Health Conditions / Digestive Health / Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)

5 Things I Do to Make Living With Crohn’s Feel Less Isolating

5 Things I Do to Make Living With Crohn’s Feel Less Isolating

Luckily, after getting on treatment, I was able to get back to running. I actually ran the Boston Marathon in 2014. I had to stop six times on the course, but since I prepared myself for it, I was mostly just happy to be there. I’ve since gone on to further improve as a runner, even setting a personal best of 3 hours and 5 minutes at the 2021 California International Marathon last December.IBD doesn’t keep me from running—I’ve just learned to adapt. For example, if I’m having any kind of flare-up, I know I’m going to have to plan my route and communicate with my friends. Now that my friends all know, I can just say “We need to stop. I need to find a spot to go.” Now, it’s just something I’m used to dealing with.My doctors have always said, “Do what you can. The healthier you keep the rest of your body, the better it’s probably going to be.” They also encourage me to live my life as close to “normal” as I can. Continuing to run has helped me feel like myself and keep me doing something I love in a community I love, despite IBD.I plan the bathroom situation ahead of time.I try to always keep tabs on bathroom locations and come up with a strategy when I first go somewhere new. On that note: If you hear someone has Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, always show them where the bathroom is. You don’t have to do it in front of everyone or make it obvious, but it means a lot to people dealing with this to have that intel. Being able to plan helped me become more comfortable with leaving the house, and could help provide peace of mind to someone who might feel inclined to turn down an invitation if they don’t have a bathroom plan in place. It can also help people be more open to being social despite the embarrassing nature of the disease.I have, unfortunately, run into situations where I’ve needed to go into a business and ask to use a bathroom and have been denied. Most of the time people are very accommodating, and I think they can see the look in my eye that it’s urgent. But sometimes, I’m still told no. In addition to deciding not to frequent those businesses in the future, it’s made me wary about running in an unfamiliar spot if I’m flaring.I connect with a community online.Reaching out to other people with Crohn’s was another thing that has been helpful for me, especially when I was flaring really bad. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation has a huge community of people going through the same thing as you. After sharing publicly (on social media) that I have Crohn’s, I’ve had a lot of people—be it friends of mine or people I don’t even know very well—reach out if they or their loved ones are experiencing something similar, and I love that. I’m happy to be that person for other people learning to navigate the disease.If what you’re experiencing feels isolating, the best thing you can do is reach out to someone you know, even if it’s just someone you know of, who is also dealing with it. Talking openly to people who “get it” made me feel way less isolated and, in fact, like I suddenly had a community around me of people who could relate.This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

