“…Turn inward love, and listen,
Your own voice faint you’ll hear.
The only one you’ve longed to love
Was always waiting near.”– Darlene Lancer, MFT
For nearly two decades, I’ve searched relentlessly for the spiritual causes and meanings in ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis is a multifaceted disease. It touches every part of us – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Ulcerative colitis requires us to heal on every level if we want to be well again.
We end up transforming, healing and becoming someone new. A more authentic and healthier person in every dimension.
Since 2004, when I was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, my healing journey has taken many twists, turns and detours.
As I’ve healed psychologically and spiritually, I’ve also healed physically. And vice versa. It’s all interrelated.
This post will help you explore the spiritual meaning of ulcerative colitis in your own life.
It will allow you to plot a course for your own spiritual healing of UC.
In this post you’ll discover:
- How past trauma and abuse manifest in present-day illness and events
- How spiritual principles are translated into physical practices
- How to use the chakra system as a theoretical framework for healing UC
- How problems with codependency and interpersonal boundaries relate to UC
- How emotional illness and UC interrelate
- How romantic relationships, boundaries and ulcerative colitis interrelate
Finding Spiritual Meanings in Ulcerative Colitis – A New Healing Frontier Opens
When I was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis in 2004, I was 32 years old.
UC took most of my 30s and 40s.
I always had the intuitive sense that my physical health issues with ulcerative colitis were ultimately spiritual and past trauma related.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that diagnosis nearly 20 years ago was the start of a healing journey that would take me through every territory – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
The New Age idea that physical illnesses have an emotional and spiritual component has validity.
This is probably even their origin.
The emotional and spiritual realm is likely where illness begins.
It manifests physically later on.
This knowledge can be used for practical, real-world healing.
Over all these years healing myself, coaching others and corresponding with readers all over the world, I’ve observed a consistent cluster of emotional and spiritual symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis.
People with ulcerative colitis tend to have a predictable cluster of emotional and behavioral symptoms, past histories and negative life-patterns that include:
- Unresolved childhood and past trauma
- Problems with interpersonal boundaries
- Toxic romantic relationships – particularly with narcissistic abusers and addicts
- Codependency addiction and low self-esteem
- A history of hard and/or soft addictions
- Psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression and/or PTSD
- Sleep problems and insomnia
(If you have UC or Crohn’s disease and you’ve also experienced some or all of the above symptoms in your lifetime, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to know your personal experience with these advanced and nuanced topics. It will be a great addition for the other readers, also.)
A (Somewhat) Simple Physical Explanation for “Spiritual”
The word spiritual is loaded and can also be somewhat nebulous.
The best foundational books for understanding the term “spiritual” on a deep level are The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. These are specifically written to be relatable and understandable for modern Western readers.
Further excellent reading on the topic is Energy Work by Robert Bruce.
A simple and pragmatic way to think about spiritual healing is that it’s dealing with the realm of thoughts and emotions.
This includes releasing emotions that are trapped in the tissues of the physical body.
Spiritual healing is about energy. It’s thought energy first. Emotional energy.
Thoughts and emotions are the transport mechanism for moving things from the unseen spiritual and energetic world into physical reality.
This is why faith and belief are so important in spiritual work.
You don’t believe what you see, you see what you believe.”Owen Cook
A lot of negative thoughts and emotions will manifest negatively in the body as disease(s) and through the rest of life as problems and life drama.
Much of this thinking and problem-making is going on beneath or outside of conscious awareness.
Thoughts Become Physical Reality
This is the whole “manifesting” thing from The Secret [LINK to Wikipedia]. It’s become a trite and played out New Age idea.
That it’s over-played and over-simplified in the mainstream makes it no less real a concept.
The best and most grounded and technical treatment of how our thoughts affect our physical reality is in the book Shortcut to a Miracle by Michael C. Rann and Elizabeth Rann Arrott.
