My battle with colitis

In August of 2009 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis after a month long battle with some really terrible symptoms that landed me in the hospital for a week.  I had chronic diarrhea and probably went to the bathroom about once every hour.  During this time I still continued to work at my full time job.   I had multiple trips to my primary care physician and some days I would wake up and go to the emergency room because I was also losing a lot of blood.  They tested me for parasites but everything came back normal.  Finally after several weeks of losing blood (common symptom from UC) my husband said we were just going to the emergency room.  When the Dr saw the sample he immediately told me I was being admitted and was shocked that things had gotten to this point.    There they assigned me to a Gastroenterologist who performed a colonoscopy and diagnosed me with Ulcerative Colitis. “Ulcerative Colitis?  What the heck is that?”  I had never even heard of it before and quite frankly, I was terrified.

Since my first case was very bad, I was told I would probably be on medication for the rest of my life.  I was diagnosed with pan ulcerative colitis and I was told that my entire colon looked like a fire had gone off (yes he actually told me that!)  The medication I was put on was Prednisone-60mg taper, calcium, Asacol (like way too many pills than should have been legal LOL) iron and I was told to drink ensure to put weight on and get energy.  I had lost 15 lbs and was extremely weak after battling symptoms for a month.  After being on the prednisone for a couple of days I was starting to feel better but once the taper came to an end my symptoms came back.  The Asacol wasn’t working at all so I was taken off of it.

The next medication I tried was Azathioprine.  This was in the spring of 2010.   I was on that for a few months and my colitis had quieted down, however,  I developed a blistery rash all over my body that was very painful to even touch.  If the blister popped it hurt and warm liquid would ooze out (TMI sorry)   😦  They thought the rash was a result of the UC and kept telling me that this wasn’t from my medication, but I knew it was because it went away after I stopped the drug.   It was later determined by a Dermatologist that I had an allergic reaction to the drug (no way!  really?  He actually called me an apologized for not believing me so I’ll take it).  I also had a abnormal liver function test so I had be taken off of that medication anyway.

I was on and off prednisone for a couple of years because I became steroid dependent.  I would taper down to about 10 or 5 mg and then immediately my colitis symptoms would return with a vengeance.   I decided to try IV therapy called Remicade because nothing else was working.    This required me to miss 4 hours of work every time I had to go in for treatment because it took at least 3 hours to administer.  This was the most frustrating thing for me but my insurance wouldn’t approve Humira (an injection that I would give myself) because it wasn’t FDA approved for colitis.  After just a few months of using Remicade and paying thousands of dollars for the treatment, we determined it wasn’t working for me.

In winter 2011, after tapering off prednisone, my symptoms started coming back again; the Remicade wasn’t working.  My GI doctor upped the dose but it didn’t matter.   After several months of trying Remicade, I was put back on prednisone, but this time it wasn’t working.  I was having the same symptoms I had in 2009 when I was first diagnosed and knew I needed to do something quick.  I had several more appts with my GI doctor and then he told me that I should start looking in to having my colon removed.   He said it would make my life so much better than it is now, but I could still have complications.  Having the colon removed doesn’t mean that life will be great.  In the meantime, as a last resort, he wanted me to drive several hours north and see his boss who would have me start on trial drugs.  I definitely didn’t feel comfortable taking trial medications and I didn’t have time to drive back and forth every week so I started researching natural remedies on how to cure Ulcerative colitis naturally.

I started my holistic journey in June by doing an  ultimate reset to my body and digestive system.  It is basically a 21 day program where you eat certain foods and take supplements to help cleanse and restore.

The program is broken down into 3 phases:

In Phase 1, you RECLAIM your body, accessing its inner chemistry and preparing it for change. In Week One, you’ll gradually remove foods such as red meat and dairy from your diet, which are known to place stress on the digestive system.

In Phase 2, you begin to RELEASE unwanted compounds that have been holding your system back and start the detoxification process. This phase includes additional supplements, including a gentle colon cleanse and digestive support. In Week Two, you’ll now be eating a fully vegan diet.

 

In Phase 3, you’ll help RESTORE your digestive system along with other internal processes to maximum efficiency, putting nutrients, enzymes, and pre- and probiotics back into your body. In Week Three, you’ll now be eating mostly fruits and vegetables.

 

After completing this program I felt a lot better.  I lost 10 lbs which I needed to lose due to the weight gain and moon face I developed from prednisone the past winter and spring.  But despite feeling better, my symptoms were not letting up.  I started following the process of healing my gut by doing an elimination diet.  The purpose of this diet was to determine, what, if any, foods were trigger foods for me.  I realized that no foods were triggers for me so I moved on to the supplement phase.  I took supplements to help return my body to an alkaline state.  Supplements like fish oil, boswelia, curcumin, slippery elm were staples in my daily regimen.

