If you notice that you’re starting to become moody, don’t simply label your feelings as “bad,” Fazio says. Instead, interrogate yourself a bit and get more specific. Understanding “bad” to be anxious, jittery, or fatigued can clue you in that you’re experiencing symptoms of low blood sugar, she says, so you can (hopefully) get something to eat before you lose it. Other emotional descriptors that might be a sign of budding hanger might include “foggy-headed,” “irritable,” or “impatient.”If your foul mood doesn’t seem to be associated with symptoms of low blood sugar, maybe you’re not hangry—maybe you’re just plain mad. Anger is a valid and, when managed appropriately, healthy emotion. Constantly writing off any irritability or anxiety as hunger-related won’t serve you well in the long run—because you might also be feeling depressed, or maybe your coworker really is that annoying. It’s true that sometimes you need some trail mix and a glass of water, but other times the fix may come in the form of a walk outside or a venting session with a trusted friend.Grab a snack that pairs carbs with protein.The obvious solution to feeling hangry is to eat something ASAP, but putting some thought into what you eat might help you feel better in the long term. According to Basbaum, the knee-jerk reaction to feeling “hangry” is often to reach for a quick snack that’s high in carbs. Your body is looking for energy replenishment, and foods with simple carbohydrates (think candy, pastries, and granola bars) fit the bill. They also tend to be what we have at hand at work or on the go.If those foods sound good to you, or they’re all you have access to, there’s nothing wrong with eating them (despite the way diet culture elevates certain foods over others). That said, they might not help you out of a hangry jam; Bausbaum explains that if you don’t pair your carbs with a protein source, you’ll likely have another crash in an hour or so. The goal, she says, is not to spike your blood sugar, but to stabilize it, and protein can help with that.Fazio recommends pairing carbs like fruit, toast, or crackers with high-protein foods such as Greek yogurt, nuts, or nut butter. A high-protein smoothie or shake is another option, if you have access to a blender. If you’re on the road and hit a rest stop without a wide selection, Bausbaum says that pre-packaged peanut butter crackers or chocolate milk are decent options.Again, there are no wrong food choices here. If Doritos are calling your name, there’s zero shame in the nacho-cheese game. But if you’re set on staving off hunger, consider pairing your chips with some protein-packed beef jerky (or get chicken nuggets with your fries, or add some nuts to your ice cream) to help steady your blood sugar.Prevent hanger by regularly fueling your body.Plan A, Basbaum says, should be to prevent hanger from happening in the first place, and both she and Fazio agree that eating nutrient-dense meals on a predictable schedule each day is one of the best things you can do to keep your blood sugar and energy steady. If you’re regularly getting hangry, Fazio recommends taking an “audit” of each major meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) to ensure that protein, fat, and carbohydrates (including fiber) are present to help meet your overall nutrient needs and keep your blood sugar (and mood) in a stable range.Of course, you don’t need to follow these guidelines to a T—no one meal or snack makes or breaks a “healthy” diet, and obsessing over food rules can lead to disordered eating (which can also worsen your mood, by the way). But if you’re regularly getting hangry, it might be worth experimenting with small changes to your eating habits, since consistently getting a variety of foods (and enough food overall) can keep your blood sugar in a happy, versus hangry, place.Related:
The way I set their room up is helpful for me. There is nothing dangerous they can grab and nothing that will fall on them. It’s kind of Montessori-style, so they’re free to walk around. All the outlets are covered and they only have access to age-appropriate kid things. Plus there’s a child gate so I know they can’t escape. Knowing they have this space brings me ease because there are moments during a migraine attack when I do have to step away.In the future, I fully plan to disclose a lot of our health history to my kids, especially because I felt a little alienated when my parents didn’t do that for me. I struggled for a long time with migraine just because I had no idea about my family’s medical history. I don’t know if my parents were ashamed of it or if they just grew up not talking about their health issues. But I think it’s really important to pass that knowledge down to my kids so they can tackle it even earlier than me if any symptoms do come up for them.” — Nico Shanel, 27, Phoenix, Arizona3. “You need to ask for help and you need to lean on those who can support you.”