Spiritual and Emotional Causes for Ulcerative Colitis and Other Physical Illness
Louise Hay, of Hay House Publishing, was probably the first to lay out the emotional, spiritual and psychological factors that underly physical illness in her books on the topic.
She did this work several decades ago.
She’s put these ideas out in a number of different books and forms. Two good ones I have are You Can Heal Your Life and Healing Your Body, A to Z.
What Louise Hay Says About the Spiritual and Emotional Roots of UC
According to Louise Hay in Heal Your Body A-Z, colitis and colon problems will be related to fear, holding on to the past and a fear of letting go of that which is over.
I can definitely see this in myself. Is it true for you? Let me know in the comments!
Self-Hate and Low Self-Esteem in Spiritual Healing
At the root of our spiritual health is our deepest and most basic self-concept and level of positive self-regard.
These are our confidence and our self-esteem.
This is where a lot of the toxic thinking and life problem-making start.
This is where all the relationship drama is.
This is the deep subconscious stuff.
The Teal Swan Self-Love Course
Some of the best content I’ve found on the topic of self-love is from Teal Swan. Her Self-Love course [LINK https://shop.tealswan.com/pages/self-love-the-ecourse] has some of the most powerful exercises and practices you can find anywhere to resolve and heal self-hate, low self-esteem and self-abandonment.
Teal Swan’s book Shadows Before Dawn is basically a companion to the above course. Both have a lot to offer. I have both. Of course.
Low Self-Esteem and Ulcerative Colitis are a Vicious Cycle
I really never had high self-esteem to begin with, but urgently crapping out blood 20 times a day really did a number on me.
I was into fitness and bodybuilding most of my life. I lost a lifetime of fitness and muscle when I got sick. I went from a lean and muscular 180lbs or more down to about 110lbs. I gained weight back, but all the training and fitness I was doing was totally messed-up by UC.
I definitely stayed in relationships and jobs that I wouldn’t have if I had felt strong, healthy and confident.
Ulcerative colitis took most of my 30’s and 40’s from me.
It also limited my career potential and severely impacted my financial health too.
If you’re struggling with UC, your self-esteem very likely needs some care and tending to also.
Again, ulcerative colitis is a multi-faceted, whole-life disease. It requires work and healing on every level – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Chakra Meanings and Applications for Spiritual Healing of Ulcerative Colitis
Chakra theory can be used as a bridge between the spiritual and the physical.
The chakras themselves are basically invisible energy centers. There are a lot of energies moving through these areas of the body and meeting and coalescing there.
The moving currents create these various areas around the body that are highly active energetically. These are the chakras. Each chakra has a specific vibrational frequency associated with it. This vibrational frequency gives rise to the color associated with each chakra.
Note in the electromagnetic spectrum diagram above, red is the lowest frequency energy (longest wavelength) and blue and ultraviolet are higher frequency (shorter wavelength) and higher energy.
You can see that the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum corresponds, in order, to the first through seventh chakras in the picture above.
When we talk about high-vibration energy (HVE) and low-vibration energy (LVE) in energy and spiritual work, the frequency of the energy is the vibration.
The units for frequency are cycles per second. Cycles of what? Oscillations. Vibrations. Electromagnetic energy pulses or cycles. That’s the frequency.
Here’s the entire electromagnetic spectrum. You can see where the visible region is and where chakra energy sits on the spectrum relative to higher-energy waves like X-rays and Gamma (g) rays. On the other end – the red, IR and Near-IR end – there are lower-energy waves like infrared (IR) or radio waves.
This corresponds to how we think about the chakras associatively.
The animal associated with the first chakra (red) is the elephant. Heavy and grounded. Red is the lowest energy light in the visible spectrum.
Now think of violet or ultraviolet light. Much higher energy electromagnetic radiation.
Understanding Chakra Work – The Bridge Between the Physical and the Spiritual
The chakras are spiritual or energetic in nature.
