the illness can be influenced by psychological stress. But genetic factors also play a very important role, as the disease occurs more frequently in some families.

Possible causes

As already mentioned, the causes of ulcerative colitis are not fully understood. However, there are different factors that have a proven influence on the disease and are therefore treated in the following. These include:

  • General causes
  • Mental causes
  • Diet-related causes
  • Genetic causes

General causes

Interestingly, it has been shown that the number of ulcerative colitis sufferers in the western industrialized countries has increased over the past few decades. During the last few years there have been very different theories about the development of ulcerative colitis. Some of these were completely discarded.

At the moment it is assumed by many scientists that a barrier disorder of the intestinal wall is the reason. This then enables the penetration of bacteria that live in the colon of every healthy person. These bacteria then cause the inflammation. How the barrier function of the intestinal mucosa is supposed to be disturbed has not yet been sufficiently clarified.
Studies at the Medical University of Heidelberg suggest that the mucus that covers the intestinal mucosa has a different composition in ulcerative colitis patients. According to the research, the mucus that lines the inner wall of the intestine lacks a certain fat, phosphatidylcholine. This makes the intestinal mucosa more vulnerable to the bacteria in the large intestine, which leads to inflammation of the intestinal wall again and again. The lack of phosphatidylcholine in the mucus is said to be due to a disturbed connection between the intestinal cells.
It stands to reason that this disrupted connection between the intestinal cells is caused by a gene mutation. A dose of phosphatidylcholine could restore the barrier of the mucous wall and treat ulcerative colitis. The results so far look promising. The final results of these studies are still pending. But perhaps in a few years the real cause of ulcerative colitis will be clarified.

Mental causes

The fact that psychological factors such as stress, anxiety or other psychological problems that cause ulcerative colitis is not the case, even if researchers previously assumed this.
What is certain, however, is that these psychological factors significantly influence the course of the disease. Stress or psychological problems can lead to an ulcerative colitis flare-up or negatively influence it and worsen the symptoms. Ulcerative colitis Patients with stressful life events have an increased risk of relapses of diarrhea and pain.
Studies have shown that people with ulcerative colitis react more with gastrointestinal complaints to emotional stress. This means that psychological problems and stressful experiences are processed by expressing themselves in physical symptoms. In ulcerative colitis this would be e.g. Abdominal pain and diarrhea. Experiences from childhood, certain roles in the family or personality structures would also have an influence here.
In conclusion, however, it should be emphasized again that these psychological factors cannot trigger the disease, but only influence its course.

You might also be interested in this topic: Ulcerative colitis relapses


Even if stress was previously discussed as the cause of ulcerative colitis, it is now clear that stress does not lead to ulcerative colitis.
However, the importance of stress in ulcerative colitis should not be underestimated. Because stress has an influence on the course of the disease. So the occurrence of relapses is favored by stressful phases.
Healthy people are also more susceptible to illness after stressful phases. Therefore, stressful situations should be avoided in ulcerative colitis. This is not easy as the disease itself can cause stress due to its limitations in everyday life.

You may also be interested in this topic: How can you reduce stress?

Diet-related causes

There is no evidence that eating habits can cause ulcerative colitis.
Today it is not even possible to give clear and scientifically proven recommendations on eating behavior. It is only recommended not to consume too much fiber in the event of an acute attack. Fiber draws a lot of water and leads to bulky stools. They can also cause gas.
It is also recommended to ensure that you have an adequate intake of calories. This provides resources for recovery after operations or after an acute episode. But it is not yet known which foods are better tolerated in ulcerative colitis and especially in an acute episode and which can have a positive effect on the course of the disease.
It cannot be determined whether diet plays a role in ulcerative colitis. As a sufferer, it is definitely advisable to watch your diet. In this way, it may be possible over time to determine which foods are better tolerated and which are better avoided in an acute episode.

Genetic causes

In ulcerative colitis, a genetic involvement of the disease can be assumed.
However, it has not yet been possible to say whether a single gene or several genes are involved. So far, a gene has been discovered that is suspected to be associated with ulcerative colitis. It has been found that ulcerative colitis is more common in some families. Thus, close relatives of a person suffering from ulcerative colitis have a significantly increased risk of developing ulcerative colitis as well. In the case of identical twins, the other twin also falls ill with a risk of 50-60% if one is ill.
According to studies at the Medical University of Heidelberg, a genetic mutation is suspected, which changes a connecting protein between the intestinal cells. This changes the mucous composition of the intestinal mucosa and the intestine is no longer as well protected from the bacteria living in the intestine. Ultimately, there is still a lot of research to be done at the genetic level.