9 Reasons Your Poop Smells Next-Level Bad

9 Reasons Your Poop Smells Next-Level Bad

The smell of poop isn’t exactly the most pleasant scent. It’s not supposed to smell good. But if the stench of your stool suddenly becomes so out-of-this-world, you may wonder, “Why does my poop smell so bad?” First, don’t panic. A stench that overpowers what’s already considered pungent must signal something is wrong, right? Not exactly.“The way poop smells can indicate a wide variety of things,” Christine Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. Most of the time, a foul scent alone isn’t indicative of anything worrisome. But if there is an acute change in the smell of your number two that coincides with one or more symptoms like diarrhea, fever, chills, or unexplained weight loss, it could signal something more serious, Dr. Lee says.Below is everything you need to know about what can change the smell of your poop, and when a wince-worthy sniff may signal something is off.What causes foul-smelling poop?Becoming acquainted with the scent of your poop sounds less than appealing, but establishing what’s abnormal from your baseline can help determine when your bowel movements are especially rancid, Dr. Lee says. Here are some of the main causes of particularly bad-smelling poop:1. Sulfur-rich foods“The first thing you might want to do is think back to what you ate,” Dr. Lee says. “Whether it was eggs, Brussels sprouts, or tuna fish, those kinds of things can change the smell of the stool.” Foods high in sulfur (think: meats, eggs, dairy, garlic, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli)1 are more difficult to digest, according to the Cleveland Clinic. When these foods move undigested into the large intestine, sulfur-metabolizing bacteria try to break it all down. This process creates odorless hydrogen and carbon dioxide gas (and sometimes methane) as well as odorous hydrogen sulfide—which mix into your poop and add an extra stench.2. Medications, supplements, and vitaminsLike food consumption, taking some daily medications, supplements, and vitamins can cause your poop to smell particularly off, Dr. Lee says. Antibiotics, for example, strip your colon of good and bad bacteria and open up the possibility of infections like C. diff, Nipaporn Pichetshote, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist at UCLA Health, tells SELF. This can cause uniquely foul-smelling stool. Some supplements and vitamins, like fish oil, can also result in a smellier-than-usual bowel movement, adds Dr. Lee. This is because vitamins can attach to undigested fat in your stool, causing it to stink2.3. InfectionThe next thing you want to consider is whether you might have a viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection. While a telltale sign is the accompaniment of other symptoms such as diarrhea, chills, fever, or unexpected weight loss, each infection can be identified by the unique scent of its chemical makeup of gasses. A few examples include:Giardia, which is a parasitic infection that can be acquired from swallowing contaminated water and is known for its particularly pungent odor that’s hard to describe, Dr. Lee says.Bacterial infections like Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, which can be contracted via hospital contamination and antibiotic usage, according to the Mayo Clinic. As a result, you may have sweet-smelling poop—but not in a good way. Viral infections like rotavirus, which can make poop smell foul, can be transmitted through contaminated food or if you touch a contaminated object and don’t wash your hands3.4. Dehydration“Being dehydrated increases your propensity to be constipated,” Dr. Lee says. Feces consists of about 75 percent water and 25 percent organic matter (we’re talking undigested carbohydrate, fiber, protein, and fat)4. When you’re properly hydrated, that fluid helps your poop move more easily through the digestive tract and facilitates a healthy bowel movement. When you’re in a state of dehydration, the fluids that usually help digested food pass through the intestines are absorbed by your stool instead5. “Constipated stool tends to have a different smell because it’s been in your colon for so long,” Dr. Lee says.5. Lack of fiberBy now, you may have realized that the characteristics of your poop are largely dependent on what you consume. That said, some foods better aid in digestion than others. “Fiber can work in two ways: as a bulking agent in patients who have looser stools and as an osmotic laxative in those who are constipated,” Dr. Pichetshote says. If you lack the necessary fiber to aid in bowel regulation, there’s a chance you could become constipated or experience stool that’s looser than usual.With the former, which causes your stool to sit in your colon for longer, stool can begin to further ferment or break down6 and continue to yield gas such as hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide that lead to greater flatulence and more foul-smelling poop7.6. MalabsorptionThe job of your small intestine is to absorb food’s nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbs, fats, and proteins) as it makes its way through your digestive tract. In certain medical conditions like Crohn’s disease, where the small intestine lining is inflamed and sometimes damaged, nutrients may not be easily digested. Similarly, if you can’t easily absorb lactose, a sugar found in milk products, then it can remain undigested and end up in the stool, where it ferments and gets stinky, Dr. Pichetshote says.7. Inflammatory bowel diseaseInflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which are disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. When the digestive tract lining is inflamed (like in Crohn’s disease) and the large intestine and rectum inflame and line with sores (like in ulcerative colitis), diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss can occur, per the Mayo Clinic. These symptoms can make it difficult to eat or for your intestines to properly absorb nutrients, leading to excess fat in the stool. Poop that contains excess fat produces more gas, which makes it especially foul-smelling.8. Metabolic disordersYour metabolism serves to convert food into energy and remove toxins from the body. A metabolic disorder is when the process of either becomes disrupted and leads to a series of chain reactions. For example, in cystic fibrosis, the disruption comes in the form of thick mucus that blocks the digestive enzymes in the pancreas from reaching the small intestine, according to the Mayo Clinic. Chronic pancreatitis is another metabolic disorder that decreases the number of digestive enzymes produced, which are key in the breakdown of sugars, fats, and starches, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The result is malabsorption and foul-smelling stool.9. Blood in the stoolPoop that smells like metal is usually a result of blood in the stool, according to Dr. Pichetshote, who adds that the scent is often accompanied by black stool or apparent blood. If your stool is black, you’re likely having issues in your upper digestive tract, she says. If it’s bright red, the problem is probably in the lower portion, particularly the colon or rectum.

Could IBS or IBD Be Causing Your Gut Issues?

Could IBS or IBD Be Causing Your Gut Issues?