But physical practices can influence them.
Add in some emotional work like a trauma healing program [LINK https://www.transformationmasteryacademy.com/], shadow work, a self-love course [LINK https://shop.tealswan.com/pages/self-love-the-ecourse] and/or some inner child work and you have a pretty complete bridge from the physical to the spiritual realm.
The most advanced and in-depth work on the relationship between physical and spiritual relative to the chakra system is Anodea Judith’s epic work Eastern Body, Western Mind – Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self.
The other must-have on the chakra system is The Book of Chakra Healing by Liz Simpson.
Finally, Energy Work by Robert Bruce has a lot to offer on energy work, the chakras and other minor energy centers as well.
Yoga and the Chakras
Yoga balances the chakras. Different yoga poses affect different chakras, but a good, well-rounded practice will positively affect them all.
A lot of the positive physical feelings and flowing energy you feel during yoga are created by the release of tension and restrictions in and through the chakras.
Simply doing a complete practice will do a lot to heal the chakras without having to think about it any further than that.
You can get very detailed and specific about this as well, and there are entire yoga practices that are designed to target and balance a single chakra. Sometimes there’s a series you can find online or at a studio that work a single chakra each class for seven classes – one for each chakra.
The Lower Chakras and Ulcerative Colitis – Chakras One, Two and Three
The lower three chakras are involved in UC, Crohn’s and many of the accompanying symptoms and comorbidities.
The lower three chakras are, obviously, physically in the region where the greatest disturbances are with UC.
I more or less moved through the chakras in order over the years.
I did a lot with all of them and bounced around the Judith and Simpson books continually. But I spent years working on the foundational and grounding aspects in my life (one), then childhood trauma, boundaries and codependency (two), then energy, rest, overworking and more boundaries (three).
Chakra One (Muladhara Chakra)
The first chakra is located at the base of the spine and radiates downward. This chakra strongly affects grounding and connection to the physical.
Creating a self-care routine that involves a significant amount of work on the first chakra will have the most significant impact on UC over time. At least in my experience.
According to page 53 of Judith, a deficient or undercharged first chakra will manifest as:
- Disconnection from the body
- Notably underweight
- Fearful, anxious, restless, can’t settle
- Poor focus and discipline
- Financial difficulty
- Poor boundaries
- Chronic disorganization
She continues on to the physical malfunctions of the first chakra:
- Disorders of the bowel, anus or large intestine
- Disorders of the solid parts of the body: bones, teeth
- Issues with legs, feet, knees, base of spine, buttocks
- Eating disorders
- Frequent illness
See how this all interrelates and interacts with inflammatory bowel disease?
Practicing Healing the First Chakra
Without an actual physical practice, chakra theory isn’t very helpful.
A physical practice for healing the first chakra will be, for example, slow, grounding, restorative yoga with a focus on opening the hips.
Barefoot hiking or just being barefoot in general will help with feeling more grounded and actually will help ground you.
Looking at things like your relationship with work and career, money and home are practices you can engage in simply by reading a good book or two on each topic and doing the exercises. Obviously, you can find plenty of blog and YouTube content on these areas as well as paid courses too.
Some chakras need more work than others.
Some areas will become lifelong subjects of deep study and some will be areas of passing curiosity and shorter-term study.
Chakra Two (Svadhisthana)
The second chakra is located below the navel and is associated with sexuality, emotional balance and pleasure. It’s also associated with boundaries – particularly during childhood and in romantic relationships.
Those struggling with childhood trauma, particularly from addicted, codependent and/or alcoholic households will benefit from intensive and consistent work on the second chakra.
Practicing Healing the Second Chakra
As a healing practice for the second chakra, there’d be things inner child work and work on interpersonal boundaries and relationships.
Include yoga poses that open the hips and strengthen the lower abs and core. Poses like spinal twists, cobra, cat/cow and triangle.
