Two Things Everyone With UC Needs in Their Bag or Purse…

Sephora perfume and cologne samples double as emergency air fresheners.

Sephora perfume and cologne samples double as emergency air fresheners.

Don’t leave home without them!

I’m not going to claim this is ground-breaking, but these are handy tips – one, if you’re a Sephora addict like me, your bathroom or your bedroom (or both) are probably overflowing with unused fragrance samples. Though there was a dark time when I was known to carry a Bath & Body Works room spray or other legit air freshener whenever I left the house, these days I’m all about packing light. The fragrance samples I receive and don’t like become mini emergency air fresheners for if ever I’m out in public and Colitis attacks. I’d rather chase away everyone in the restroom with a cloud of Dolce & Gabbana than a smog of intestinal dragon rot. And while the other ladies are choking and breaking out in hives, I’m pulling out a lovely little pack of Scott Naturals moist wipes. They’re soothing – because let’s face it, once you have IBD you don’t merely shit, in the words of my G.I., you “pass barbed wire” – and they do the job better than that tissue-thin abrasive commercial sandpaper they call toilet paper. Bring these two life-savers with you everywhere you go and about fifteen-to-twenty minutes after you burst through the bathroom door, give or take, you’ll walk out feeling halfway human again.

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No Longer A Worthless Piece of S–t!

Suddenly your poop's looking a lot better.

Suddenly your poop’s looking a lot better.

For years you’ve been flushing money down the toilet, all because you were taught that’s what you were supposed to do after you pooped. Well, turns out you were misled. Instead of waving it good-bye, you could’ve sold what you made and funded your college education. New from IFLScience! – You Can Sell Your Poop For $13k Per Year And Help Science!

According to the article, “the non-profit company OpenBiome is actually paying for stool samples in order to create lifesaving fecal transplant treatments for those infected with Clostridium difficile, a bacteria which is highly resistant to antibiotics.” Click on the link for the juicy details, including how much you could make for doing what comes naturally.

During the course of my treatment for Ulcerative Colitis, I was both tested for C. difficile, and informed about fecal transplants as a treatment option…if all else failed. Thankfully I’m not at that point. Yet. So while OpenBiome might not be interested in my unicorn poop, do spread the word. Your chocolate treasure might be worth its weight in gold.

Write For Health

writingtohealth

“One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.”

It’s been 15 months since my official Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis, almost 18 months since the symptoms began, and almost 15 months to the day that I wrote my first post on this blog. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my sudden urge to blog – rather than simply journal, or continue writing creatively in hopes to get published – may have had deeper roots connected to my overall health. In two separate articles: Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write and Writing Your Way to Happiness, researchers have discovered a strong link between writing and improved mental and physical health.

No longer an outlet for the overly imaginative or heartsick, writing – especially about personal experiences/traumas – has surprising benefits, including spending “less time in the hospital, enjoy[ing] lower blood pressure and ha[ving] better liver functionality than [non-writing] counterparts” (Science Shows).  Additionally, writing has the power to “make physical wounds heal faster,” a serious plus for those of us inflamed, ulcerated and bleeding (Science Shows).

Why? Well each article has a slightly different take, but basically writing about yourself is cathartic, thereby stress-relieving, and ultimately, becomes a mirror: “by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health” (Writing Your Way). And let’s face it, people dealing with injuries and illnesses have a great deal to process, and subsequently a whole lot to vent about, sometimes on an hourly basis. If we’re journaling or blogging, at the very least we’re not abusing the sympathetic ears of friends and family. Either no one reads it – or a select few – or you can cast your message-in-a-bottle into the Cloud for everyone, or none, to consume. The point isn’t so much to be heard as it is to relieve your anxieties, reflect upon them, and move on. I took a several month break from blogging because it got to the point where so much of my Ulcerative Colitis pain, embarrassment, and hassle was behind me (a.k.a. remission) that I didn’t want to dwell. Blogging began feeling like taking a step back into a period of time that I’d rather put behind me. Now, having that distance, I can look back objectively, sans negative emotional memories and ties.

The key component in all of this? Don’t feel like you need IBD or heart disease as an excuse to blog about your health or life. Just because others are experiencing technically more “significant” ordeals (i.e., cancer treatment) doesn’t lessen the significance of what you’re personally going through. This isn’t a competition, everyone has their burden to bear and it’s not up to us to judge whose is “worse,” or more “worthy.” Struggling with weight loss? Blog about it. Hair loss? Back pain? Infertility? Get on it. Sit down at your computer, or grab a notebook and pen, and GO: “Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life” (Science Shows). So, what are you waiting for?

 

Frankendiet

Paleo

Got a bone to pick with your IBD?

Hello again! I took a hiatus from this blog for a few reasons; mostly, I was sick of thinking about and writing about my UC. I wanted to focus on more positive, less self-centered things, things that didn’t remind me 24/7 that I have an autoimmune disease that will never go away. And since every meal and snack, and nearly every social situation, takes care of that, it was important I cut out the nonessential reminders. I also wanted to focus on my novel, take some writing workshops, travel, cultivate new friendships…pretty much dive into my “new” normal without looking back. However, next Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the onset of my lovely Ulcerative Colitis symptoms, and with that date looming, I thought it was time to return this site, blog a bit, and then reinvent it, as I’ve reinvented myself. What’s this got to do with diet, you ask?