“For me, it was important not to be in denial about what was going on. If I had been in denial about my migraines, it would only have made it worse. I couldn’t say I was all right and just hope my migraines would go away. I couldn’t pretend they didn’t exist. I had to acknowledge where I was at, to be able to ask for help when I needed it. That’s how I was able to take control over my life, not be a victim of circumstances, and see what I can do to manage my symptoms.If I’m a little quiet, my daughter will ask me if my head hurts and if I need anything. She’ll offer to grab me my peppermint oil out of my purse. I’ll dab that under my nose and it really helps with symptoms of nausea. I also use magnesium oil and herbal teas, and I meditate and work out, and those things seem to help with migraine.I recently celebrated my fourth year of consistent daily intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting has completely changed my life, and I tell anyone who will listen about it. It really anchors me and helps me to see life from a different perspective. Food impacts our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. It actually helps me minimize distractions, so I’m able to get through my day seeing what needs to get done and what doesn’t need to get done.Also, sleep is very important. I make sure to get my seven-and-a-half hours of rest, no matter how early I need to go to bed. When I prioritize my health and well-being, things fall in line after that and migraine attacks are easier to manage. And all the things I’m teaching myself about self-care and prioritizing my health, I’m also teaching my daughter. Even with migraine, you have agency. Life isn’t happening to you, but it’s happening for you and, in turn, for others as well.” — Kathleen Richardson, 38, Buffalo, New York4. “You have to give yourself grace. Not everything has to be perfect every second of the day.”“When I don’t feel well, I can’t do all of the things. I can’t even count how many times I’ve had to kind of forgive myself for that. Maybe you planned on making a really nice dinner but you get a migraine and end up throwing together something quick from the freezer. The most important thing is that your kids are fed, they aren’t really going to care. They just want you to feel better.Prevention is also key, especially when you have kids. I have my preventative medications, of course. I sought out a doctor who wasn’t just a neurologist but a headache specialist, so she really was able to steer me in the right direction with treatment. I’ve also found that visiting a chiropractor gives me relief, and that’s become part of my regular preventative routine.When I was growing up, I felt like I didn’t know anyone else who had migraine. But now there are more and more resources, and it’s getting better every year.” — Rachel Bennetts-Wu, 43, San Diego, CaliforniaSources:Current Pain and Headache Reports, The Impact of Parental Migraine on ChildrenRelated:
If you regularly wake up with your face nuzzled against a furry rump, it’s probably safe to say your bedtime routine includes beckoning a Fido or Fluffy into bed for a snooze. Dogs and cats are no strangers to the comforts of human beds, according to a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings,1 with around half of pet owners saying they allow their cat or dog to sleep in their bedroom. (It’s me, I’m pet owners.)But all it takes is a what-the-hell-are-you-doing stare from a new partner to realize that not everyone feels comfortable inviting a furry friend into their personal sleep space. Whether or not to co-sleep with your animals is a controversial question that can set off all sorts of debates between bedfellows of the human sort. Some may even argue that sharing a bed with a dog or cat can be hazardous to your health.So let’s settle this once and for all—with the help of an infectious disease specialist.What could happen if you sleep with your pet?Generally speaking, letting a dog or cat sleep in your bed is safe for most adults, Luis Ostrosky, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann UT Health Houston, tells SELF. In fact, Dr. Ostrosky is a member of the dog-in-bed club himself. Grover, his family’s Airedale terrier, gets cozy under the covers nightly. However, Dr. Otrosky cautions that there are a few things you should keep in mind if you do choose to share a sleeping surface with your pet.The big one is harmful bacteria: Though it’s fairly rare, pets can transmit certain bacteria to their owners. There are a few to keep in mind so that you can see a doctor if you suspect something is up. If your pet licks a cut or scrape on your skin, you could get a pasteurella multocida skin infection,2 says Dr. Ostrosky. Pasteurella multocida will cause the injury to become swollen, inflamed, and tender. There’s also capnocytophaga, he explains, which can spread to your skin from close contact with a pet and may cause blisters around the wound, pus drainage, fever, and chills. People who have compromised immune systems due to cancer treatment or immunosuppressant medications are at a higher risk of complications from these types of bacteria—especially infections from capnocytophaga, which can quickly progress and even become fatal, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).And even though Fluffy licking your arm might seem sweet, he could still be carrying the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be passed to humans. MRSA can cause deep, infected abscesses on your skin.Last up is a parasite called toxoplasma gondii, which could be an unwelcome gift to people who cozy up with their cats at bedtime. It’s actually a pretty common parasite—11% of people in the U.S. over the age of six carry this parasite without having symptoms.3 However, this parasite can lead to an infection called toxoplasmosis, which causes fever, chills, headaches, and other neurological symptoms. Again, people with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of developing this kind of complication. And if you’re pregnant and a cat owner, you should talk with your ob-gyn about toxoplasmosis, as this type of infection can affect the fetus, says Dr. Ostrosky.