Looking at things like sex addiction or sexual frigidity will be beneficial in terms of second chakra work.
Chakra Three (Manipura)
Chakra three can be overcharged or undercharged like the other chakras. It can also oscillate between an undercharged state and an overcharged state.
This type of activity, where the third chakra is sometimes overcharged and sometimes undercharged, is manifested physically as intermittent anxiety and depression and an attraction to sedatives for sleep and stimulants for energy.
Those suffering from chronic fatigue or PTSD will also want to look at the third chakra for healing work.
While a lot of work on interpersonal boundaries will be included in a healing program for the second chakra, chakra three also deals with boundaries and specifically enforcing them.
Practicing Healing the Third Chakra
For work on the third chakra, include yoga poses that open the chest and strengthen the core. Poses like upward dog, tree and the warrior poses.
A vigorous morning yoga practice is good in the case of an underactive third chakra, while an evening or late afternoon restorative practice is better in the case of an overcharged third chakra.
Yoga and Meditation – Accessing the Spiritual Through the Physical
[Quote] “Having a daily yoga practice and growing and evolving that practice over time is the foundational first step in a spiritual healing practice.”
- Adam Farrah
Ultimately all these ideas about “spiritual” are nice, but we need to be able to use them in a practical, pragmatic and physical way.
This is where yoga – and a long-term, consistent and virtually daily yoga practice – come in.
In nearly two decades of work and relentless study and practice, I haven’t found anything that offers as much as yoga for spiritual healing relative to the time and energy investment required.
Having a daily yoga practice and growing and evolving that practice over time is the foundational first step in a spiritual healing practice.
If you want to go deep on yoga and meditation for UC, you can read my post Do Yoga and Meditation Heal Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease?
Yoga and the Chakras
I discussed yoga and the chakras in detail above, so I won’t repeat things here.
But I do want to reiterate that a yoga practice will be the most reliable and effective way to influence, balance and heal the chakras. This is the 20% that makes 80% of the difference.
Meditation for Healing Ulcerative Colitis
I strongly prefer doing meditation immediately after yoga.
One of the major issues people have with meditation, particularly in the beginning, is being able to sit still and quiet the mind at all.
Doing yoga before meditation is a reliable physical practice that can be used to quiet and still the mind in preparation for meditation.
Meditation goes much better, deeper and easier if yoga is done first.
Smoking some marijuana doesn’t hurt either.
Both yoga and meditation train body awareness and stimulate the release of past trauma and emotions stuck in the body. These are highly important to healing ulcerative colitis over the long term.
I go deep on both yoga and meditation for healing UC in the post: Do Yoga and Meditation Heal Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease? Check that one out to learn more and start your own meditation practice for UC.
Emotional Issues in People with Ulcerative Colitis
Following are the most common emotional issues I see coming up again and again in the people I work with for inflammatory bowel disease.
Anxiety goes along with digestive problems of all kinds. When it comes to UC, it’s insidious.
The anxiety makes the UC worse and then the worsening UC makes us that much more anxious.
And that anxiety feeds back into the UC…
The answer is yoga and meditation – daily or as close to daily as you can manage – as a lifelong habit going forward.
A lifelong, daily habit of yoga and meditation.
Believe me. I’ve tried everything for anxiety over the last 40 years. The above is all you need to know.
It’s not Xanax, anti-depressants, essential oils or magical techniques.
The solution for anxiety is yoga and meditation.
Yoga and meditation also heal your body and digestive system over time.
It doesn’t happen quickly.
It takes years to build up noticeable results.
But the two above practices have changed my life and my health more than anything else.
If you want to learn all about yoga and meditation for UC and how I’ve incorporated these life-changing practices into my own healing practice, you can read my in-depth post Do Yoga and Meditation Heal Ulcerative Colitis?
This one comes from being sick in and of itself. It also comes from poor interpersonal boundaries and low self-esteem. These generally come from some kind of unresolved trauma.
