Friday, July 25, 2008

Living with Ulcerative Colitis

I've been wanting to post about this for a while but due to the embarrassing aspects of it, I debated whether it would be appropriate. But considering my blog is primarily about food and you 'are what you eat', I think this certainly can tie in and hopefully be a blessing to someone if they happen to stumble across this post on my little blog!:-)

When I was 17, and eating very poorly, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Around the time I turned 27, the problems became much, much worse and I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and then Ulcerative Colitis. This involved several dozen trips to the bathroom a day as well as bleeding. I tried to shrug it off as long as possible but I became pregnant with baby #3 and lost a bit of weight and became very sick. (6 weeks of terrible sickness and bleeding, without any let up.) The doctor became so concerned at one point that he actually took the time to send me a certified letter urging me to seek more medical attention and try more medicines. (I had already tried 3!) It was making me feel very emotional and causing a great deal of contention around me. I felt desperate and helpless.

I researched the drugs, prayed, decided to try to eat better, and just left it in God's hands. I told the Lord that I trusted Him more than I did the medicines to take care of me and the baby. He did, the baby and I were fine. The U.C. went into what they call a remission stage.

But, with lots of stress in my life and making only minor dietary changes, I got sick again. And again. There were days that I didn't feel like I could leave the house because I would have accidents, losing all control of my body. I was humiliated. This sickness was ruining my life.

I then began to make more drastic modifications to my diet. I began to keep more mental notes about what would make me instantly sick. Fast food, McDonald's in particular, was like food poison to my system. White flour caused constipation problems which led to diarrhea problems. I began to make my own bread, then went on to grinding my own wheat.

I did pretty good for a couple of years, then with baby #6, it all came back. Looking back, I must say that stress, seemed to be a huge factor in these 'episodes' for me. Now that I am more free from daily heavy stress, I am much better.

But I have made more and more radical adaptations to my diet and my family's diet.

Now, I must say, that when a person is having a flair-up with this disease, the intestinal track is very sensitive and more caution must be taken.

But, I really believe that the changes in my diet have helped me stay 'healthy'. I haven't had a big flair-up in over 7 years now.

What have I done?

Well, I continue to eat whole wheat as often as possible. I do mix half and half sometimes but I resist eating a big portion of white flour like the plague! I also eat many other whole grains.

One of the best things that I ever started doing was incorporating ground flax into my diet. This really helps my belly and I can sneak it into almost anything. I have found it very helpful if I feel the least bit-well, you know- to take a spoon and mix it into a cup of water and drink it at bedtime.

The BEST way to avoid any upset for me is to avoid becoming the least bit, umm, irregular. It starts a terrible cycle, so I have learned to make sure that I get a daily big dose of fiber.

Breakfast is a great place to get a good dose of fiber-- oatmeal with a little ground flax. I also enjoy 5 and 7 grain hot cereals. I have recently discovered 'soaking my grains' from many other bloggers and books that has helped me to tolerate these high fiber foods even better. I will elaborate more on this.

If I don't get a high grain in at breakfast, I usually try to make sure that I serve a whole wheat pasta or bread later in the day.

I also do not drink pop. I only have it once in a blue moon if we're out as a 'treat', but never on a daily basis. If that stuff can clean a toilet, what can it do to our tummy?!?!

I have also worked very hard over the last couple of years to up my family's fruit and vegetable servings. I try to make sure lunch has 1/2 a plate of veggies and/or fruit and our dinner has 1/2 to 3/4 veggies and/or fruit. At least that's how it normally works out!

I have also been keeping less junky stuff in the house like chips and more things like carrot sticks.

I try to make sure that 'smoothies' are a part of our regular menu. That gives an allowance for lots of goodies; flax, yogurt, fruit, and even spinach on occasion! :-)

I even try to make more of my desserts with fruit and grains, rather than white sugar and white flour.

While I have not had a big flair-up in years, I still go through times where things aren't quite right. I sometimes will have a couple of days of colic like symptoms every evening and I can't figure out why.

But one thing that I've done that seems to help with this is more cultured/fermented dairy foods such as yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk. I try very hard to make sure to get one hefty serving a day and several little ones in this and that.

I am in the process, through bloggers and books, of learning more and more about fermenting foods which I believe will only continue to help me.

This week, I've made something called Rejuvelac that seems to have a really positive effect on how I feel.

There's so much to learn!

But there is so much hope! God is so good and He's given so many wonderful foods that promote healing.

I hope to post more about this in the future. Until then, here's a few links about this subject and there are many great articles on this site!

Here's a link to Wikipedia, dealing with probiotics:

And here's one more dealing with a possible (and weird) cure for many auto-immune diseases:

Do I eat perfect? All the time? No- but I sure do feel better when I eat better! :-)

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