Important Nutrients in Blood Work

When having blood work done, it’s important to pay attention to certain mineral and vitamin levels. For example, a lack of iron or of vitamin D can leave you feeling exhausted, yet both conditions are easy to treat with supplements.

If you are experiencing a flare-up, monitoring your iron levels to check for anemia is incredibly important. I became anemic a few times due to blood loss. I felt so weak that I couldn’t stand for even short periods of time, and I couldn’t think properly. I couldn’t focus on school work, I was very pale, and I felt like I was exerting a lot of energy just by doing the simplest activities. When I found out I was anemic, I was relieved because it has an easy cure. My doctor immediately gave me iron tablets. My red blood cell count increased, and I stopped feeling weak. It became much easier for me to go about my day.

Also, pay attention to your vitamin levels. I lacked vitamin D due to UC. It caused me to feel tired, and I couldn’t concentrate properly. Again, it was very simple to increase my vitamin D levels. I was given tablets, and my condition greatly improved.

These are only two things to look for on your blood test results—I recommend looking into all mineral and vitamin levels to make sure your IBD isn’t negatively affecting you when you’re not having a flare-up. Also, ask your doctor if anything is cause for concern. Finally, if you feel tired or ill, have a blood test to find out if anything is seriously wrong.

Click these links to learn more about the importance of vitamin D and how a deficiency may lead to relapse in UC patients, and about iron and anemia in UC patients.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161024140506.htm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170217161026.htm

 


Natural Help or Medication

When it comes to IBD, natural remedies versus medication is a complicated but interesting topic. Both have been effective for members of my family. I have ulcerative colitis and my uncle has Crohn’s disease, and we handled our diseases in completely different ways. I am in remission because of medication and a healthy diet, and my uncle is in remission because of fitness and a healthy diet.

My uncle had difficulty accepting his diagnosis, and he refused to take medication. However, he still had serious symptoms. He discovered that running eases his symptoms. In fact, running helped him so much that he has been in remission for more than twenty years. By running marathons and maintaining a healthy diet, he has avoided flare-ups.

I, on the other hand, began taking medication as soon as I received my diagnosis. I have taken multiple different medications, some of which have been more effective than others. Eventually, I found that Humira and a modified version of the paleo diet work best for me.

It may be confusing that my uncle and I took vastly different routes to achieving remission, and it may seem that there are no real solutions to IBD and that treatment is just a guessing game. But this is actually great, as it means you can achieve remission in different ways. Everyone’s body responds in a distinctive way, and what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, there will always be hope for remission because there is a “cure” for each person out there.

If you are still experiencing a flare-up, you just haven’t found the right medications, routines, diet, and so on. Achieving remission is difficult, but you will one day find the best strategy for you.

 

If you are confused as to how to use natural remedies to treat IBD, here is an article that may help you: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317744.php

 


My Humira Experience (pt. 2)

I previously published a post about my experience with the immunosuppressant drug Humira, and I felt it was time for an update. So far, Humira has worked well for me. I have had limited symptoms since I began taking it. Although I have had abdominal pain a few times, I believe it was caused by the food I had eaten.

Administering the drug is still incredibly painful. I prefer having the shot in my thigh, because getting a shot in my stomach terrifies me. I would like to say I’ve become used to the pain of the shot, but I haven’t, and I have yet to give myself the shot. I’m afraid my hand will shake while I’m doing it. However, I plan to change this on my next shot. I know when I go to college I’ll have to do it myself, so I need to start eventually.

Thankfully, the shot only takes about ten seconds and then it’s over. Afterwards, I always feel a little dizzy and out of it for a few minutes. Sometimes, I feel run-down for a few days following the shot; other times, I’m full of energy, and I can even exercise the next day. My experiences after the shot have varied, which makes me nervous because I never know exactly what’s going to happen.

Humira definitely works better for me than Remicade did. I think using Humira is a much easier process, although it must be taken every two weeks instead of every seven. Remicade took up too much time, and it was impossible to insert an IV line due to my small veins. The process would take about eight or ten hours from start to finish, and I always felt worn out for days following the treatment. Although Remicade helped me achieve remission, I don’t think it’s easy to use with a busy lifestyle. I’m much happier with Humira, despite the pain factor. That being said, Remicade was painful too because of the IV issue.

So far, I’m doing well on Humira, and I’m delighted that I changed to this drug. I highly recommend it for anyone suffering from severe ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Let me know in the comments if you’re taking Humira and what your experiences have been with the drug.  

