Feeling better

It’s been just over a month since I’ve been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.  It’s also been just over a month that I’ve been following the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) to help my disease.  This protocol isn’t forever – it’s only temporary and depending on each person can last anywhere from 30 days to 3 years.  During this period you eliminate foods that cause inflammation and irritations to your gut: nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, cocoa, coffee beans, all peppers, spices such as cumin, chili powder (anything derived from peppers)), nuts and seeds (including cocoa and coffee beans – GULP!), eggs, or alcohol.  This is in addition of course to the paleo restrictions of no dairy, legumes, grains.  To begin with I did have the overwhelming feeling of: Well, what CAN I eat?! The answer is actually really simple.. I can eat everything except the above listed foods.   I’m talking lots of vegetables and good quality meats.  In the beginning it was pretty difficult, I won’t lie.  However after only about two weeks everything started to fall into place and became “business as usual.”

After the first week or so I was still experiencing a fair bit of abdominal cramping, but no where near as much.  By week 3 I was feeling much better – no cramping at all! What was even better – no bleeding.  No bleeding at all.  For the past year of my life every time I went to the bathroom I experienced blood (and usually a fair bit of it) – but no longer.  The bleeding is very rare and I’m very hopeful that sooner rather than later it will be completely gone – and same with the abdominal cramping.

It hasn’t been easy staying away from coffee or chocolate.  You may find it surprising that I miss eggs and nuts more than coffee and chocolate though.   Eggs were a staple to me – I had them EVERY day for breakfast — and hey, perhaps that’s why I was feeling SO bad.  Same with nuts.  I’ve actually thought back on the months leading up to finally getting diagnosed (the worst 3 months I experienced) and the foods I ate actually make me laugh.  Eggs, nuts, lots of raw vegetables especially tomatoes and red peppers – basically all of the foods that cause inflammation.. I was eating in abundance.  I’m not saying these aren’t healthy foods – they are – it’s the simple fact that I (for now at least) can’t tolerate them.  

At times I do still feel disheartened, discouraged, and sometimes just plain sad.  However, I have some friends and family (and one amazing boyfriend) who support me and show me love.  If you’ve been diagnosed with an IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), an IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), an autoimmune disease, I strongly recommend you trying the Autoimmune Protocol for a minimum of 30 days.

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It could be worse.

For those of you who know me, you may have known that this past year I haven’t felt well.  If you do know me, and didn’t know this – it’s probably because I didn’t tell many people.  In fact, for the first weeks/months of having symptoms I kind of ignored it myself.  Maybe I was in denial, I don’t know.  I do know however, that one day I decided that seeing that much blood in the toilet couldn’t possibly be a good thing.  I broke down, and told a friend.  To that friend, you know who you are, thank you for advising me to go to the doctor.  In May of 2013 I was diagnosed with a “severe” anal fissure.  A fissure is basically a tear to the rectum which can cause bleeding and discomfort when passing a bowel movement.  While I never experienced the latter, there was always blood.  I was prescribed light stool softeners, a cream, and told to take Mira-lax (powder-lax).   The powder-lax made me feel nauseous (even more than usual) and didn’t seem to make any difference so I didn’t take them for long.  I don’t think I ever saw much change in my symptoms, but I told myself that since my doctor said it was a severe fissure, it was just taking a longer time to heal than expected.  After all, I do weight-lift so I figured perhaps I wasn’t giving it time to heal properly.  The months went by and the symptoms were pretty much the same.  I often had diarrhea, or more so the urgency to go but after rushing to the bathroom realizing it was a false alarm (or just blood/mucus).   After struggling with that for several months,  I then battled with the exact opposite problem – constipation.  Believe it or not I’ve actually been asked which I prefer.   Unfortunately I don’t remember what my response but I hope it was a very sarcastic and witty retort.  Coincidentally my symptoms got worse when I went to Australia for three months – where I had no health insurance.  I realized how lethargic I felt on a daily basis, the stomach pains and cramps, and the irregular “movements.”

Being the type of person I am, I started to research into it.  I read about Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Internal and External Hemorrhoids, Diverticulitis, Anemia: you name it – I probably read about it.   It may sound odd, but I think I knew I had UC.  I actually told a few people that I was nearly positive that’s what I had, and sent them some links to read up on it.  After talking to my mother (and severely freaking her out), I started to try to convince her and myself that it was just hemorrhoids.   Hemorrhoids are easily treated and they’ll go away.  Out of all the options hemorrhoids would be the easiest to fix — so I actually began to WANT hemorrhoids.  But deep down, I never felt as though that’s what it was.  Once I returned home it was time for my office visit at the digestive specialist.  While the Physician’s Assistant (PA) was very kind, and listened to everything I had to say – the doctor was the complete opposite.  I could tell that he didn’t read the information his PA wrote down, and he didn’t seem to take me seriously.  He tried to just schedule me for a flexible sigmoidoscopy, but due to the extensive research I’ve done, I knew to stick up for myself and demand a colonoscopy.

