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Ulcerative Colitis: Your Questions, Answered

Posted Aug 29 2011 2:00pm

Thanks to those of you who commented or e-mailed questions about ulcerative colitis .  I’ll answer them all, based on my own personal experience.  While my experiences are similar to many people living with IBD, they can vary greatly from person to person.

How did you find out you had ulcerative colitis?

Me, at the time of diagnosis.

During the first semester of my sophomore year of college, I started to get sick often.  I was doing my classroom observations for my education degree and was constantly rescheduling due to illness.  Severe headaches, sore throat, nausea, you name it, I had it.  After a few months of that, I started having diarrhea all the time.  Nothing I ate sat well on my stomach, and I was sprinting to the bathroom after each meal.

After a while, I started to get sharp, stabbing pains in my stomach.  I vividly remember driving back to school after a weekend visit to my BFF and pulling over at a rest stop because the pain was so intense I couldn’t drive.  I’d take slow, deep breaths during class until the pain passed, trying not to draw attention to myself.  Eventually, I started eating less, because I knew the food would just make me feel lousy.  I lost weight.  I started to get blood in my stool.

I went home and my doctor took blood and ran some tests.  While we were waiting for the results, she told me to treat it like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and take fiber supplements.  Ohmygoodness, that really set things in motion.  Less than a week later, I lost so much blood one night that I started to feel woozy.  I called my mom at about 3:00 am, scared and alone.  Luckily, my dad was nearby on business.  He cancelled all his meetings that day and came to pick me up.

I got in with a gastroenterologist that day and had a colonoscopy the very next day.  After the procedure, I was armed with my diagnosis: ulcerative colitis, and medications that would help me feel better.  It was a long road after that, but I was really grateful to finally know what my problem was.  The diagnosis explained my frequent illness (my immune system was weak) and gave me some peace of mind.  I think not knowing was the scariest part.

What foods can’t you eat?

Ulcerative colitis has periods called flare ups, where the disease is active and I have symptoms; and periods of remission, where I am symptom free.  During remission, I can eat almost anything I want.  Spicy foods, raw vegetables, strawberries, and tea are difficult for me to tolerate.  I get kidney stones as a result of my UC, and strawberries and tea can lead to more stones.

When I’m flared, I have to stick to a really low-fiber diet.  I eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches on white bread, plain noodles, baked potatoes, Cheerios, and bananas.  Basically, if it’s bland and beige, I can eat it when I’m flared.


How do you stay healthy while avoiding certain foods?

It’s tricky.  I take a multivitamin to try to help get all the nutrients I need.  I also got B12 injections for a long time, because my body couldn’t absorb it properly any other way.  Finally, after 6 years of injections, I can absorb it from a B complex vitamin.  (Woohoo!)

Thanks again for all your questions.  If you have any more, leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!


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