As for what causes IBD, both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease happen when a person’s immune system accidentally attacks their G.I. tract, according to the NIDDK. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are separate conditions, but they do share a few risk factors. Both diseases tend to run in families, so researchers are working to understand the connection, according to the Mayo Clinic. Both also usually start causing symptoms before a person turns 30 and are more likely to affect those of Eastern European Jewish descent.There’s also a question of how a person’s environment or lifestyle factors, like medications and diet, may cause or exacerbate both IBD and IBS.Back to topHow do you get an IBS diagnosis or an IBD diagnosis?There’s no definitive test for IBS, so doctors typically diagnose it after excluding most other potential causes. In addition to evaluating your symptoms, they may perform a host of exams to identify the problem.For example, they may order a colonoscopy or a flexible sigmoidoscopy (using a thin tube to examine your rectum and only part of your colon) to see if your gut shows signs of inflammation. IBS symptoms can also mimic an overgrowth of bacteria in your gut or parasites, so your provider might want to conduct a stool sample to check your poop for germs, according to the Mayo Clinic.Because celiac disease, an immune response to eating gluten, can cause similar symptoms, doctors may want to take a blood test to rule it out before diagnosing you with IBS, says Jill Deutsch, MD, a gastroenterologist at Yale Medicine and an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine. Once celiac and any other conditions your doctor wants to explore are ruled out, IBS can usually be diagnosed based on your symptoms.Diagnosing IBD can be similarly time-consuming. Your doctor will likely order a range of tests to pick up on any abnormalities that could signal these conditions, including blood tests, a colonoscopy, a flexible sigmoidoscopy, or an x-ray or CT scan. They may also test your poop to see if any blood is present. According to Dr. Hanauer, doctors often look for white blood cells—which may signal inflammation in the gut—in your stool if they’re testing for inflammatory bowel disease.If your doctor suspects Crohn’s disease has affected your small intestine, they may also have you do exams like a capsule endoscopy, which involves swallowing a capsule that has a camera in it to view your intestines. An external recorder captures the images, and you’ll later poop the capsule out.Back to topWhat does IBS treatment look like vs. IBD treatment?Although IBS and IBD share commonalities, they aren’t managed in the same way. “The treatment of IBD is focused on controlling inflammation. IBS treatment is about controlling the heightened sensitivity to what’s going on in the gut,” Dr. Hanauer says.If you’re diagnosed with IBS, your doctor may recommend a range of treatment options depending on your exact symptoms, and it can take some trial and error to get it right. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have IBS-C (which causes constipation), your doctor might suggest adding more fiber to your diet since it soaks up water as it moves through your digestive system, making your poop softer and easier to expel. They may also recommend laxatives or prescription medications that boost the amount of fluid that gets into your poop.

Here’s What to Expect Before, During, and After a Colonoscopy

Here’s What to Expect Before, During, and After a Colonoscopy

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.

What Could Be Causing Your Weird Stomach Problems?

What Could Be Causing Your Weird Stomach Problems?

Digestive troubles, for many people, top the list of symptoms that are straight-up miserable to live with. After all, who wants to feel constantly gassy or bloated while running to the bathroom left and right? Not only can these symptoms feel uncomfortable (or even downright painful), they can seriously impact how you feel about yourself and the way you live your daily life. If you’re not sure what’s going on, don’t fret. Oftentimes, there is a simple explanation for gastrointestinal (GI) issues. But if they’re starting to feel constant, it’s worth exploring whether something more complicated could be lingering under the surface. Take this quiz to find out what might be causing your stomach problems, and when you should consider seeing a doctor about them—because you deserve to feel good in your body.