In my own case, the UC significantly affected my self-esteem and caused a severe and lasting depression. This affected my relationships and boundary setting and it became a vicious cycle.
Fatigue goes along with UC. A lot of it is probably the malnourishment. Beyond that, however, there’s a lot going on with our boundaries, our energy management and depression.
Poor Boundaries Can Manifest as Fatigue
Not saying “no” enough, saying “yes” too often, saying “yes” when we want to say “no.” These are personal and interpersonal boundary problems. And these issues result in fatigue sooner or later.
This is particularly true when the body is already exhausted and overburdened by ulcerative colitis.
The UC is debilitating and exhausting enough that we can struggle to set firm boundaries with people simply out of exhaustion at times.
Sensitivity to Food, Light, EMF and Medical Drugs
There are a lot of foods and medical drugs that trigger depression. Prednisone is a major one for this – and it’s one people with UC will definitely see sooner or later.
People with UC are often highly-sensitive to foods and depression is often a symptom of food intolerance and sensitivity. Depression due to food usually accompanies gluten, sugar and alcohol.
The above version of depression is basically the “brain fog” people with food sensitivities and leaky gut syndrome are likely to describe.
For more on this stuff, you can read Grain Brain – The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter, M.D. and The UltraMind Solution – The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety and Sharpen Your Mind by Mark Hyman, M.D.
I’ve also encountered one or two people over the years who are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation or EMF.
There are some people out there who are so sensitive and empathic that they can’t even live in a house with Wi-Fi!
Hard and Soft Addictions
Remember what I said in the section on the second chakra and hard and/or soft addictions?
There are plenty of addictive tendencies in most people with UC. I include myself in this.
Food addiction can be a real problem for people with UC because it prevents making intelligent and consistent dietary changes to get the UC under control.
And, don’t get me started on alcohol and UC. Drinking is one of the worst things you can do with UC. Alcohol really inflames and damages the entire digestive system. Even a cocktail or two on vacation can trigger a UC flare-up.
Avoid alcohol if you have ulcerative colitis.
Are You an Empath?
I only recently learned about being an empath. I always felt a lot of the things they discuss in the book, Awakened Empath, but I had no idea what was going on until I read that book.
If you have UC, you’re probably an empath.
Take a look at what an empath is. It’s another collection of ideas and healing models for dealing with some of the bigger-picture problems people with ulcerative colitis tend to have.
Relationship Patterns and Meanings with Ulcerative Colitis
Our romantic relationships and our relationship style and patterns reveal much about our early development and our deepest psychology.
Romantic relationships are a mirror for the depths of our soul.
Our romantic relationships can be a place where we really see our internal “stuff” dragged out into the light. For this reason, spiritual healing of ulcerative colitis will include healing our relationships – both with others and ourselves.
The relationship with ourselves part is where self-love and low self-esteem, mentioned above, come in.
Romantic Relationships and Codependency
If you have UC or Crohn’s disease and have a history of high-drama or abusive relationships, it’s very likely that you have issues with codependency.
A common patten for codependents is to fall prey to narcissistic abuse, as described by Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT.
If you’re sick with IBD and being emotionally or narcissistically abused in your romantic relationship, it will be impossible to get healthy again.
If any of the above resonates for you, I highly recommend that you check out Ross Rosenberg’s YouTube Channel as well as his book: The Human Magnet Syndrome – The Codependent Narcissist Trap, Surviving Narcissistic Abuse.
An exceptional video by two of my favorite Codependency and Trauma Recovery Authors.
Codependency and Interpersonal Boundary Problems
A lifelong behavior pattern in myself that became evident to me beginning about five years ago is codependency and boundary problems in relationships.
I’ve had lifelong patterns of one-sided, abusive and abandoning relationships.
The ulcerative colitis made things worse because, though I didn’t know at the time, my self-esteem was being significantly impacted by being sick.
Running to the bathroom 20 times a day will do that to you.