For the colonoscopy  I was put under general anesthetics.  I remember lying on the table and being injected through my IV.  I was about to ask how long it would take to knock me out… but it was too late.  The next thing I knew I was waking up with a nurse standing over me.  My doctor came over with some pictures of my colon in his had.  That’s when he delivered the news.  Though it’s all a bit fuzzy due to the medicine, I clearly remember him saying “You have colitis.”  I immediately began to cry because I knew exactly what that meant.  Chronic. Disease. Incurable.  All of those words flashed through my mind.  Through the tears I started spitting off information. “Oh yes, I’ve read about this. I know a lot of people treat their UC through a Paleo diet..”  Word vomit.  I had word vomit.  I felt as though I was just slapped in the face but all I could do was spit off random facts I knew about UC.  I think I may have been trying to convince my doctor, my mom, my nurses and myself that I knew what UC was, and that it was something I could handle.  The doctor must’ve looked terrified because I heard him saying, “She will live a long and healthy life.”  He said that he was prescribing me medication which I would have to take the rest of my life.  After that the doctor was gone.  If he did explain what kind of medicine he prescribed – I don’t remember due to being under anesthetics.  He didn’t tell me (or my mother) much about UC at all; he just left.  Though at times I regretted all of the hours I spent obsessively reading article after article trying to find answers – I’m now extremely thankful.  If I hadn’t, then when he told me I had UC I would’ve been extremely confused.  I would’ve had to obsessively read all of the articles I read months ago, the hours and days following my official diagnosis.  The research I did made me knowledgeable, which made me strong.  I needed to be strong for my mothers sake.  I needed to be strong for my own sake.

Though I was prepared to hear the news, it is taking some time to get accustomed to.   When you’re 21 years old you don’t think of getting diagnosed with a chronic disease.  You think that happens when you’re 60 or older and not a day sooner.  The words disease, chronic, illness, and disorder are all words that should stay in a text book, in a news article – not something that the doctor diagnoses you with.  I like to think that I’m taking all of this very well.  I’m embracing it the best I can, learning more and more each day and will continue to do so. I am welcoming the lifestyle and diet changes.

While I’m doing the best I can do embrace this with a positive outlook not only for the people around me, but also for myself.. I’m doing just that – the best I can.  Have you noticed that when something bad happens, everyone goes to the “It could be worse,” saying?  We are all guilty of saying it and if you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “I don’t say that.” then you’re lying. End of discussion. We say it as a means of coming to terms with a hardship, a way to make ourself feel able to cope with the situation.  While I do think that it’s a good thing to keep in mind, as most things can always be worse, I also think that saying can cause pain.  When that’s one of the main things you hear for literally days, it can start to feel as though your problem isn’t one of any significance.  You may start to feel as though it doesn’t matter at all.  You may even feel that you’re just being a drama queen and just need to get over it.  Saying “it could be worse” is a way of sweeping the situation at hand under a rug (which needless to be said – doesn’t feel good).  What do you think you’re accomplishing when you say that?  Do you think that said person hasn’t realized that it could be worse? Let me let you – they have.  Just because something could be worse doesn’t change the current situation you, or another person is going through.  As I’ve said, I think it’s a great reminder to have – however it doesn’t make what’s going on any better, it doesn’t make it fun, pleasant,  or enjoyable.  Hearing “It could be worse,” isn’t going to make someone (or yourself) all of a sudden feel happy.  Hearing this repetitively this past week has made me want to scream.. even at the ones I love most. I’ve wanted to scream, “I KNOW THAT IT VERY WELL COULD, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? THIS SUCKS!” Why? Because it does. It could be worse. I KNOW it could be worse. I’m THANKFUL it’s not worse… but I’m not happy to have this disease.  My point is that when you or someone around you gets bad news; grieving time is deserved.  That person more than likely needs some time to come to terms and accept the situation at hand.

