How To Manage Ulcerative Colitis

A man with a bare chest and red glowing stomachIf you’ve recently been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, you may worry that you’ll have to put your life on hold. Fortunately, ulcerative colitis doesn’t have to bring a stop to your life plans; you might just need to make some changes in the way you carry them out.

Make Small Adjustments

It’s essential to have an upbeat attitude as you adjust to the changes ulcerative colitis can bring about. Support from family and friends, and involvement with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), can help you maintain a positive outlook. Never be wary of allowing the condition to interfere with your life. Things such as school finals, jobs, and other obligations can be put on hold, when it comes to getting the important medical attention that you need.

Make Practical Considerations

As you learn more about the illness, you will find that expecting a chronic condition not to impact your life is simply unrealistic. But also, realize that you don’t have to dramatically change your life plans. Instead, make smaller changes in your daily life to manage the ulcerative colitis more effectively.

One such change can be your eating habits. By paying attention to your body, you will find that you feel better consuming smaller quantities at each sitting. So instead of “three squares,” maybe eat smaller, more frequent meals during the day. Because each person’s needs are different, keeping a food diary  of your own can help you determine which foods upset you — whether it’s something specific, like fiber, or something more general, like eating larger meals — and you’ll know how to be extra careful when you’re out and about.

Many people with ulcerative colitis suffer water loss from excessive diarrhea during attacks. So drinking a lot of water throughout the day is another habit you will need to develop to avoid the dehydration and weakness that can result.

Another practical consideration for people with ulcerative colitis: mapping out where the bathrooms are when you’re away from home. Planning out your route, even for an afternoon of shopping, can make you feel more secure about leaving the house. Find out where the bathroom is as soon as you get to a restaurant or theater so you won’t lose time should you need to use it in a hurry.

If you’re going through a period of frequent diarrhea attacks and will be out of your house, carry a change of underwear and anything else you think you might need in the event of an accident. This pre-planning can help keep stress to a minimum when your ulcerative colitis symptoms are not entirely under control.

Learn About Organizations That Offer Support

Living with a chronic disease can put a great emotional strain on many people, and it’s important to get support for your colitis when you need it, especially if anxiety over the disease, more than the disease itself, is keeping you from functioning on a daily basis. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America has chapters nationwide that sponsor support groups and can be a great source of strength. The CCFA keeps its members up to date on the latest treatments and works to raise awareness about inflammatory bowel diseases.

Get Support From Friends and Family

People with ulcerative colitis shouldn’t hesitate to lean on family and friends during difficult times. The more people you tell, the more people know about the condition. It is important to spread awareness about this condition that is still unfamiliar to many people. Knowledge is power when it comes to living well with ulcerative colitis.

Is Celiac Disease A Threat For Blacks?

assorted loaves of breadFor more than twenty years, while there may be nothing new about this Celiac disease, there are still a lot of questions, and confusion. Specifically about what it is, and who is at the highest risk.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disorder in which the small intestines are damaged and the absorption of essential nutrients is disrupted. Those individuals who live with celiac disease experience a severe inability to tolerate gluten, which is a common protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

When an individual with celiac disease ingests foods containing gluten, a response is triggered wherein their immune system immediately begins to attack the internal lining of the small intestine. This lining is made up of fingerlike protrusions known as “villi”, protrusions that vastly increase the surface area of the small intestine and facilitate the absorption of nutrients from foods that have been eaten and processed by the stomach.

In celiac disease (also known as “celiac sprue”), not only does the immune system attack and damage the sensitive and important lining of the small intestine in the presence of gluten, but the disease itself also causes a general malabsorption of nutrients from all foods ingested, thus the individual with celiac disease runs a constant risk of malnourishment, nutritional deficiencies, and the effects of those deficiencies.

What Are The Symptoms of Celiac Disease?

The digestive symptoms of celiac disease usually occur more frequently in children, and may include chronic diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain and bloating, foul-smelling stool that is pale and frequently fatty, as well as weight loss. Irritability, delays in growth, defects of the tooth enamel, and delayed puberty are also common.

In adults, common symptoms include but are not limited to anemia, fatigue, joint pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, miscarriage, infertility, seizures, mouth sores, and a itchy rash known as dermatitis herpetiformis. However, many adults with celiac disease can be asymptomatic for years prior to the acute manifestation of the disease.

Since celiac disease involves poor absorption of nutrients, deficiencies can lead to anemia, bone loss and other significant problems, and some evidence exists that a predisposition to cancer is also possible.

Who Has Celiac Disease?

It is estimated that approximately 2 million Americans have celiac disease. It is more common in individuals with Down Syndrome and Turner Syndrome (a genetic disease affecting females), and it is also common in those living with Type 1 diabetes and autoimmune disorders related to the thyroid and liver.

Most sources state that celiac disease is rare in African Americans and those of Asian and Caribbean background, however data also demonstrates that African Americans susceptible to the disease can frequently be misdiagnosed. Based on information from several reputable sources, some African Americans with Type 1 diabetes have more potential of developing the illness than others, but many African American Type 1 diabetics test negative for the gene predisposing them to celiac disease. These findings notwithstanding, a general under-diagnosis of celiac disease in African Americans is reported in the literature.

Testing and Diagnosis

Celiac disease is generally diagnosed through blood tests and biopsies of the small intestine. For those individuals with close relatives with celiac disease, testing is generally recommended.

Treatment

The only effective treatment for celiac disease is maintaining a gluten-free diet, a restriction that many individuals find difficult to manage, especially in a society where thousands of products contain gluten. In many cases, adherence to a strict gluten-free diet can prevent symptoms, help to heal previous intestinal damage, and prevent subsequent attacks. However, this type of diet is especially difficult for children and adolescents, and some individuals with celiac disease show no improvement, even with strict dietary practices.

What Foods Contain Gluten?

Many foods contain gluten, and gluten can unfortunately often be hidden in ingredients such as food starch, stabilizers and other additives.

Generally, most grains, cereals and processed foods contain some form of gluten, although specialty gluten-free foods are becoming more widely available, just as special foods for diabetics have gained ground in the marketplace over the last few decades.

Individuals with celiac disease can eat potato, rice, soy, amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat, and various forms of bean flour can be substituted for wheat flour. Oats are generally acceptable as well, but care must be taken to eat oats that have not been contaminated with gluten during processing. Unfortunately, some medicines also contain gluten, so those individuals with celiac disease should inform their doctor when being prescribed a new medication.

Celiac Disease: Education Is Key

Celiac disease, although rare in African Americans, can often be misdiagnosed, even in African Americans with Type 1 diabetes.

This disease can only be positively diagnosed through blood tests and biopsies, and untreated celiac disease can lead to serious illness. If you have a history of celiac disease in your family, testing is generally recommended.

Although gluten-free diets are restrictive and difficult to follow, many individuals with celiac disease successfully adhere to a gluten-free lifestyle and remain symptom-free for decades.

There are many support networks and a great deal of online information available about celiac disease. Also, speak with your health care provider if you or a member of your family have concerns about your risk for celiac disease.