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June 13, 2019

Coping with IBD

I’ve been struggling with Ulcerative Colitis for 7 years now. The first several years were a lot of ups and downs, rounds of steroids and other drugs that only put a bandaid on my symptoms, and a lot of pain. I dreaded meals because if I didn’t eat, I had pain and if I did eat I had pain. I couldn’t figure out what helped and what didn’t. So I’m here to share what I’ve found over the years that HAS helped! 

I’ve been struggling with Ulcerative Colitis for 7 years now. The first several years were a lot of ups and downs, rounds of steroids and other drugs that only put a bandaid on my symptoms, and a lot of pain. I dreaded meals because if I didn’t eat, I had pain and if I did eat I had pain. I couldn’t figure out what helped and what didn’t. So I’m here to share what I’ve found over the years that HAS helped! 

From research and talking to other with auto-immune, IBD, and/or IBS issues I’ve realized a lot of the symptoms overlap and all root back to inflammation. I’m no doctor, so don’t take my word as the end all be all. Just here to share and if it works for you too, AWESOME!

STRESS:

The first thing I realized was that my flare ups seemed to directly correlate to stressful events in my life, and I knew I needed to find ways some healthy ways to blow off steam and keep the stress from burrowing in my body. 

I found yoga and jogging. Physical exercise is great for the mind and body and really helped me clear my head, put things in perspective, and release stress. And it still does! 

WHOLISTIC MEDICINE:

I knew my diet had to be playing a role in my symptoms, but I couldn’t figure out exactly which foods. It seemed like no matter what I ate I felt awful. I’d wanted to check out wholistic medicine for years and FINALLY bit the bullet (its expensive!). I have to say this has been the best health decision I have ever made! If you’re on the fence, give it a try. Your health and wellbeing are WELL WORTH THE MONEY. 

I found Dr. Bongiovanni at Wholistic Medicine Specialists of Atlanta located in Alpharetta, GA. Dr. B happened to have studied under one of the top traditional medicine GI specialists in the country and had a solid grasp on my disease and what, most likely, was exacerbating my symptoms. 

The first thing he did was run some blood tests for food sensitivities, inflammatory markers, and vitamin levels. Turns out I have 3 major food sensitivities (about 20 others), my Vit D was rock bottom low, and inflammation was high. 

He had me cut out all the foods on my sensitivity list for a solid 2 months and reintroduce the few minor ones one at a time to see how I did. This was in 2015 and to this day I still don’t eat those 3 major culprits and most of the others. 

He also put me on Vit D supplements and several others to help with inflammation and immune system (more on that below). I was able to keep flares away for a full 2 years with his help!

TRADITIONAL MEDICINE:

I would highly highly recommend finding a GI specialist who you feel comfortable

with and whom you trust. My first GI specialist just wanted to get me in and out and didn’t have 2 seconds to hear what I had to say. 

The Doc I have been seeing for the last 4 years has been WONDERFUL, always listens to everything I have to say, let’s me drive the plan for my health. He believes the patients know their bodies best and he helps guide me to make the best decision for me and provides me every option and the most up to date research on my disease. He also fully supports my integrating wholistic medicine into my health plan and says “if it helps, do it!”

GI North located in Cumming, GA is where I go. Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano are both incredible. 100% recommend.

In 2017 after 2 years of 0 symptoms and 0 drugs, I had another flare. Ugh! This one wasn’t too bad but no matter what myself and my health team tried we couldn’t get it to ease up. So after a lot of deliberation, I was put on Humira. More on that later, but in short, this drug ROCKS and I have had no side effects so far. Hoping to not be on it forever, but sometimes when you run out of other options you do what you’ve gotta do. This is when traditional and wholistic medicine come together!

SUPPLEMENTS:

Per the recommendation of Dr. B from WMSOA and based on the results of blood tests I take several supplements every day to help with inflammation and keep my immune system on track. Below I’m sharing the ones I take, but know that these dosages are based on my personal needs and may not be the right amount for you. I would highly recommend seeing a WMS (and/or consulting with your MD) for blood tests before taking any of these. With that said, these are all reputable brands to best of my doctor’s and my own research and knowledge. They are high quality supplements and due to my allergies all are gluten free, vegetarian friendly, dairy free, and egg free!

Most people can get the majority of these vitamins just from a healthy diet, but my body has a hard time absorbing nutrients due to the damage to my gut. 

Fish Oil – Great for healing the lining of the gut among many other things such as heart health. (PS the brand linked here does NOT give you the burps).

Glutamine – Glutamine is an amino acid that helps “nutritionally supports the mucosal lining and healthy functioning of the gastrointestinal tract.”

Vitamin D – People with auto-immune deficiencies and digestive issues often have low vitamin D like I do. Vitamin D helps keep energy levels up and the immune system working properly!

Folate, Vit B6 & B12 – B vitamins support energy levels and folate is another immune system and gut health supporter (its also wonderful for hair, skin, and nails – bonus!).  

Selenium – supports colon heath 

Green Tea Extract – antioxidant that support overall health and wellness (decaffeinated). 

Tumeric – naturally occurring anti-inflammatory

Probiotic – Ok, so I used to take VSL #3 and it was great and specifically formulated for patients with IBD. However, the brand was recently outed for selling a formula that did not belong to them. I’ve linked an article about the issue here. So, I’ve found the same formula (sold righfully) from Visiobiome. When I took VSL #3 I was doing the capsules, but I decided to try the packets when I purchased Visiobiome. I’m not sure if my body is just getting to used to it again or if there’s something off about VB, but I’ve been experiencing some bloat. Will keep you posted.

DIET:

This one is HUGE! By far the biggest player in this game. What you eat so highly affects your health, and in today’s world just about everything packaged or canned is processed, has added sugars and preservatives, and is just all around not great.. 

I’ve found that sticking to naturally occurring whole cleans foods has been my best bet (ie meat, fish, veggies, fruits, and occasionally certain grains). Of course, you have to find what works best for you personally, but I’ll share what’s worked for me! 

Having UC (an auto-immune irritable bowel disease) I’ve found the following foods to be detrimental, cause bloat, and/or make me feel not awesome in general:

Dairy, Eggs, Gluten/wheat, beans, chemical additives and preservatives especially “gums” like guar gum and anthem gum (usually found in gluten free breads and things like that), yeast, acidic foods like pineapple, oranges, etc., high fat foods or eating too much fat at a time, same with sugar. For instance, avocados and nut butters are healthy high fat foods but too much in one sitting upsets my stomach. 

Ok, so that may seem daunting, but don’t freak out! There’s plenty out there to eat, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the above foods (if they don’t bother you too much) every now and then. It’s all about balance, right?

So here’s what I do eat:

Fruits low in sugar like berries. I also occasionally enjoy an apple and even though their pretty high in sugar I eat a decent amount of bananas. They don’t seem to bother me soo. 

Kale and spinach are regular staples, chicken, fish, occasional red meat and pork, turkey (I use ground turkey instead ground beef most of the time), cauliflower, brussels, broccoli, green beans, okra, potatoes, sweet potatoes, I mean the list goes on!

I’ve done years of trial and error with food, so I have a pretty good grasp of what works and what doesn’t for my body. I’m planning to share brands and recipes on my stories and here on the blog that I love so you can try them out too!

I hope this helps and please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions

XO

Sarah

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