As part of my recovery – rather than just blindly accepting the drugs the doctor prescribed and that being the end of it – tomorrow I’m embarking on a new diet.  I will be eliminating foods that may be causing some of the inflammation in my large intestine.  It will be for a minimum of 30 days, but up to 3 months.  After that time period I will slowly start to reintroduce foods to see how my body responds to them.  If it shows that I can’t digest them easily or that my body just doesn’t respond well to them, they will potentially be off limits for life, and vice versus.  I’ve been planning on doing the Whole30 for the month of April since January, however now given the circumstances I will be doing the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) on top of it.  I actually just got the book, The Paleo Approach, by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne today in the mail today – and can’t wait to start reading it.  I’ve been reading so much lately, and unfortunately every information I stumble upon completely contradicts the article I read before.  I’m still trying to sort everything out – there’s still so much I’ve yet to learn about UC, and the natural ways to heal my gut.  I’m purposefully not going to go into much detail in this as I want to be more knowledgeable and form my own personal opinion before I elaborate.  I’m going to do my best to frequently post updates (as much as I can) so I can let others know of my progress (or lack of), and maybe help others with similar problems along the way.  I’m determined to not get discouraged by this.. I will control this disease, not the other way around.

 

Chocolate-Avocado Muffins

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I don’t know about you, but even though I eat clean, does NOT mean I don’t have a sweet tooth. And because of this, in order to refrain from having guilty pleasures ohh I don’t know..everyyyday: I find healthy alternatives to foods that usually would blow my diet completely out of whack.  (Also, can I just say that when I use the word ‘diet’ I mean it by the kinds of foods that I habitually eat – rather than a ‘restricted’ food list).  I’d apologize about stepping onto my soapbox buuut, I’m actually not sorry 😉

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cup Wholewheat OR wholemeal flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup or agave nectar 
  • 3/4 cup almond/coconut/OR soy milk (your preference)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa or cacao (preferably dark)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 medium avocado, pitted
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

OPTIONAL:

  • 1/2 cup (dark) chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc)

 

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Mix avocado, oil, vanilla together in food processor or blender until smooth.
  • Gradually add the rest of the dry ingredients, adding milk as you go so that it makes them easier to mix

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  • Put in muffin tins, or even do in a bread loaf if you prefer
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean
  • Now.. ENJOY YOUR SCRUMPTIOUS AND HEALTHY MUFFINS 🙂

 

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Oh, and if you’re wondering if you can taste the avo; no, no you can’t. So enjoy those extra nutrients in your muffins without having to suffer through an avo (though, avocados are lovely anyway!)

How to make aloe vera water, or juice!

About a week ago my boyfriend and I were watching a few documentaries on health, nutrition and wellness.  Holy Moly – they’re so eye opening!  Anyway, lots of foods and herbs were being named and one thing that stuck out to me was aloe vera.  Aloe vera? What?? How do you eat aloe vera? I thought it was only used in lotions and for sunburn?

Aloe vera is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and full of healing properties. 

Well, then we ended up at this very strange and weird “World Supermarket.”  When I say they had nearly everything, I mean it: from guava, avocados bigger than your fist, to dried shrimp and fresh beef tongue.  I’m trailing off again.. ANYWAY, they had aloe vera! Huge aloe vera leaves for only $.99.  Needless to say, we took that bad boy home with us.

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While in the store we also kept seeing “Aloe Vera Juice” and “Aloe Vera Water” – It was extremely tempting to get some, however after reviewing the nutrition labels and seeing that they loaded it up with a ton of garbage and sugar, I decided I could try to make our own. Anddd, It was unbelievably simple to do!

To cut the aloe vera – you want to remove the green rind, so slice longways.  You also want to be sure to not use the ‘yellow’ gel (closest to the rind), as it can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea (not so cute!).

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You’ll slice until you have just a slab of clear aloe vera.  Just a tip, keep a towel handy as you’re doing this because aloe vera is extremely slimy!

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If you’re like me and you bought a big leaf, then you’re going to have a lot of extra.  I stored the remainder of mine in a mason jar, in the fridge.  However, if you used a smaller leaf, perhaps from aloe vera you’ve grown yourself, you probably will only have about 2 tbsp, which is exactly the amount you need for this “juice”

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To make the juice/water:

2 tbsp aloe vera

8 ounce (1 cup) of juice or water.

Mix in blender, and drink immediately, or store in air tight container in the fridge.

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I personally don’t drink juice, so I did water, then squeezed one slice of lime into it.   It didn’t have much of a taste, so the lime really made it.

You can consume this juice/water, whatever you want to call it up to twice daily.