I invented my own. Well, maybe not so much “invented” as reinvented my digestive health by cherry-picking from many of the popular cult diets  to customize one that finally works for me. A bit here, a bit there, and the end result is Frankendiet. Makes sense that if no Irritable Bowel disease is quite the same from person to person that no one diet can cure them all, right? Right. Am I saying this diet has cured my UC or sent it into remission? No. Unfortunately up until the Remicade treatment before last, in early June, I was still seeing symptoms. This past 6-week stretch has been the only one where a few days before the infusion, itsy bitsy symptoms weren’t cropping up, only to be put back to bed after the treatment. I have my fingers crossed that this is the green light that my doc and I can begin stretching doses, and that I can then fine-tune this diet to keep me in remission. Until then.

I think of this diet as the “I-Can-Go-Out-To-Eat” diet because nine times out of ten I can walk into any restaurant – save for a pub or fast food joint – and find at least one or two things on the menu that I can eat, if not more. Farm-to-table establishments and more “foodie” establishments are best because they use fresher ingredients, more natural ingredients, and tend to be lean on sodium and heavy fry and cooking oils. Still, even when the venue is less than ideal, Frankendiet’s enabled me to retain my social life, travel, and not starve when I find myself out of my normal environment and effectively screwed in the nutrients department mandated by the more restrictive, militant diets.

Frankendiet has a few hard and fast rules but is otherwise fairly flexible, depending on how the tummy feels. Mostly it comes down to small meals, limited quantities, and eating many of the same things every day, creating a routine that my tummy comfortably predicts, right down to the time of day it expects to be fed. I’ve been on Remicade since November 2013, but until I figured out my body’s food “rules” about a month ago, I was going 2-3+ times per day, swelling up like a balloon with bloat but not knowing why, etc. Now, so long as I don’t go off the rails, I’m virtually discomfort-free and going once per day like a normal, healthy person!

I eat lots of nuts, including those wonderful gluten-free KIND bars; raw meats and seafood as well as cooked, but only lean red meat; limited raw veggies–really just fresh, chopped basil–as well as some specific, very well-cooked veggies; limited low-sugar fruits; no alcohol save wine; only dark, dark chocolate; full-fat Greek yogurt and hard cheeses; and above all, nothing fried, no gluten and no Xanthan Gum. Sounds like most every other diet out there, right? Well…I still eat sushi with zero side effects, though it contains seaweed and the soy sauce usually contains gluten. I enjoy gluten-free lentil crackers even though that’s a “Paleo” no-no. Grapes give my stomach grief but ironically wine does not. You’re not supposed to have hummus or chickpeas in the SCD diet but every now and then I do, to no ill effect.

The SCD diet works for thousands of people, but it didn’t work for me. For one, I’m still not able to consume raw veggies and the majority of fruit without some serious IBS-like symptoms, and that diet emphasizes veggies. Only recently have I begun doing better with cooked vegetables, but even still, I found this diet too restrictive. My new GI described it as a “religion” and I am not a particularly religious person. Spiritual, yes, but I’m not devoted to one ideology, and one only. A coworker/new friend has been on the Paleo bandwagon for some time, and started sending me recipe links to Danielle Walker’s blog Against All Grain. Without realizing it, I’d asked for and received her cookbook for Christmas, so I already had the tool in hand. I requested it because at the time, I was struggling with my new gluten-free diet. I didn’t realize she was “Paleo.” That aside, her recipes are highly creative and most importantly, DELICIOUS!

Now, having a background in Anthropology, the theory that our bodies can’t process grains drives me crazy. For one, the Middle and Upper Paleolithic period – effectively the Stone Age – was a turning point in early human history because we began eating grain! Neanderthals baked bread and ground wheat using stone tools! I want to smack my head against something hard whenever I hear “Paleo” in relation to the concept of this diet. If you’re truly eating Paleo, then you’re eating grain, because your ancestors were doing it more than 40,000 years ago. It’s not bad for you. However, if you have IBD, Celiac or grain allergies and sensitivities, then yes, it might be a problem for you, and now that’s reason to eliminate it from your diet. What Paleo gets right is low-to-no-sugar and keeping what you eat as balanced, simple and pure as possible, grains or no grains. And don’t get me started on wine. Wine has been around since 6,000 B.C., or for more than 8,000 years. I’m pretty sure we’ve evolved to digest that, too, so unless you really, physically can’t handle it, don’t stress about it.

A doctor once told me that it seems silly that we create all these “rules” around a disease or treatment, and then struggle in giving ourselves permission to “break” them in order to find a solution that works for us as an individual, and one that restores our quality of life–ours, and no one else’s version of what a healthy, happy life should be. It’s taken me almost a year, and it’s been a food-and-bathroom roller coaster, but Frankendiet has come together and in doing so, has given this UC gal a new, healthier lease on her thirties. Hopefully some part of this diatribe is useful to you, or someone you know, especially if they are feeling pressure to adhere to a diet they’re less than thrilled with, or are unable to commit to, for one reason or another. Til next time!

A Little Piece of (Healthy) Heaven – KIND Bars

Kind Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

A friend gave me a gluten-free power bar to try, but alas, it contained xanthan gum, a natural laxative and bad news for anyone with IBD. By accident I discovered that not only are Kind bars gluten-free and low sugar, they do not contain xantham gum! Fiber is high, protein is decent, and for 200 calories you could do a lot worse. (Especially because they make a dark chocolate and sea salt bar, and that stuff is my Kryptonite.) Even better? Kind makes granola that’s also low-sugar, gluten and xanthan-gum free, perfect for topping full-fat (and consequently lower-lactose) Greek yogurt. Add some fresh berries and YUM! For the first time in months, my diet feels unrestricted. Now that’s kind.