I am a 23-year old male who is passionate about education, wellness, and culture. I am a certified teacher and am currently looking for full-time work.
I am sharing my story on one of the best days of my life thus far; I just returned from a routine colonoscopy, and for the first time since I was diagnosed with UC in 2006, I am inflammation-free. My hope is that all those who are currently suffering become inspired by these success stories… Please put yourself first and take your health and wellness seriously. We all need to be advocates for our own health– talk to many health professionals, ask questions, and do research… I hope that my story gives you some ideas for your own recovery plan.
In the Spring of 2006, during my final year of high school, I suffered from intense stomach pains and cramping, and began to notice irregular bowel movements with increasing amounts of blood and mucous. In addition, my joints began to swell up and became so sore at times that I was unable to use whatever part of my body was inflamed. I was diagnosed with pan-ulcerative colitis shortly thereafter, which means that most of my colon was inflamed and covered in ulcers. In addition, I was diagnosed with peripheral arthritis, which is common for those of us suffering from IBS, UC, or Crohn’s. The extent of inflammation experienced in my joints has often coincided with the degree of inflammation that is occurring in my colon, which is common for peripheral arthritis.
I was quickly referred to a gastroenterologist and rheumatologist; I learned that both diseases could be treated with the same anti-inflammatory medication- Asacol. This kept my inflammation under control for about a year and a half and I was able to function fairly normally. I changed my eating habits slightly but did not take my condition as seriously because I was able to go into remission fairly quickly with the medication.
In December of 2007, I had my second flareup and this one came with a vengeance. I could not leave the house because my trips to the bathroom were so frequent; eating was not pleasurable at all because I knew that anything I ate would go right through my system and cause pain and discomfort, and result in a significant amount of blood and mucous. My joints began to swell up and I was barely able to move on some days. I tried a few different medications- enemas, increased Asacol, Prednisone- before I was turned on Imuran, which gave me relief after a few weeks. I knew that I would have to make a lot of changes in my lifestyle if I did not want this to happen again.
I began to track all of the food I ate to see if I could associate my pain and discomfort with different types of foods. I still do this now, even though I am in remission. Thus far, I have found the following changes to my diet to be the most helpful:
– Cut out cow’s milk (very difficult to digest)– I drink almond milk and try to only have cheese that is made from goat’s milk. I have noticed a difference in the way that my body feels since I made this change.
– Avoid ALL spicy food.
– Avoid ALL deep-fried food (I still have fries once in a while because I love them… only in moderation).
– Cut down your intake of meat. I have cut out almost all meat- I occasionally have lean meats (chicken breast) but I stick to fish or vegetarian options for almost all of my meals. I never eat beef anymore, as I have found that this is very difficult to digest. I also recently learned that ribs are one of the worst options for people with inflammation, so stay away from ribs or any other fatty meats.
– Snack on dried fruit and nuts instead of fatty snacks, such as potato chips.
– Cut out processed sugars. I try to only eat desserts that are sweetened with natural products, such as honey or agave nectar.
– Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
I also began to practice Yoga to calm my mind and body in early 2008; this practice has had incredible effects on my health and wellness, and I would recommend Yoga to everyone, not just those of us suffering from bowel or colon problems.
Again, I was in remission for months until I hit another roadblock. In the summer of 2008, I had another flare-up… not as bad as the flare-up in December but I experienced a lot of discomfort and the worst arthritic pain of my life. I ended up seeing an occupational therapist at this time, who told me that I was very emotionally shut-off… He said that I was holding onto a lot of emotional pain and anger and that I needed to deal with this to become healthier. It just so happened that I was under a lot of stress this summer, but I was not willing to deal with it. I was able to get my UC symptoms under control for the most part through changes in diet and by taking Greens+ (dehydrated vegetables and fruits that comes in powder or pill form) and Prednisone (for a short period of time). Despite my physical health, I had issues with anxiety throughout the following year because I chose not to deal with my emotional discomfort.
It took me until Fall of 2009 to finally go to counseling to deal with my family history and to change my relationship patterns. Up until this point, I had been very concerned with helping everyone else before I was willing to help myself and I had been very closed-off emotionally. Counseling allowed me to get more in touch with my emotional health and I cannot say enough about the benefits that counseling had for my physical health. Almost everyone who I have encountered with IBS symptoms shares certain personality traits and I find that a lot of us are close to ‘Type A’ personalities- overachievers, ‘fixers’- we always try to be the emotionally-strong people in difficult situations… If this describes you, I would strongly recommend having some counseling to sort yourself out. There is nothing wrong with being a hard worker or an emotionally ‘strong’ person but it is important to learn how to become more open emotionally and to figure out how to put yourself first. This was one of the most fantastic remedies I have had for my ulcerative colitis so please consider this option. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and we need to get rid of the negative stigma surrounding mental health issues. I noticed a dramatic shift in my physical health after my counseling sessions (which ended in the summer of 2010)– I became so much more in touch with my body and my mind and I was able to take my overall well-being more seriously. At the end of my counseling sessions, I experienced a small flare-up- I think because I was afraid of trying to cope with my emotional health without the help of a therapist. Again, I was able to take control of this with diet, Greens+ and by being more in touch with my emotional well-being.
From summer 2010 until now, I have not had any symptoms of my UC (except for a small, week-long flare-up after eating ribs– seriously, stay away from ribs). It is wonderful to feel ‘normal’ again and to be more in touch with my body and my mind. I now know which foods to stay away from and which healthful meals and activities are going to make me feel good and fulfilled. I have come to see my UC as a blessing, as it has taught me how to live a truly healthy life and how to treat my body with love and respect. I am constantly trying to improve my well-being by reading books about nutrition and spirituality, and I believe that such knowledge is power. Please contact me with any questions, as I would love to hear from anyone who is suffering and to share my experience to help out in any way that I can.
I wish you all peace, happiness, and good health.
Where I’d Like to be in 1 year:
Still in remission and inflammation- free… Maybe off of Imuran by then.
A combination of Asacol and Imuran have worked well for me… I have had small doses of steroids (Prednisone) during the worst flareups but I have tried to stay away from the stronger medications, such as Remicade.
written by Cameron
submitted in the colitis venting area