When Medicine is Best
I'm a pretty big advocate of listening to my body and employing many of the mind/body disciplines to help me live a successful life with IBD. I've written quite a bit about figuring out the foods and diet that are best for me and my gut. I've also discussed my yoga, meditation, Reiki, and exercise routines that help me to cope with stress in my life, and therefore keep my IBD pretty well under control. But what I realized yesterday is that I rarely discuss the role that medications play in helping me to keep my IBD under control.
This became apparent to me because, low and behold, I've been in the midst of a flare-up for more than a month now and hadn't recognized it, as such, until I saw my doctor last week.
For a few months my gut's just not been its typical happy self. One day I'd have a normal BM, the next day one that wasn't so good. Cramps came and went, but not lingered long enough for me to put two and two together. I'd noticed some peeling skin on the bottoms of both my feet but chalked it up to a series of 2- 3- and 5-mile hikes I'd taken earlier in the month. I had also noted that the insides of my cheeks were kind of raw and flaky and I found myself chewing on them quite a bit.
I changed my diet around, went the route of the Special Carbohydrates Diet (SCD) for a week or so, saw my BMs improve for a week then they got worse again. What finally took me to my doctor was three-fold - I'd lost 2 pounds in two weeks (never a good sign for me), the skin on my left ring finger had become red and angry and I could no longer wear my wedding ring (I've worn that ring every day since my husband put it on my finger twelve-some months ago); and, I'd experienced a few days worth of. . . get ready, it's gross. . . green, mushy, stinky poo. This was NEW and I couldn't figure it out.
A new chapter of symptoms
All of these symptoms were different for me. Not my typical flare-up symptoms from years past. I had no diarrhea to speak of. No low-grade fever. I was sleeping well. And, now that I think about it I did have less energy than usual but I've been working on a huge project with a looming deadline so I couldn't really allow myself the time to be tired. I figured the weird poo must be from stress. But that skin thing on my finger was the last straw and off to my doctor I went.
I love her. She talks to me, hears what I'm saying, and questions me to get further into what's going on in my life. She looks at me as a whole person instead of a mouth, colon, and anus! After discussing my symptoms, diet, and current lifestyle for about 45 minutes she concluded that I was having a flare. The skin stuff - finger, feet, and cheeks - she feels are eczema and all related. She explained that my skin is the outward sign of what's most likely going on inside my gut. So, she recommended increasing my Asacol and taking it spanned out over four doses per day.
My goal is always to some day completely get off the IBD drugs I've taken. So, the idea of increasing my Asacol dose didn't thrill me. It seemed like I was failing and slipping backwards. But, I didn't want this flare to get out of hand and turn a corner where I was having even more of my ‘normal' flare symptoms and stopping me in my tracks. So, I increased my Asacol and stopped playing with my diet. I went back to "my" normal diet which includes white bread, rice, and noodles, in moderation of course.
It's been a week since my appointment and the increase in Asacol and I'm happy to report that my skin is cleared up and my wedding ring is back in its proper place. My gut is calmer and my BMs are normal, and I'm even feeling just a tad more energetic.
I'm grateful that there are medications out there that can help me. And it's times like this, when a flare has hit, that I realize the formula to keeping me healthy is a mixture of mind/body techniques and modern medicine. There may not yet be a cure for IBD but there are many, many more medications out there that can help than when I was first diagnosed ten years ago. I'm thankful to the people who are putting money into IBD research and that we are making strides forward to help us treat UC and Crohn's more effectively.
For me, living a good life with IBD is a combination of listening to my body, hearing what it needs, working with my doctor, and using all the tools and options that are at hand.
Elizabeth Roberts is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and Natural Chef who also lives with IBD. She focuses her work on Digestive Wellness and enjoys working primarily with other IBDers. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at: www.eatlivelocally.com
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