I continued my research and I found a program online and invested a lot of money into it.  I learned about all the different supplements I would need to take in order to heal my gut.  Things like VERY strong pro-biotics (not the cheap ones you buy on the shelf but the ones that are refrigerated), digestive enzymes, and so many other things.

I followed the program for 2 months, But despite all of this work I was still losing a tremendous amount of blood and was still having severe symptoms that by September I had stopped everything and just became extremely weak and sick.  I was already too sick and healing yourself naturally can take longer than being on medications so I knew that I was going to need to see a doctor again. I started looking into having my colon removed but really couldn’t picture my life like this at such a young age and I became extremely stressed out.  Columbus Day weekend of 2012 I nearly passed out and my husband drove me to the hospital.  This time the GI dr who was on call at the hospital was my GI drs boss out of the local office. He did a colonoscopy and said that my colitis was not in a terrible flare despite my debilitating symptoms.  He suggested that I may be having more IBS symptoms from all of the stress I was in this year with trying to get my symptoms under control.   Colitis was still mild but not as bad as my symptoms were making it seem.  He treated me on different medication over the course of the week that I was in the hospital.  We also determined that all of my blood loss was from what they thought was a hemorrhoid; this blood loss required me to have several blood transfusions while I was in the hospital.  In fact I kept telling the Drs that I was bleeding for about a year and they would just tell me that blood looks worse in water than it really is.  They told me that hemorrhoids don’t bleed like I was explaining to them and it wasn’t as bad as I was making it seem.  I clearly explained that I saw the blood dripping into the toilet but they just didnt’ believe me.  A lot of this journey was super frustrating at times that’s for sure.  I could have eliminated so many symptoms had Drs listened to me from the beginning.  I am truly blessed to have found an amazing GI dr and I know that landing in this hospital when I did was truly a blessing in disguise, otherwise I may have never had the chance to meet him.

After a week of being in the hospital, I needed to go home because I was on the cardiac floor and the beeping noises coming from the rooms around me were making me crazy.  I couldn’t get any sleep and it certainly wasn’t helping me get better.  I was on short term disability at work and was on a low dose taper of prednisone as well as a medication combination he created that would bypass the active ingredient in Azathioprine that way I wouldn’t have another allergic reaction.  I continued on this treatment until about March 2013 when I came across this Tony Horton video on Shakeology

I noticed that a lot of the supplements he listed were the same ones I was taking as part of the heal my gut plan the previous summer so I decided to drink Shakeology every day. This was a lot cheaper than buying the supplements individually.  I was drinking it before but had to stop due to being so sick.  After one month of drinking Shakeology, I was feeling 100% better and it was at this point that I decided to completely come off all medication and see how I would do.

I can now tell you that 5 months later I am still off all medication and I am still 100% better and cannot be happier.  I have my life back and I will never stop drinking this shake.  Is it possible for my symptoms to come back?  Of course, because even on medication you can relapse.  Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease. With UC, the immune system is over-reacting so Drs. treat patients with medications that weaken the immune system. This causes people to be at greater risk for infection, disease and even cancer! I was told to avoid people who were sick or even had colds; I have kids who get colds often and I need to be there to take care of them so there is no avoiding illness. Now that I am on Shakeology, I am actually strengthening my immune system but causing it to balance. It’s a life changer for me and I’m so thankful that I have my health back.

I hope if you take anything away from this it’s that you invest in yourself and do some research.  Some doctors like to push medications on you but you don’t always need them.  I am happy to say that I switched GI Drs to the one who saw me in the hospital and I have never felt better about a decision in my life.  He did a sigmoidoscopy and said I have no active inflammation.  I will certainly update you once I have my next colonoscopy.

Making changes in your diet to include lean meats, more fruits and veggies, a lot of water and less processed foods can really make a huge difference.  Of course natural healing takes a long time.  In my case I started the process of healing my colon naturally with the reset I did in June, which was evident when my colonoscopy showed mild colitis after having a terrible flare just a few months prior.  I wasn’t fully off all my meds until almost a year later in 2013.  Be persistent, try something and if it doesn’t work, don’t give up; just try something else that may work for you and your body.  It’s not impossible to heal your colon; it won’t be easy, but it will be so worth it.

If you have any questions about my journey don’t hesitate to reach out.  I am always here to offer any support that I can.  I wish I had this support when I was sick and now I want to be that support for others who may be feeling like things will never get better and they have no options.  Because this is exactly how I felt.

UPDATE: August 6, 2018

I wanted to update this blog post and say that the “hemorrhoid” actually turned out to be a HUGE polyp.  They thought it was a hemorrhoid until I had it removed and they determined that it was in fact a polyp and was the reason why all of my symptoms were so bad despite my colitis being mild.  Just supports the fact that my holistic approach was in fact working to heal my colon even if I wasn’t quite convinced at the time.

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