Here’s How to Find Relief for Your Crohn’s Disease Symptoms

Here’s How to Find Relief for Your Crohn’s Disease Symptoms

Immunomodulators can take up to three months to start working, however, so your doctor might recommend a steroid alongside one while you wait for it to take effect. These are most commonly taken as a pill.BiologicsBiologics are a class of drugs that target the specific proteins in the immune system that are involved with creating inflammation, according to the NIDDK. Biologics are a newer type of medication and are recommended for people with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. Further, there are numerous types of biologics available and they all target different proteins, so if one doesn’t work for you, then there are others you can try. “Generally, biologics are the most effective treatment,” Dr. Higgins says. Some biologics can be self-injected at home, while others are given as an intravenous infusion at an outpatient treatment center.AntibioticsAntibiotics, which are usually available in tablet or liquid form, aren’t used to reduce bodily inflammation, but they may be given alongside other medications to help treat or prevent specific complications. For example, Crohn’s disease inflammation can cause pockets of pus called abscesses, and antibiotics can help these heal, according to the Mayo Clinic.SupplementsMalnutrition is a potential side effect of Crohn’s disease and more than half of people with IBD wind up with a nutrient deficiency5, as damage to your digestive tract can impact how well your body absorbs essential vitamins and minerals. Plus, many people with Crohn’s disease may have trouble eating regularly, possibly leading to both unintentional weight loss and nutrient gaps.People with Crohn’s disease most commonly deal with low levels of iron, vitamins B1, B6, or B12, vitamin D, vitamin K, folic acid, selenium, or zinc. To diagnose you with a deficiency, your doctor will take a close look at your symptoms and order blood tests to see exactly what you’re not getting enough of and the best way to go about supplementing your diet. For example, iron-deficiency anemia is extremely common in people with Crohn’s disease, so your doctor might suggest an IV iron treatment,6 which can take effect more quickly than iron tablets.It’s crucial to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, because some oral supplements may irritate your stomach and worsen your symptoms7. Plus, you want to make sure you aren’t getting too much (or not enough) of a particular nutrient.Back to topWhat is bowel rest treatment?If your symptoms become especially difficult to manage, you might opt for bowel rest, and it is exactly what it sounds like: letting your bowel rest so that it’s encouraged to heal, according to the NIDDK. “Bowel rest is sometimes recommended for hospitalized individuals with severe Crohn’s disease,” Dr. Lebwohl says.Typically, bowel rest is done in preparation for surgery, or as a way to reign in severe symptoms when medications aren’t helping. During bowel rest, you will not be able to consume regular foods or drinks in a medically supervised setting—meaning you should never attempt to do this on your own. You’ll receive nutrition one of three ways: by drinking a special liquid, through a feeding tube (enteral nutrition), or through an IV (parenteral nutrition). This can last for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

7 Digestive Symptoms You Should Definitely Tell Your Doctor About

7 Digestive Symptoms You Should Definitely Tell Your Doctor About

If you have heartburn here and there, you probably don’t have a huge issue on your hands. Most people can manage the discomfort with over-the-counter antacids, which help neutralize stomach acid, after a particularly triggering meal (thanks, greasy pizza!). But “heartburn that is so severe it keeps you up at night for more than one to two weeks warrants investigation with a gastroenterologist, Dr. Shukla says.Constant heartburn is a sign of uncontrolled acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—a condition that impacts roughly 20% of people in the U.S., per the NIDDK. Getting a proper diagnosis is crucial if you deal with heartburn or other symptoms—like difficulty swallowing, regurgitation, or unexplained coughing—more than twice a week, as untreated reflux can lead to complications over time, like inflammation or narrowing of the esophagus, which can possibly cause ulcers or problems with swallowing, respectively.To complicate things further, heartburn can feel similar to cardiac chest pain, which can signal a heart attack, Dr. Chen points out. “If you are unsure, please call your doctor for advice on next steps,” she says. If you feel other possible signs of a heart attack—like unexplained shortness of breath, pain in your back, neck, jaw, or either arm, or sudden sweating—it’s best to seek immediate medical attention.Back to top4. You’re having an oddly difficult time swallowing.You may not think of issues with your throat as a “digestive” symptom, but think about it: Your entire digestion process starts in your mouth!Having a sore throat that makes it uncomfortable to swallow is very different from actually feeling like you can’t swallow well. Dysphagia is the medical name for this phenomenon, and it goes beyond not feeling like you can get food down easily. You may cough a lot after eating, hear gurgling sounds from your throat while eating, clear your throat a lot, chew very slowly, or feel chest discomfort after swallowing, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.“Any type of swallowing difficulty should prompt a visit to the doctor,” Dr. Chen says. (If you know the issue is caused by an object stuck in your esophagus or you’re having trouble swallowing even saliva, she recommends heading to the emergency room.)With that said, if you’re having a difficult time swallowing, there could be an underlying issue to address. As we mentioned, it could be caused by uncontrolled acid reflux, but dysphagia can also be rooted in stress or anxiety, a brain or nerve condition, or direct issues with your tongue, throat, or esophagus, so it’s not something to ignore if it’s interfering with your day-to-day life. In some cases, trouble swallowing can point to esophageal cancer, but Dr. Shukla says this is a less likely explanation.Back to top5. Your stomach pain is borderline agonizing.Severe abdominal pain is different from the stomach ache you experience after eating too much. Instead, you may be experiencing intense cramping that won’t let up or sharp, stabbing pain that forces you to lay down. “If the abdominal pain is severe and persists, it needs to be evaluated,” Dr. Chen says.If you’re really uncomfortable but it’s not so bad that it’s disrupting your daily life, make an appointment with your primary care doctor if you have one, Dr. Chen says. But if you’re doubled over in pain and can’t imagine going on with your day in that state, it’s best to head to the emergency room.