Abby Tai, 35, of Toronto, was diagnosed with eczema as a young child. When she was 15 years old, an emotional breakup triggered a severe flare that covered most of her body. Several doctors said they had never seen eczema as severe as Tai had and nothing seemed to help—that is until she started to address her mental health. Now Abby is a wife, mom, and a registered holistic nutritionist, as well as a patient advocate who cultivates a blog, podcast, and social media community called Eczema Conquerors. Her symptoms are well-managed, but she is still processing the impact that living with eczema has had on her mental health. Please note this story mentions suicidal ideation. If you are struggling and need someone to talk to, you can get support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting HOME to 741-741, the Crisis Text Line. This is Abby’s story as told to health writer Kathryn Watson.When I was 15 years old—a Canadian living with my parents in Hong Kong—my life was every teen’s dream. Though I’d had moderate eczema since I was a baby, my symptoms didn’t keep me from enjoying an active social life, hanging out with friends, and even having a boyfriend. But when that relationship ended unexpectedly, everything began to change.I was devastated by the breakup. We were young, but I’d considered the relationship to be a serious one, and I thought we were in love. The emotional pain I was in started to show up in a very visible way. My skin erupted in eczema rashes that covered 95% of my body. The rash on my legs was so red that it resembled a burn. The itching was so persistent that I could barely sleep. When I did manage to sleep, I would wake up with blood and skin flakes covering the sheets.As time passed, the pain from the breakup began to subside, but the eczema stuck around. The rest of my teen years would be defined by constant doctor’s visits, failed attempts at treatment, and lonely nights spent praying for God to heal me. Other kids were enjoying their youth and living life. I felt like every day, I was just trying to survive.Like many people with eczema, I started to avoid social situations because I felt so self-conscious about my skin. The feelings of isolation became so unbearable that I battled suicidal ideation. There were times that I just couldn’t be around other people. I was in so much pain and struggling with the crushing embarrassment that comes along with eczema. So instead, I just hid.In the 20 years since that first flare, I’ve had ups and downs with my eczema symptoms. But I don’t hide anymore. In fact, I run a blog and a social media community where I share photos of my skin and talk openly about treatment strategies. What’s different now is that I’ve worked hard at finding a way to keep my mental health in balance, even when my eczema is visibly flaring. Here’s what worked—and still works—for me.I leaned into affirmations.A version of mirror exposure therapy really helped me get past the worst of my self-consciousness. Mirror Work, as framed by self-help author Louise Hay, involves looking into the mirror and saying three simple words of affirmation—phrases like, “you are loved,” “you are accepted,” or “you are forgiven.”
However, if the tick has been attached to the host for several hours or if you’re unsure of the timeframe, you should save the tick in case you need to have it tested, should you notice unusual symptoms following the bite, Rina Allawh, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, tells SELF. To save a tick, simply put it in a plastic container or bag, label it with the date, and, if you really want to make sure it is dead, shove it in your freezer.To remove a tick from your dog or any other warm-blooded pet, you would use the same strategies as you do on human skin. You might need to get someone else to help you pull apart your pet’s fur and help hold your pet still as you use a tweezer to remove the tick. If you live in an area with a lot of ticks, you might want to invest in a tick removal tool from a pet store, per the American Kennel Club.Back to topHow to tell if a tick head is still in your skinOK, so you might have freaked out a bit and yanked the tick out as quickly as possible. Now you can’t tell if you got all of it out… and it looks like the head might still even be attached to your skin. What should you do next?If all that’s left is the head, you can usually see it on top of your skin. “In the process of removing a tick from your skin, you may have inadvertently decapitated the tick,” Jeffrey Hsu, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in the greater Chicago area, tells SELF. If so, Dr. Hsu says, the head of the tick will still be visible (just likely very, very small) and firmly attached to the outside of the skin.Getting rid of the head is similar to the process of removing the tick, says Dr. Hsu. He recommends cleaning the area with rubbing alcohol before you give it another go with the tweezers, firmly grasping the head and plucking it off the skin with a straight, upward movement. If you aren’t able to get the tick’s head out, you may need to contact a doctor or dermatologist, as leaving a tick’s head or mouthparts in your skin can potentially lead to a skin infection.1Even if it looks like the tick is completely gone, you should still inspect the area as close as you can—grab a magnifying glass if you’ve got one available. A small, dark, black dot on your skin might indicate some tick parts are left lurking. If some time has passed since the initial bite and you still have parts of the tick in your skin, the area might have become irritated, causing tick parts to take on a red-black hue. “If the skin is firm, red, irritated, and if you feel a small lump within the skin, the tick may be lodged into the skin a little deeper,” says Dr. Allawh. If this happens, she says, you may need to see your dermatologist to surgically remove the tick. This is a simple, outpatient procedure performed with a punch biopsy tool.