 


Anger and IBD

It’s common to feel angry when diagnosed with IBD, and even for years afterwards. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t understand the disease well, and I didn’t realize how it would affect my life. I knew I would no longer be able to eat the foods I loved. I would no longer be able to dance, and suddenly losing an activity I had loved since childhood made me feel lost and angry. I would have to spend less time with my friends, and when I went on trips I was constantly on edge, worrying that I would make a mistake and eat something that caused a flare-up. Over time, all these emotions have settled, and I’ve realized that the disease is manageable.

Even if you’re angry and frustrated about the situation, there isn’t much you can do but accept it. You have to experiment with medications, listen to doctors, and change your diet and fitness routine. You have to learn to lean on others because you can’t do it by yourself. You can’t shut people out. I used to spend most of my day in my room with the door shut because I wanted to avoid being around people. My anger made me want to lash out at those around me. My parents would hover over me as if I had become fragile, something they had never done before. My friends distanced themselves from me because they didn’t know what to do or how to comfort me. I could feel that everyone was nervous, and they were treating me differently than before.

This feeling will eventually pass. Your family and friends will become used to the disease and will stop asking you questions all the time. If you learn to accept the disease yourself, then they will too. The disease affects your body, so they will trust you when you tell them that you are okay.

Although I can’t give you advice about dealing with your anger when you are having a hard time accepting your disease, I can tell you you’re not alone. I’ve been through it as well. I sometimes still feel angry when I think about my situation, but I know there’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to try my best to get on with my day. This disease has become a part of my life: It doesn’t feel abnormal to have ulcerative colitis; it feels like it’s a part of me. Sometimes, accepting the anger is the only way to move forward.

This article gives four different ways to help cope with the anger that sometimes comes with IBD.

 


Flying with IBD

 

If you have IBD, you may be concerned about traveling long distances by plane. Even though you may be worried and feel that it’s impossible for you to travel, there are ways for you to prepare for long journeys.  

 

Medication

  • Make sure to bring an adequate amount of medication to last for the entire trip, as you don’t want to end up without any medication.  
  • Bring your prescription forms just in case you do run out of your medication, so you can get it refilled as soon as possible.  
  • Keep your medication close by, preferably in whatever bag you may be holding. Do not keep it in a checked bag if you are traveling- your luggage may get lost. 
  • Take over-the-counter medications with you to help manage milder symptoms. 

 

Documents

  • Keep some form of your medical history with you while traveling. 
  • Keep your doctor’s phone number saved in your phone for emergencies. 
  • Keep your insurance card with you at all times. 

 

 

Booking and Preparing  

  • When booking your flight, try and find a seat available in the aisle and close to a bathroom. 
  • Book a specific meal plan for your flight ahead of time, so you can eat on the plane. 
  • Bring snacks that are appropriate for your specific diet needs. It’s better to bring them from home than it is to buy them at the airport. 
  • Buy a water as soon as you arrive at the airport, so you don’t become dehydrated on the flight.  

 

 

Asking Questions  

  • See if you can find a map of the airport or ask an employee where all of the bathrooms are located. 
  • There are cards available that allow you to skip the line in the bathroom if you let the airport know ahead of time. 
  • Ask if you can upgrade your seat to a more comfortable area if possible. 

 

Being Safe 

  • Get all of your vaccinations ahead of time, especially if you are leaving the country. 
  • Don’t travel if you feel like you are getting sick. It could make your symptoms worse. 
  • Be careful with eating. Airport food is not always the freshest or the healthiest, and it could potentially harm your digestive system.  
  • Get travel insurance to cover your IBD problems if possible. Make sure that you are fully covered before flying.  

 

It is fairly easy to fly with IBD after you do it a few times.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask the employees’ questions if necessary. Don’t let yourself suffer in silence. Traveling is meant to be fun not to feel like torture.  

 


Diet or Nutritional Supplements

Along with taking medication, many Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) patients either adopt specific diets or take nutritional supplements to help manage their symptoms. Going on a diet or taking nutritional supplements can both help with IBD, so it’s difficult to choose whether one or the other is best.  The best option is to do both.