Here’s How Your Gut Health Plays a Role in Ulcerative Colitis

Here’s How Your Gut Health Plays a Role in Ulcerative Colitis

According to a review article published in the journal Lancet, over 200 genetic risk locations (areas on chromosomes) for IBD have been identified. Interestingly, many of these locations contribute to both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. This suggests similarities in the inflammatory processes between these two conditions.7Another review article, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, points out that some of the genetic locations associated with IBD are involved in epithelium function and regulation of the immune system, both of which are important in the ulcerative colitis disease process. However, the exact role that many of these genetic locations play in IBD risk isn’t fully understood.8Back to topWhat are some other ulcerative colitis risk factors to be aware of?Before we dive in, it’s important to know that having ulcerative colitis risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely develop the condition in the future. It simply means you’re at elevated risk compared to others without risk factors. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are two more to keep in mind beyond your gut health, environment, and genetics:AgeAge is another potential risk factor. While you can develop ulcerative colitis at any age, it most often shows up in younger individuals, although researchers are still trying to figure out why. According to the NIDDK, people between the ages of 15 and 30 are most likely to develop UC.The condition may also affect children differently. “Children diagnosed with ulcerative colitis generally experience more of an aggressive disease course than adults,” says Dr. Holmer. She notes that, in children, the entire colon is often involved at the time of an ulcerative colitis diagnosis. This is in contrast to adults, in which ulcerative colitis is often limited to the rectum or the left side of the colon at diagnosis.Ashkenazi Jewish ancestryUlcerative colitis also occurs more commonly in Ashkenazi Jewish people. This group of people has a high prevalence of founder mutations, which are genetic changes that are seen frequently within a community that shares a common ancestry and has been or currently is geographically or culturally isolated.Founder mutations can increase the risk of various health conditions. In addition to ulcerative colitis, some examples of other health conditions that occur more commonly in the Ashkenazi Jewish population include Tay-Sachs disease, Gaucher disease, and cystic fibrosis.Back to topDo ulcerative colitis causes and Crohn’s disease causes overlap?In Crohn’s disease, areas of your digestive tract become irritated and inflamed. This can lead to symptoms like cramping, diarrhea, and unintentional weight loss, which heavily overlap with those of ulcerative colitis. While ulcerative colitis only affects your colon, Crohn’s disease can impact any part of your digestive tract. The most commonly affected areas are the last part of your small intestine, called the ileum, and the first part of your colon.Much like ulcerative colitis, the exact causes of Crohn’s disease remain unclear. Similar factors are believed to play a role, including a dysfunctional immune response and genetics.According to the NIDDK, the risk factors for Crohn’s disease include family history, smoking cigarettes, and being between the ages of 20 and 29. It’s also possible that eating a high-fat diet or using medications like NSAIDs, antibiotics, or birth control pills may also slightly increase the risk of Crohn’s disease.Back to topIs ulcerative colitis contagious?No, ulcerative colitis is not contagious. That means that it cannot be passed from one individual to another and does not make the list of potential ulcerative colitis causes.

