In some of my earlier blog post I’ve mentioned my use of Alternative Treatment Options and thought I should expound on what I’ve tried and how they have or haven’t helped my health - so, here goes.
As a child I was quite healthy, the healthiest of my four siblings, so said my Mom - however my senior year homecoming date might not agree with that considering I had to cancel on him at the last minute when I was diagnosed with the chicken pox (he actually came to my house to confirm the illness and not that I was not just blowing him off). But, when I entered college my stomach issues began to hit - nothing very serious, but more annoying than anything - mainly stomach cramps and some random bouts of diarrhea here and there. It wasn’t until the early 1990s when I moved to Washington, D.C. that the diarrhea began to hit me more often and while the cramps were still annoying I was able to work and lead a normal young 20s lifestyle.
But, by 1997 the cramps, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, low-grade fevers, and unrelenting fatigue stopped me in my tracks and made my life very difficult to live. Later that year I was diagnosed with Colitis and in 1998 with IBS as well. The Asacol I was prescribed eventually helped some, the Bentyl would make a bout of searing, knife-like stabbing pains in my gut a little more bearable, and I did have a GI who was caring, thoughtful, and a good listener. But even so I was no longer living a good quality of life, and I had had to make some serious changes to my lifestyle and career.
When the IBD was at its worst I was living in California, a big change from either Wisconsin (where I grew up) or Washington, D.C., both in climate and the people’s mind-sets. As more friends and neighbors in my new home city became aware of my problems I got suggestions about so many possible helpful alternatives that my head spun - acupuncture, meditation, Reiki, yoga, even chiropractic therapies. I’d heard of chiropractic therapies but simply couldn’t bring myself to try them because, 1. I didn’t know how it had anything to do with treating gut issues; and, 2. I’d never met anyone who tried it and had felt well enough to stop doing it.
I’d only vaguely heard of acupuncture and meditation, and Reiki was a foreign word to me. I scoffed at it all and tried to muddle through. But, later in 1998 I had a worsening of my symptoms due to an antibiotic I’d had to take for a bacterial infection. Any ground I’d made up I quickly lost as the diarrhea, severe cramping, and weight loss took over once again. About this time my husband’s friend from Sedona, Arizona called to ask how I was doing. “I was meditating last night,” he had said, “and I got this ‘feeling’ that Elizabeth was quite sick again.” My husband, unfazed by his friend’s ‘woo-woo stuff’ (as I called it), told me about Thom’s call and his suggestion that we go to Sedona for some energy work (Reiki) with his friend Katie. He had suggested this to me before and I had poo-poo’d it as ‘ridiculous woo-woo stuff.’ But now, I was so sick and so desperate I agreed - I was willing to try anything.
And this was the beginning of my education in the mind/body connection, but it was also the beginning of my getting my life back. Over the next couple of years I continued to take my Asacol prescription (and still do) but also began to dapple in Reiki, meditation, rhythmic breathing, yoga, acupuncture, and learning to listen to my body. Of these, the only one I don’t do regularly is acupuncture. I found it to be helpful in relieving some of the physical stress I build up in my neck and shoulders but it never has really helped with my GI issues (however, some people with IBD and IBS swear by it - it’s all subjective to the individual person, I think).
_Read part II of this series to find out what methods Elizabeth tried and how they helped (or didn’t help) her ulcerative colitis symptoms. _