There were so many things my ex wanted to do that I just couldn’t participate in. I started to feel like I was a burden to him. As I think about the situation now, this might have been more based on the way I felt about my health than anything he actually said or did. We were living apart before our sixth wedding anniversary and signed divorce papers about a year after that.I had loved my ex-husband, and I still do love him for the person he is. He just isn’t my person.After that experience, I decided I would never get married again. But life still had quite a few things to teach me about relationships.The right person won’t get hung up on your diagnosis.On my first night out post-divorce, I met my now partner, Adam. I was sitting at a bar in Manhattan, waiting for my friend to arrive, when we struck up a conversation. He made a joke about how drinking beer means more trips to the bathroom, and I quickly decided to tell him I had M.S. I thought he might shut down and never want to see me again, but I figured if that was going to happen, it would be better to know right away than to keep talking to him.So I blurted out the truth: “I use catheters because M.S. means I can’t control my bladder.”Adam shrugged. “Okay. Is there anything I need to do?”I couldn’t believe how casual he was being. “Well, no.”“Okay.” He said. “So? Isn’t that kind of like needing glasses to see?” He smiled and ordered us another round of beers.After my marriage ended, I continued to worry that no one would ever want me or love me because of my condition. It came as a shock when Adam thought it was one of the less notable things about me. Maybe the world could be a kinder, or at least more accepting, place than I was imagining. Maybe I could at least give people more of a chance to accept me, M.S. and all.You can still have a love story with M.S.I told Adam about the divorce and that I wasn’t looking for anything serious. But by our third date, he said, “You can do whatever you want, but we’re going to end up being together. That’s just the way it is.”From that moment on, we were inseparable. We very quickly started spending every night together. He officially moved into my Brooklyn apartment about two years into our relationship, but we really only spent about 10 nights apart from the night of our first kiss.I was so scared to make a mistake again and commit to the wrong person, but I couldn’t deny the connection we had. And every time Adam put his arm around me, it felt like a protective barrier—like it was us against the rest of the world. He was also hilarious. We shared a sense of humor from that first meeting at the bar, and to this day, no time we spend together is lacking in laughter.