 

Going on a diet can seem daunting, especially when looking at long lists of foods you can no longer eat. Diets can, however, help manage your IBD alongside medication.  Eliminating foods that cause you to feel sick or in pain, such as gluten or sugar, will reduce symptoms and make your life easier. On the other hand, removing too many foods from your diet can seem complicated.  One dieting strategy is to try a diet for a week or two just to see whether it affects your symptoms at all. If you find that your symptoms have improved by dieting, you should stick with it.

 

Taking nutritional supplements, such as vitamins or probiotics, is also crucial when dealing with painful symptoms.  Supplements can improve your overall gut health and digestion, and they can give you more energy, which IBD patients tend to lack. Taking supplements in addition to medication can have a serious and positive impact on your day-to-day life.

 

Going on a diet and taking nutritional supplements alongside medication can, in some cases, make a person with IBD seem to forget that he or she has a disease at all due to reduced symptoms. If you aren’t comfortable going on a strict diet, then you can just take supplements; likewise, if you aren’t comfortable with taking supplements, you can try a variety of diets. Many people still suffer from IBD symptoms even while taking medication, which shows that medication may not be doing enough for them. If you are one of those people, you should seriously consider going on a diet or taking nutritional supplements as an added strategy to ease your symptoms. While dieting and taking supplements together represents the best option, even trying just one or the other could help you greatly.


The Aftermath of Prednisone

One of the medications that I have been given in the past is Prednisone. If you aren’t familiar with the drug, it is a steroid that must be prescribed, and it treats many conditions and diseases, specifically those that are associated with inflammation. Basically, it helps the inflammation go down, which is why it is often used when treating Crohn’s and UC.

There are lots of side effects that occur when taking Prednisone. For most people, the longer you’ve been on the drug, the longer it takes to get out of your system. My doctor says that for however long you are taking it, it takes twice as long to get out of your system. I was prescribed the drug in September, and I finally went off of it in November. It is still in my system. I wanted to share with you some of the side effects that I have gotten from the steroid.

The first side effect I have is called “Moon Face”. Prednisone makes you retain a lot of water weight. Moon Face is when your face becomes puffy from the medication. You lose the definition of your cheekbones and jawline. For young people who suffer from IBD, this is a very difficult side effect because we tend to be focused on how we look. However, it has gone down for me slightly. I can promise you that this will go away, and if you wear makeup, you can definitely contour your face to look more sculpted than it actually is. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it. No one cares or even notices except you and maybe your family.

The second side effect I have is weight gain. When I first got home from the hospital, I had lost a significant amount of weight. For two weeks, I stayed that way. Then, I began to gain weight rapidly. I am the heaviest I have ever been in my entire life. I have been struggling to lose the weight, but nothing is working. The only thing that even remotely works is eating approximately 200 calories a day and working out (which is not healthy and really difficult when you’re weak and dizzy all the time). What I recommend in order to stay sane, is just waiting for the drug to get out of your system. However, DO NOT BINGE BECAUSE YOU CANNOT LOSE THE WEIGHT ANYWAY. I have gone back and forth with dieting and then binging (I’ll talk about this issue another time), and I think the best thing for me to do is to eat intuitively. I pay attention to when I am truly hungry and when I am truly full, and I keep my weight balanced. Once the drug is out of my body, I will lose the weight more easily. Do not worry about it for now. I spent so long worrying, and I had no self-love. It’s not fun to live like that.

The third side effect I have is acne. I’m the type of teenager that has what a lot of people call “baby skin”. I’ve always had clear skin, and I don’t know what it’s like to deal with acne. When the Prednisone finally kicked in, my skin started breaking out badly. My entire face was covered in it (specifically forehead and chin area). I went to the dermatologist, and I was prescribed retinol, which I have been taking for a few weeks now. It has dried out my skin, and my breakouts have not cleared up yet. However, I have taken Prednisone before, and I have had breakouts caused by it before, and I know they will eventually go away. Again, this type of thing is difficult for young people who are suffering from IBD because it has to do with what we look like. Try not to touch your skin, and if you have gone to the dermatologist, follow their instructions on what to do.  Also, drink water! It has really helped me. I promise that it will go away once the drug is out of your system.

Prednisone is not a fun drug to take. There are lots of side effects, and in general, it just doesn’t make you feel well. I know that my advice wasn’t really on how to get rid of these side effects and more about being patient, but that’s all the advice that I can really give. There are so many people that are in the same boat as you and I are, so you don’t have to feel alone. Let me know in the comments what side effects you’ve experienced and how you’ve dealt with them.

Lisey