Ulcerative Colitis: Lifestyle Modification
Without surgery, ulcerative colitis can be a serious, lifelong disease. However, with proper treatment and lifestyle changes, it is possible to live a normal life. The following topics offer some advice on how to manage your life now that you have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
Diet and Nutrition
As you are already finding out, there are certain foods that cause the symptoms of your ulcerative colitis to be worse. There is no specific diet for ulcerative colitis. What you can eat is discovered through trial and error. If it causes your symptoms to be worse then you should avoid eating it. Some foods that should be tested with caution include:
- Milk and other dairy products
- Fresh vegetables
- Foods that are greasy or spicy
If you are sensitive to a large number of foods you should speak with your health care provider about using meal replacement shakes or other meal supplementation.
There is no specific diet, but because of the nature of ulcerative colitis, it is extremely important that you focus on quality foods that will meet your nutrition requirements. It is also very important that you keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Do not hesitate to speak with your health care provider about any nutrition questions that you might have.
Newly diagnosed people can have lower self-esteem that can lead to a decreased sex drive. This lowered self-esteem might result from a side effect of the medication, fatigue resulting from the disease processes, or body image related to corrective surgeries. It is important that you discuss your fears and concerns with your partner. With practice and patience your sex life can return to normal and can be fulfilling. Although sex is a private act, you should not feel ashamed to voice any concerns you might have to your health care provider.
Depression and anxiety
Once you have received a diagnosis of IBD it is important that you assess your mental status on a regular basis. Depression and anxiety are often associated with illnesses and hospitalization. With IBD there are a several factors that can cause depression or anxiety. These factors include:
- New diagnosis of a long-term disease
- Surgical procedures
- Change in body image (ostomies or other surgical incisions)
- Side effect of medications
- Embarrassment because of the disease processes
- Changes in lifestyle
It is important to keep these factors in mind when addressing your mental status. Depression and anxiety can be a serious complication of the disease. It is important for you to seek help if you are unable to cope with the disease effectively. Your health care provider will be able to refer you to the appropriate mental health professional. Your health care provider might also be able to make adjustments to medications that could be causing your depression or anxiety.
Tips for dealing with IBD and school
Education is an important part of your life that does not need to suffer due to IBD. Planning is very important when managing IBD while receiving an education. Some tips that you might find helpful are:
- Locate restrooms when in a new building
- Sit close to the exit when in class
- Inform your teachers and professors of your illness
- Make arrangements for receiving missed assignments at the beginning of the term
- Download a printable IBD information sheet that you can give to your instructors
Sports and IBD
Sports and exercise are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Mild physical exercise, such as walking, is not discouraged with IBD. Generally, it is up to you to decide what you can tolerate, but there are certain activities that are not recommended. Often with IBD there are changes with electrolytes (small nutrients such as sodium or potassium that are used by your body's cells) and a potential for dehydration. Because of these fluid and electrolyte changes the following activities should be avoided:
- Endurance sports
- Extreme temperatures (hot or cold)
- Activities in remote areas (in case of emergency it is important to receive care quickly)
Certain aspects of your drug therapy might include lowering your immune system. Activities that could possibly put you at risk for infection should be avoided. These include:
- Swimming in untreated waters (such as lakes, ponds, rivers)
- Sharing of equipment
- Sharing or drinking from the same container
If you are unsure about a certain event speak with your health care provider prior to the event.
Tips for IBD in college or at work
Often when people start college or have a busy work life they sometimes can experience lifestyle changes such as taking shortcuts on their meals, not taking time to exercise and and increasing alcohol consumption. For nutrition information see the Diet and Nutrition section.
Alcohol can cause many complications with IBD. The most dangerous complication is the interaction of prescription medications with alcohol. All alcohol use should be avoided completely until speaking with your health care provider about specific medication interactions. The heavy use of alcohol should always be avoided with IBD.
For information about how to manage IBD with your classes see Tips for dealing with IBD and school.
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