11 Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

11 Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

If you find yourself doubled over with diarrhea and cramps, your first move might be to check the expiration date on that milk you poured in your cereal. But if your digestive woes persist, or you also see blood in the toilet, it’s possible you could be experiencing something like ulcerative colitis symptoms instead of food poisoning. Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an autoimmune disease where your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the colon, or large intestine. Cue the stomach trouble. Let’s jump into the details of what to look for and what you can do.What is ulcerative colitis, exactly?Ulcerative colitis (UC) is one of the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The other is Crohn’s disease. UC occurs when the immune system malfunctions, causing inflammation and ulcers (sores) to appear on the inner lining of the large intestine, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). It’s not comfortable, to put it mildly, and not something that will clear up quickly.Ulcerative colitis is a chronic illness that does not yet have a medical cure. That doesn’t mean nothing can be done though, so don’t despair if you’re experiencing symptoms. Sidhartha Sinha, M.D., a gastroenterologist, assistant professor at Stanford Medicine, and researcher who specializes in IBD, tells SELF that while there aren’t medical cures for ulcerative colitis, there are medical treatments. “And we have made great advancements in these treatments,” he says. The last resort is a surgical option called colectomy—the removal of the entire colon—which can eliminate UC entirely.What are the most common ulcerative colitis symptoms?Early ulcerative colitis symptoms usually include things that could easily be overlooked. Don’t be afraid to talk to a doctor if you’re having any worries though, even if your symptoms seem mild. If symptoms are ongoing and start to feel more severe, like persistent pain in your abdomen or unintentional weight loss, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.Here are some of the most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis to watch out for, per the NIDDK:Bloody diarrheaOK, so this isn’t the most pleasant one to start with, but it is actually the most common ulcerative colitis symptom—it’s also a pretty good tip-off that something isn’t quite right and that you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Remember those ulcers we talked about earlier? Yeah, that’s where the blood in your stool comes from, and you might also see mucus in there as well.Abdominal pain and crampingThis is another pretty common symptom, and contrary to popular belief, those ulcers in the colon are not actually what causes the pain. Instead, it’s a combination of abdominal cramping and bowel distension (stretching) that occurs due to the inflammation in the intestines, according to a 2013 study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.1Rectal painPain in your rectum (the part of the colon right before your anus) is also another unpleasant symptom you may deal with. Ulcerative colitis often starts in this portion of your bowel, according to the Cleveland Clinic, so it’s no surprise that the inflammation and damage that occurs in that area can cause some uncomfortable feelings. If your symptoms only affect that area and don’t progress, it’s actually called ulcerative proctitis.The urge to have a bowel movementThis could be a constant, phantom urge (you don’t really need to poop), or an actual urgent need to run to the bathroom. In terms of how many bowel movements are considered “normal,” it varies. You may have fewer than four bowel movements a day (this is considered mild symptoms), and others may have more than six bowel movements with blood most of the time (this is considered severe). In extremely severe cases, you might have 10 bloody bowel movements in a day.FatigueIf you feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, a complete lack of energy, or tired despite getting enough sleep, you’re not alone. According to a 2019 study published in the journal Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology, fatigue affects up to 80% of people with active inflammatory bowel disease, and 50% of people in remission.2 That’s because it can be caused by everything from inflammation to nutritional deficiencies to medication side effects, or all three.Weight loss and malnutritionSpeaking of nutritional deficiencies, unintended weight loss and malnutrition can occur with ulcerative colitis for a few reasons. Severe diarrhea and blood loss can lead to dehydration or an iron deficiency, while abdominal pain and nausea can make you lose your appetite. You may also avoid eating at times to stop yourself from having to go to the bathroom as often. These things can then lead to weight loss.DehydrationAgain, dehydration is a concern if you are having severe diarrhea. When you have diarrhea, your body loses lots of fluids along with nutrients and electrolytes, like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. This can make you feel dizzy, fatigued, and cause a headache.NauseaWith all that’s going on in the digestive tract with ulcerative colitis, nausea can sometimes be an issue. This occurs more often when symptoms are severe, or if the inflammation affects more of the large intestine, according to the NIDDK.Joint painSometimes people can get ulcerative colitis symptoms outside of the bowels, which are called extraintestinal complications. Arthritis is actually the most common one, occurring in up to 30% of people with IBD.3 These complications occur due to the immune system being out of whack, which then causes inflammation in areas outside of the bowels.Skin problemsThe second most common type of extraintestinal complication is skin disorders, including rashes and other skin issues, like ulcers on the skin. These affect up to 20% of people with IBD.4 Like joint pain, skin issues can occur because the immune system overreacts, causing inflammation outside of the bowels.Eye issuesIf you thought there is no way your eyes could be affected by ulcerative colitis, think again. According to a 2015 study published in the Scientific World Journal, when ulcerative colitis affects the eyes, it can cause eye pain and blurry vision (uveitis), which could lead to permanent vision loss if not treated right away. It can also show up as inflammation and redness in the white of the eye, which does not cause vision loss.5Do different types of ulcerative colitis cause different symptoms?Certain symptoms may point to different types of ulcerative colitis. These types, as outlined by the Mayo Clinic, are classified by location within the body:

Is There a Certain Diet That Helps Relieve IBS Symptoms?

Is There a Certain Diet That Helps Relieve IBS Symptoms?

Does that mean you need to eat a low-fat diet to feel your best? Not necessarily, but if you notice that your IBS symptoms get worse on days when you eat particularly rich and fatty meals—especially creamy dishes, cured meats, fried foods, or fast food like pizza—then that’s something worth paying attention to.If fat seems to be your culprit, your doctor or dietitian may recommend following an elimination plan to identify specific fatty food triggers, and then assess your fat intake to see what kind of adjustments can be made based on your personal needs.Gluten-free dietGluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten sets off a wonky immune response that triggers lots of inflammation, leading to some really severe symptoms that can cause intestinal damage. Many people with IBS report experiencing symptoms after eating foods that contain gluten, even if they don’t have a wheat allergy or celiac disease, research shows. Experts refer to this as “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.”“While it is not necessary to avoid gluten if you are not diagnosed with celiac disease, some individuals with IBS feel relief when avoiding gluten,” Henigan confirms. One possible reason for this? These individuals may actually be responding to the elimination of FODMAPs, as many foods that contain gluten also contain FODMAPs. For others with IBS, eating foods that contain gluten is no big deal and a welcome part of their diet.If you’re unsure about gluten, check in with your doctor, who can run the appropriate tests to determine whether or not you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy. If you’re cleared of both and still suspect gluten may be doing more harm than good when it comes to your bowel habits, you can work with your doctor or dietitian to develop an elimination diet for gluten specifically. You may find that only certain foods that contain gluten—but also contain, say, tons of fiber—may be the culprit, so you may not need to avoid all gluten completely. Once you ID your specific triggers, you can create a balanced plan that works for your needs.Lactose-free dietHultin says that if you feel bloated or gassy (or other annoying GI symptoms) after eating lactose, then you might want to check in with your doctor about getting tested for lactose intolerance. “The symptoms of lactose intolerance are very similar to the symptoms of IBS, so it is important to rule the former out,” she says.If you have IBS and you’re lactose intolerant, then steering clear of cow’s milk products may help you prevent a flare-up. “People with lactose intolerance need to avoid foods that contain lactose, including cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, buttermilk, cream cheese, butter, and prepared foods that could have these ingredients in them,” Hultin says.Instead, according to the Mayo Clinic, you may want to switch to dairy products that are lower in lactose if you can tolerate them, like ricotta cheese or kefir, as well as plant-based milks and yogurts.Is your diet the only IBS trigger you should be aware of?IBS is a complex condition, so it’s important to remember that while food is a big piece of the puzzle, it’s not the only thing that could be triggering your symptoms. For example, going through a heavy period of stress, taking certain medications like NSAIDs, not getting enough exercise, and not getting enough sleep can all contribute to an IBS flare-up, depending on the person, per the NIDDK.That’s why it’s so important to work closely with your doctor if your digestive symptoms are starting to take an overwhelming toll on your life. They can prescribe certain medications that help relieve your specific IBS symptoms and help guide you on the best lifestyle changes you’ll need to make to feel more in control of your condition.Sources:1. World Journal of Gastroenterology, Diet in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What to Recommend, Not What to Forbid to Patients2. Journal of Nurse Practitioners, Addressing the Role of Food in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptom Management3. Nutrients, Low-FODMAP Diet Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Meta-Analysis4. Advances in Nutrition, Low-Residue and Low-Fiber Diets in Gastrointestinal Disease Management5. BMJ Clinical Research, Soluble or Insoluble Fibre In Irritable Bowel Syndrome In Primary Care? Randomized Placebo-Controlled TrialRelated:

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