If you deal with eczema, you know how challenging it can be to resist the urge to scratch those unbearably itchy patches on your skin. Sure, scratching might give you some short-term relief but you know it will only make you feel worse in the long run. Eczema can be difficult to manage and you’ve probably wondered on more than one occasion what causes eczema. But first, it’s important to understand what eczema is.There are different types of eczema, but atopic dermatitis is the most common form, affecting about 10% of the U.S. population, according to the National Eczema Society. Eczema is most often diagnosed in children, but plenty of adults have it too. In fact, as many as one in four people with eczema may be diagnosed in adulthood, and that number appears to be on the rise, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.1While receiving an eczema diagnosis is pretty common, getting to the bottom of what causes eczema is not so clear-cut. Researchers are still working to understand the disease’s exact mechanism; in the meantime, there’s plenty they do know about possible eczema causes and what triggers flare-ups. Here, dermatologists break down everything you need to know.First, what are the most common eczema symptoms?Before we talk about all the possible reasons you have eczema, it’s good to recognize the signs and symptoms. Eczema tends to affect the folds of the skin, including the bends of the elbows and knees, ankles, wrists, eyelids, and the back of the neck. According to the Mayo Clinic, common eczema symptoms can include:Dry, itchy skinInflammation on the skin that may appear red, purple, or brownishRaw, cracked, swollen, or scaly skinSmall, raised bumpsWhile you may experience one or all of these symptoms, it’s important to note that eczema can present differently from person to person depending on your skin tone. “Different ethnic populations have different presentations and patterns of eczema,” Azeen Sadeghian, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, tells SELF. For example, if you have a deeper skin tone, your inflammation may take on a violet or purple color (instead of looking pink or red as it typically would in lighter skin tones). And over time, you may also see some skin discoloration if your eczema is left untreated.What’s more, Black people will sometimes develop eczema on the outside of the forearms or elbows as opposed to the inside folds of the skin, Dr. Sadeghian notes. Follicular accentuation—where the skin around hair follicles becomes pronounced and bumpy—is also a more common symptom in darker skin tones. These important nuances can sometimes present challenges when it comes to diagnosing skin conditions in people of color. Back to topWhat causes eczema?The underlying causes of eczema are complicated, Dr. Sadeghian says: “Our skin cells are normally like a brick wall barrier that’s covered with a varnish to protect it.” But when someone has eczema, this metaphorical varnish doesn’t function the way it should, leaving the bricks—or in this case, skin cells—more vulnerable to an invasion.As a result, your skin becomes highly sensitized to any irritant, allergen, or environmental factor that might compromise it. And, as Dr. Sadeghian explains, any damage done to your skin barrier causes more inflammatory cells to gather in the affected area, creating a chain reaction that plays out in the form of eczema.Researchers don’t know why some people are more susceptible to eczema than others but, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, the following factors can increase your risk:Family historyGenetics is a big determining factor for whether or not you will develop eczema. “If it runs in your family, you’re more likely to get it,” Amy Kassouf, MD, a Cleveland Clinic-affiliated, board-certified dermatologist who practices in Twinsburg, Ohio, tells SELF. A study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy that followed 4,089 newborns until age four found that 27% of the babies with parents who had eczema developed the condition. Among children who had one parent with eczema, nearly 38% were diagnosed, and when both parents had eczema, 50% of the children ended up having it.2Genetic mutationsIn 2020, a study published in Nature Communications showed that two relatively common variations in a specific gene (the KIF3A gene to be exact) may lead to a weakened skin barrier, which then allows for increased water loss from your skin.3 The researchers theorized that these gene variations make people who have them more prone to developing eczema, per the National Institutes of Health.A protein deficiencyMore than half of people who have eczema may have low levels of a protein called filaggrin, according to the National Eczema Society. Filaggrin acts as a natural moisturizer that helps your skin fend off pathogens (like a virus, bacteria, or other microorganisms). Going back to the brick wall analogy, people whose bodies don’t manufacture enough filaggrin will be more vulnerable to immune system invaders and less protected by their skin.Dry skinDry skin is one of the primary culprits that cause eczema. “Your skin is meant to be a barrier to the outside world. But sometimes it starts to break down, either because of its inability to lubricate itself or because you’re not moisturizing or hydrating enough,” Dr. Kassouf says. Some people have skin that’s naturally prone to dryness, while others have skin that grows dry due to repeated exposure to harsh chemicals or irritants.AllergiesAllergies don’t cause eczema, but these two conditions are closely related. Eczema is often found in people who also have hay fever and asthma, Dr. Kassouf says, forming what medical professionals call the atopic triad. In this disease progression, known as the atopic march, infants and young children will develop eczema symptoms, and then later progress to have asthma and allergic rhinitis. Researchers, who published a 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical and Cellular Immunology, hypothesized that the weakened skin barrier could be the reason infants with eczema become young adults with allergies.4
