Here's some good news for those struggling with colitis. Just take an extra portion of turkey this Thanksgiving. Researchers now say it could help with future colitis flare-ups.

Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease caused by inflammation of the innermost lining of the large intestine, also called the colon and rectum. Common symptoms include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue.

Some patients may not have symptoms for a long period, only to experience the return of symptoms later, a condition commonly called flare-ups. Apart from the physical and emotional toll on patients, colitis may result in life-threatening complications.

The results of a recent mice study suggest that taking food high in amino acid tryptophan, like turkey, pork, nuts and seeds, could reduce the risk of a colitis flare. If the results get validated in humans, it would pave the way for developing a noninvasive method of managing long-term colitis.

"Although there are some treatments for ulcerative colitis, not everyone responds to them. This disease has a huge impact on quality of life and can lead to surgery to remove the colon or cancer," senior author Sangwon Kim, from Thomas Jefferson University, said in a news release.

Since colitis is driven by inflammation, the research team identified that the key to effective management lies in cooling down inflamed tissue. The study focused on ways to introduce more T-regulatory (T-reg) cells that could break the cycle of inflammation. Researchers found that specific receptors on the surface of T-reg cells, called CPR15, act like a magnet for the colon.

"The more of this receptor, called CPR15, the T-reg cells have, the more strongly they're attracted to the colon. So they searched for molecules that could make T-reg cells produce more GPR15 to turn up the power of the magnet. They found tryptophan – or one of the molecules that tryptophan breaks down into in the body – could increase these receptors called GPR15," the news release said.

To test the effect of tryptophan on colitis, researchers added the amino acids in the diet of mice for two weeks and compared it with a control group. The amount of inflammation-suppressing T-reg cells in the colon tissue doubled in the test group compared to mice that were not fed extra tryptophan. The test group also saw a reduction in colitis symptoms.

The positive effects lasted at least a week even after tryptophan was removed from the diet.

"In human time, that might translate to about a month of benefit," Kim explained.

Researchers, however, saw only a few benefits when tryptophan was given to mice during a colitis flare. Hence, it may not be effective as a treatment strategy but might help to prevent future flares.

The researchers plan to conduct clinical trials to see if the results can be translated to humans with colitis. Kim hopes the use of a tryptophan supplement not exceeding 100 milligrams per day may be sufficient to see benefits in humans.