I now have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis for over 15 years. It’s an inflammatory bowel disease where your immune system fails in some way and creates inflammation within your colon. For me, it’s the lower part of the colon and rectum.
Sometimes I am in remission, a period where I have no symptoms, but most of the time I either have light symptoms with periods of heavy symptoms. Symptoms include bloating, bloody diarrhea, and mucus mixed with blood discharging instead of normal stools. During bad periods of a flare-up, you can end up going to the restroom 10 times a day or more.
Many people have it much worse. I am able to control most symptoms with a healthy lifestyle and diet. I will probably discuss specifics of my journey through more posts, but in the meantime, I wanted to note things that I notice exacerbate my UC, and things that seem to help. The things that I notice help my UC or make it worst is only my experiences and sometimes they can’t be repeated. For example, when I first heard about colostrum, I purchased a well-reviewed powder brand and I tried it during a flare-up, symptoms went away the next day. The next time I had a flare-up, I did the same thing by consuming the exact same colostrum, but the symptoms did not dissipate this time. This seems to happen quite often, leaving me to wonder if there were any benefits in the first place. Either way, here’s my experience.
Things that seem to improve UC symptoms
- Nicotine. In vape, cigarette, patch or gum form.
- Low carb diet
- Low fiber diet
- Fasting and intermittent fasting
- Getting good rest
- Periods of rest and low stress
- Periods of caloric restriction
Things that seem to exacerbate UC symptoms
- High carb diet. This could be also due to the high fiber content.
- Stress or period of bad rest
- Times when my immune system is weak like when I have a cold or the flu
- After an exhausting high-intensity CrossFit work out
- Long periods in the sun
- Long periods of physical and strenuous activity like a full day hike
- Having the flu or a cold
Things that Don’t seem to have an effect on my UC symptoms
I’ve tried many herbal and nutritional supplements, including VSL #3, a strong probiotic as well as popular ones for UC like turmeric and aloe vera. It doesn’t seem to make the symptoms worse but I haven’t noticed anything that I can clearly say has had a lasting positive impact.
During a Flare-Up
During a flare-up, it seems like nothing works. Even drinking water can cause a bowel movement that results in a bad bathroom experience. It feels like your stomach is constantly bloated, even on an empty stomach. When this happens, after every meal or snack you feel like you have to go to the restroom shortly after the meal. The bloating or feeling of inflammation is on the left side of the stomach.
Sometimes after you go to the restroom, you will feel the urge to go again immediately. You hear gurgling in your lower bowels and when you go, it’s mainly blood or mucus. Many times it seems like it’s more mucus than blood.
When a flare-up occurs, the only things I can really do is to eat less, fast if I have to, and let it subside by itself, which usually takes a few days.
A Blessing in Disguise?
Being diagnosed with UC has made me much conscious of what I put into my body and has kept me very aware of periods of weakness in my immune system. Sometimes a flare-up will occur right before I am about to get a cold or when my body is just weak and needs rest.
I use my UC symptoms as a sign that I need to slow down and be healthier. It’s a warning symptom, albeit a potentially disgusting one.
The Worst Part of Having UC
Having constant dull pain of inflammation and having to watch when and what you eat on a consistent basis is annoying, but it’s something you get used to. Other aspects of living with UC are more annoying. Specifically the higher risk of a major killing disease like colorectal cancer and having to be aware of the restroom situation when traveling or being out and about.
There is a higher risk of colorectal cancer in those who have been diagnosed with UC. Although the studies aren’t clear and are based on epidemiological datasets, it is still something that’s in the back of my mind. But because of this, I know that regular colonoscopies are a must. Colonoscopies are very unpleasant experiences for me.
Another part that sucks about having UC is the unpredictability of when a flare-up may occur when you are traveling or out in public. This makes camping trips and trips where it may be hard to find a restroom very annoying and it’s something that I have to keep in mind when planning specific outings.
One of the worst things about having UC is that during a flare-up, there could be a lot of grumbling noise in the lower colon/rectum area which disturbs my sleep. I end up getting only a fraction of the sleep I normally get which disrupts my health, work, and life.
I’m still searching for a solution that will completely put me in remission and also fit my active lifestyle. I believe there is something out there that can do this and I will keep testing different supplements, ways of eating, and lifestyle changes until I find this.
Update – January 4th 2022
For the past 2 years, I have been in complete remission and my guess is it will be in remission for the rest of my life as long as I maintain my current diet and lifestyle. I used to journal when I had symptoms, however mild they were. The last time I mentioned my ulcerative colitis in my journal was in May of 2019.