If anyone in your family has had colon cancer, or if you’re nearing the age of 45, you’ve probably already been told about the importance of scheduling a colonoscopy. You may even have grown tired of your doctor telling you that it’s something you need to consider.But the prospect of having your bowels explored on camera doesn’t exactly have most people running to book an appointment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than half of adults in their early 50s have had a colonoscopy or any type of colorectal cancer screening.This is bad news because colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States. A colonoscopy—a procedure doctors use as a tool to diagnose and screen conditions of the colon—is particularly useful for its early diagnosis. When colon cancer is found in its early stages, the five-year survival rate is 90%, according to the American Cancer Society.Unfortunately, four out of 10 cases of colon cancer are found when cancer has already spread to other areas of the body. Rates of colon cancer are also rising significantly in younger people, according to 2020 statistics published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.1 That’s why, beginning in 2016, the American Cancer Society recommends anyone with average risk to start screening for colon cancer at age 45, or sometimes earlier depending on personal health history.Colon cancer isn’t the only condition that a colonoscopy can catch, though. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, both autoimmune conditions that fall under the umbrella of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), can be detected with this test. If you’ve already been diagnosed with one of these conditions, you do have an increased risk of colon cancer, so getting regular screenings is especially important, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Clinics of Colon and Rectal Surgery.2SELF spoke with doctors who perform colonoscopies to give us the details on what they wish people knew about this potentially life-saving screening procedure.What is a colonoscopy, exactly?A colonoscopy basically is what it sounds like: a camera (scope) on a flexible rod explores your large and small intestine, looking for inflammation and pre-cancerous lesions called polyps that can grow on your intestinal walls, Matthew Bechtold, MD, a practicing gastroenterologist and professor of clinical medicine at the University of Missouri, tells SELF.“The whole idea of screening is to prevent colon cancer from forming,” Dr. Bechtold says. “With screening, you can go in and take out these polyps or growths. Those polyps would otherwise likely grow into colon cancer over five to 15 years. So that’s why we want to go in there, find them, and take them out before they even have a chance of becoming colon cancer.”If a polyp is spotted during the course of a colonoscopy, it gets removed and retrieved for further testing. If you do have one (or a few) removed, don’t worry. Polyps are common, and many found during a colonoscopy are later determined to be benign, according to a 2016 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.3Colonoscopies are also the go-to diagnostic test for conditions that affect your lower bowel, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and others. Your doctor might take a biopsy—remove a small piece of tissue—in your colon, which will then be looked at closely in a lab. They’ll check for signs of inflammation or changes associated with IBD.Back to topWhen should you get a colonoscopy?The answer varies, but in general, if you are considered “average” risk of colon cancer—that is, you don’t have a history of bowel disease, a family history, or symptoms of concern, such as abdominal pain—it is advised that you get your first colonoscopy at or around age 45, says Keri Pinnock, MD, a gastroenterologist at Austin Regional Clinic in Texas.Dr. Pinnock adds that if you have a history of colon cancer in your immediate family—that means a parent or sibling—you may be recommended to start getting screened earlier. “If your family member was diagnosed before 60, the guidelines are that you are recommended to have a colonoscopy at age 40 or ten years prior to the age that that family member was diagnosed with colon cancer, whichever is sooner,” she says.
If you’re a fan of linguistics, you might know that the word “colitis” can refer to any type of inflammatory reaction that happens in your colon. “Pan” is simply a descriptor used to refer to an organ in its entirety. When you put it all together, “pancolitis” is chronic inflammation that impacts your entire colon, or large intestine. One of the main causes of pancolitis is ulcerative colitis (U.C.). Sometimes you’ll see this term used to describe advanced U.C. that affects—you guessed it—the entire colon, but U.C. isn’t the only condition that can lead to pancolitis.Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), along with Crohn’s disease, that causes inflammation in the lining of your colon. It’s autoimmune-related (meaning your immune system attacks cells in your colon) and can cause tough-to-deal-with symptoms like bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and unintentional weight loss.When ulcerative colitis does affect your entire colon, pain and other symptoms can be quite severe—you may even run a fever. If the inflammation isn’t managed, it can even increase your chances of developing complications. Non-ulcerative colitis causes of pancolitis include bacterial infection, medications, and other problems with blood supply to the colon (more on this later).If you’ve been recently diagnosed with pancolitis or if you’re concerned that you may have this condition, you probably have a lot of questions. We spoke with two gastroenterologists