The ulcerative colitis was damaging my self-esteem and the low self-esteem was influencing me to make losing choices and invest in unreliable people and situations.
These people and situations then stressed me to the point the UC got worse and that made me even less assertive, confident and impactful in my work and relationships.
It’s a terrible, vicious cycle.
These are the deep issues that have to be addressed when we embark on the lifelong healing journey that UC requires of us.
Ulcerative Colitis is an Internal Boundary Dysfunction
When you really get into it, UC and Crohn’s disease are problems with our internal boundary.
The gut wall is the boundary inside of us that lets in nutrients and keeps out toxins, bacteria and the other things we don’t want in our bloodstream.
When we have IBD, our internal boundary isn’t functioning properly. Very often, this translates into boundary problems in other areas of our lives as well. In our external boundaries.
More interpersonal stress, strife and struggle are not going to help anyone heal UC.
If You Have a History of Toxic Relationships…
If you have a history of toxic, dramatic or abusive relationships, the best thing you can do for yourself is check out the following YouTube channels:
Enforcing Physical Boundaries to Support Your Healing
“Boundaries keep toxicity from getting in and boundaries keep you from expending energy on toxic people and situations…”
– Meredith Miller
The above is a paraphrase from the Meredith Miller video Test for Identifying the Psychopath & Narcissist.
In that video, Meredith is talking about boundaries in relationships primarily, but the premise expands to all kinds of boundaries.
Ulcerative colitis is a boundary dysfunction of the internal gut wall.
The internal boundary is inflamed, weak and wounded.
The internal boundary of the body can’t fully protect itself from foreign invaders and toxicity.
Because UC is an internal boundary dysfunction, we sometimes need to enforce external boundaries in our work and relationships.
There’s sometimes a need to use the physical boundaries of distance and no-contact to protect our health.
This can include working less, leaving a job, ending a relationship.
Boundaries of all kinds generally relate to self-care and self-esteem – and they’re very important when you have inflammatory bowel disease.
Strong physical boundaries can help us to heal ulcerative colitis by relieving the spiritual and emotional energy toll of toxic situations and relationships.
I was never a very spiritual person – until I got sick with ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis forced me to examine every area of my life.
Ultimately, any chronic illness is a call to grow. We can begin the healing journey or resist it.
We can hold on to aspects of ourselves and our lives that no longer serve us.
Or we can embrace growth and change.
Embracing emotional and spiritual growth, health and maturity is the path to healing ulcerative colitis.
How far we progress along the healing path is ultimately up to us and our willingness to grow and change.
Healing ulcerative colitis is a lifelong endeavor.
It’s a whole-life endeavor.
Healing requires us to examine and change virtually every aspect of our lives. On every level.
It doesn’t stop with food. That’s just the beginning.
(Though we’ll give up plenty of foods that no longer serve us too!)
As I always say, your life has irreversibly changed when you receive the ulcerative colitis diagnosis.
How it changes is still ultimately up to you.
If you’ve made it this far and this blog post has resonated with you, let me know in the comments. What has your experience been with these esoteric and enigmatic topics relative to UC?
Have you found spiritual meaning in your own healing journey with ulcerative colitis?
Let me and the other readers know in the comments!
Reading, Watching and Listening
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma book by Peter A. Levine with Ann Frederick
Awakened Empath – The Ultimate Guide to Emotional, Psychological and Spiritual Healing book by Luna and Sol
Shadows Before Dawn – Finding the Light of Self-Love Through Your Darkest Times book by Teal Swan
The Human Magnet Syndrome – The Codependent Narcissist Trap, Surviving Narcissistic Abuse book by Ross Rosenberg
The Power of Now – A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment book by Eckhart Tolle
Codependency for Dummies book by Darlene Lancer, MFT
Conquering Shame and Codependency – 8 Steps to Freeing the True You book by Darlene Lancer, MFT