Living with Ulcerative colitis
I am suffering from Ulcerative colitis and I was diagnosed few years ago. I used to develop indigestion quite often, even in my younger days. My digestive system was never friendly to spicy and fried foods. So, every time I ate any food that was a bit hard to digest, I used to develop loose motions, flatulence, and indigestion. Initially, I ignored it as just common symptoms that almost everyone experiences. But, when I realized that I was developing these symptoms more often than others, I decided to seek medical help and that’s when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis. Well… The diagnosis has changed my life and today I'll explain you how I started living since then. Here’s how my average day is different from others.
Waking up in the morning
Most of my mornings begin with a sudden crampy pain in my abdomen. In fact, I get up earlier than the time set for the alarm due to this pain. The pain is usually accompanied by loose motions. The pain seems to be more severe on the days when I have had spicy or fatty food on the previous night.
My digestive system is not strong enough to digest these foods. The intensity of these symptoms has reduced to some extent after the doctor confirmed the diagnosis as ulcerative colitis and advised me to make some changes in my diet. I have started avoiding foods that are hard to digest. However, I still experience some symptoms since I've started living with ulcerative colitis.
Starting the day
I begin my day with drinking a glass of warm water. Drinking plenty of water is good for improving my digestion. On some days, I am not able to get on with my routine activities after getting up due to severe symptoms coming up. Since ulcerative colitis is caused due to inflammation in the colon, a part of the intestine, I also get fever occasionally.
I also feel very weak and have lost a lot of weight over the past few years probably due to the recurring loose motions. The fear of eating something that may trigger abdominal pain and loose motions forces me to eat less. Even the need to scrutinize what I should eat and what I should avoid causes a lot of mental stress because of which I have lost my appetite. This has only worsened my problem since I started living with UC.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
I strictly avoid eating fried foods for my breakfast and other meals. I begin my day with eating fruits, eggs, and almonds. The doctor has asked me to eat vitamin C-rich foods as they can help to heal the ulcers in my colon and prevent ulcerative colitis from worsening. I eat egg whites and almonds to meet the demands of proteins by the body. Since I am eating very less, it’s important to ensure my body is not deprived of proteins and other nutrients.
A high protein intake has helped to relieve my symptoms to some extent probably because of their ability to heal the damaged colon. However, I do not eat the egg yolk as it contains a high amount of fat, which I cannot digest. Additionally, I have switched my eating pattern from 3 meals a day to eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day to reduce the strain on my digestive organs.
Going to work and taking medications
On some days, my symptoms are very mild and I feel like a completely healthy person. But, on some days, the symptoms worsen suddenly. There have been periods wherein I experienced completely symptom-free days for almost 2 to 3 months. Just when I used to think that the disease has finally left me, it used to come back to haunt me. Now, I have realized the recurring nature of this disease.
So, I try to make the most of the seemingly healthy periods. I manage my work commitments in such a way that I can get enough rest and not have to stress myself much when the symptoms begin to flare up. But, during the periods of remission, I give more time to my professional and personal commitments. However, that doesn’t mean I can skip my medications during remission periods. I have been advised to take aminosalicylates, and steroidal medicines to treat ulcerative colitis. Additionally, I also have to take antidiarrheal and antispasmodic drugs on the days I experience severe pain in the abdomen and loose motions.
Prevention of complications
Ulcerative colitis is a disorder that primarily affects the immune system. It occurs when the immune system works in an abnormal way and attacks the colon resulting in inflammation. As the disease progresses, the damage caused due to inflammation leads to the formation of ulcers.
This is the basic mechanism by which ulcerative colitis evolves. But, it is not the past or what has already happened that bothers me. I am more worried about the future. If my colon continues to get damaged, the ulcers will penetrate deeper and cause cancer. Since I was diagnosed and I've started living with ulcerative colitis, my daily habits changed a lot. I am taking my medicines regularly to prevent ulcerations and stop the progression to cancer. I also undergo colonoscopy once every year to check for any cancerous changes.
Ulcerative colitis can also affect other organs of the body and cause complicationslike sepsis, kidney stones, rupture of the colon, and ankylosing spondylitis. I undergo lab tests, x-rays, and other diagnostic procedures on a regular basis to rule out these complications.
What are the daily limitations and what are the fears?
Since this infection can be easily transmitted from one person to another, the fear is not just about my own illness, but also about others who might catch it. Additionally, the restrictions posed by this disease on my routine life has added to our problems. The financial burden due to the rising healthcare costs like hospitalizations, doctor visits, and medications is also increasing. It is becoming difficult to manage the finances under this scenario.
What would be my life with ulcerative colitis in the future?
I only hope to have longer periods of remission and very short periods of exacerbations. I have heard that some patients with this disease go for months and sometimes, years without any symptoms. Though I know that ulcerative colitis cannot be cured, I hope this disease does not cause extended periods of severe symptoms or any complications. However, to achieve this, I will have to make many sacrifices. I have to give up eating my favorite foods and switch to a healthy, nutritious diet. I am used to eating a bland diet and hope that adopting these habits will yield positive results.
What are the risk factors?
The doctor told me ulcerative colitis occurs when the immune cells overreact to the normal bacteria in the intestines. This abnormal reaction of the immune system is largely linked to the genetical make-up of a person. So, there is a possibility that I am suffering from this illness due to someone in my family having a history of it.
Smoking is another risk factor for ulcerative colitis. I have already quit smoking as per the doctor’s advice and this has helped me not just to reduce the symptoms of ulcerative colitis but also to breathe better and feel rejuvenated.
The evolution of Ulcerative Colitis
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis come and go. Sometimes, they flare-up and sometimes, they are conspicuous by their absence. My latest colonoscopy report showed there was no new ulceration in my colon. Also, some of the old ulcers have healed. It is a good sign. This has encouraged me to stick to my diet and continue with the medications in the hope that the disease will be controlled effectively. I certainly do not want more ulcers to come up and the existing ones to penetrate deeper to cause cancer.
What are the psychological effects when you have Ulcerative Colitis?
What if I get colon cancer? What if I develop ankylosing spondylosis? These thoughts worry me a lot. I spend several nights without getting proper sleep. I keep tossing and turning in bed thinking about the worst scenario I may have to face due to this disease. This stress has added to my problems. But, how much ever I may try, I cannot escape from this disease. I have to live with ulcerative colitis for forever and continue to bear the symptoms.