to get answers about pancolitis diagnosis, symptoms, treatment options, and more.First, let’s talk about the digestive system.Because pancolitis is a term that involves where inflammation is happening in the digestive tract, it’s pretty important to understand what that means in terms of anatomy. Here’s a quick refresher: First up is your mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach, all of which enable you to eat, swallow, and begin to break down your food. (You’re probably pretty familiar with these).Next comes the small intestine, which further digests your food, and helps absorb nutrients and vitamins into your bloodstream. The small intestine then delivers what remains of your food into your large intestine, also called your bowel or colon. When a stool is ready to be released, it makes its descent into the sigmoid colon (the lowest, S-shaped portion of your bowel) and makes its exit through your rectum, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).The colon is where people with ulcerative colitis can run into some digestive trouble. The colon’s lining is called its epithelium, and it regenerates and repairs itself constantly. The colon’s epithelium absorbs nutrients as it creates the waste product we know as stool, feces, or its most popular name “poop.” When the epithelium becomes inflamed (whether due to IBD, bacterial infection, or other issues), the colon can’t complete the absorption process normally (cue the diarrhea).1Back to topHow is pancolitis connected to ulcerative colitis?To understand pancolitis as it relates to ulcerative colitis, we have to see where it lands on the “spectrum of disease,” David Schwimmer, MD, a gastroenterologist in Sarasota, Florida, tells SELF. Ulcerative colitis is a general diagnostic term for chronic, inflammatory bowel disease affecting your colon. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different types, according to the Mayo Clinic:Ulcerative proctitis: This is the mildest form of ulcerative colitis, which Dr. Schwimmer explains is inflammation that only affects your rectum, the few inches closest to your anus. Rectal bleeding may be the only symptom you experience.Proctosigmoiditis: This is inflammation that affects both the rectum and the sigmoid colon, which is the lower end of the colon. This is where you may start to get those classic symptoms of ulcerative colitis, like bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and an urge that you have to go now.Left-sided colitis: In this scenario, the inflammation affects everything from the rectum to the descending colon on the left side of your body. In addition to the previously mentioned symptoms, you may feel pain specifically on the left side of your abdomen.Pancolitis: This is where the inflammation impacts your entire colon lining, and in addition to having more severe symptoms, you may also have fatigue and unintentional weight loss.
Of course, the reality of this will look different from person to person. If you’re dealing with MS symptoms that are so severe they inhibit your ability to be physically active, that’s also perfectly valid. Working with your treatment team may help you figure out how to best manage symptoms so you can add more movement back into your life.3. Set long-term, incremental movement goals.Bree Alvarez, 38, a high school teacher and Zumba instructor in California, was diagnosed with MS six years ago. Now she’s training for her fifth marathon.“Setting a goal was definitely first on my list,” she says. “Once I set my mind to it, I knew it was going to be done.” At her first neurology appointment, she spoke with her doctor about changes to her diet and exercise routine that could help her get in better physical shape, and she committed to her first half-marathon not long afterward. By working toward a big goal, she was able to make small changes and establish momentum in her workout routines.Binns has had a similar strategy in the past. She remembers a time in her disease progression when her symptoms confined her to a scooter. Even when she temporarily lost some of her mobility, she stayed committed to strengthening her legs. To help make this more achievable, she made various lifestyle changes, like reducing foods that may be linked to inflammation, such as dairy, and switching to medications that further controlled her symptoms. She says she was then able to build stamina week after week with the goal of leaving the scooter behind—and it worked. “It’s nothing for me now to walk a mile in the evening with my husband,” Binns says.4. Choose exercise that you enjoy.If you don’t like the exercise that you’re doing, you won’t be motivated to continue it. This may be especially true when you are using exercise to try to slow the progress of a chronic condition like MS. Binns puts it this way: “When somebody tells you what to do and it doesn’t feel right, you tend not to be as compliant with doing it. But if you determine what your body really needs and what feels right to it, you’re going to stick with that because it feels good.”That’s why Courtney Platt, 33, has kept dancing, her professional and personal first love. Platt (who, yes, is related to Dear Evan Hansen’s Ben Platt) says that the first question she asked her neurologist when she was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago was whether she would be able to keep dancing. Fortunately, that doctor understood that dancing wasn’t just a physical outlet for Courtney, but a mental and spiritual one, too. “Her answer was, ‘You should never stop dancing—it keeps your body, mind, and soul strong,’” Platt says.“Whether it is in my living room, on a stage, or in a gym, staying active is one of my top priorities—not just for my physical health, but also for my mental health,” Platt says. A former contestant on So You Think You Can Dance, Platt now teaches vertical climbing fitness classes from her home in addition to continuing to tour, act, and perform.