Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in New York City have identified genes linked to ulcerative colitis, one of the most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)-the general name used for diseases causing inflammation in the small intestine and colon. The discovery came after examining the genes of approximately 13,000 patients to determine which parts of the human genome (the nearly 20,000 to 25,000 genes in human DNA) play a role in ulcerative colitis. The study found that there are more than 30 regions of the genome connected to the risk of developing ulcerative colitis, according to the results published in the journal Nature Genetics. These findings, say researchers, could provide clues regarding the causes of the disorder as well as help scientists identify more effective therapies.

In addition, say researchers, understanding the genetics of the disease may also help explain why there's such disparity from patient to patient in terms of both severity of symptoms and treatment effectiveness and may lead to the development of a more personalized approach to the treatment of ulcerative colitis. That would be especially welcome news for the more than 1.4 million sufferers of ulcerative colitis in the U.S.

Ulcerative colitis can strike people of any age, but it usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30 and affects both men and women equally. The disorder also appears to run in families. The most common symptoms of the disease include abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea and bleeding from the rectum. Other symptoms can include fatigue, anemia, weight loss, loss of appetite, skin lesions and joint pain. Getting a correct diagnosis of the disease and proper treatment are important because about 5 percent of ulcerative colitis sufferers will go on to develop colon cancer.

Until new, more personalized treatments are available, you may have to try a few different drugs before you find a medication that works for you. The good news is that there are several categories of drugs that are effective in controlling the inflammation that triggers symptoms. Talk to your doctor about which treatments might be most effective for you.

Making Dietary Changes

Recognizing which foods might aggravate your symptoms, especially during a flare-up, and eliminating them from your diet, could also be helpful. For example, "gassy" foods like beans, cabbage and broccoli, raw fruit juices and fruits, alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages can all exacerbate symptoms. Eating five or six small meals per day instead of three large ones may also help.