Saturday, May 9, 2009

Getting Diagnosed

Warning: Post may contain some scatological discussion. Read at your own risk.

I just had a huge health wake up call.

I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of ulcerative colitis, a nasty auto-immune, chronic disease that falls under the category of irritable bowel diseases (IBD).

Let's rewind. About a month and a half ago, I started noticing large amounts of mucus in my stool. I kept thinking "this is not normal," but otherwise, it wasn't affecting my life too much so I ignored it for a couple weeks. By then, I was having bowel movements that were almost entirely mucus and no stool. When I did finally have a bowel movement, it was painful and usually consisted of diarrhea. It was gross and weird and scary. Especially being in a foreign country. Finally, I made a doctor's appointment and went in for some testing. A few weeks after all the testing (including the most horrible experience with preparation for a colonoscopy EVER), the doctor reached the above conclusion. While there is still a small change it could be an infectious colitis (and I'm on antibiotics now just in case), it seems like this is something I'll have to deal with for the rest of my life.

After the initial shock wore off, I did some research. Turns out my slight depression from the last two months may be attributed to the onset of this disease, as depression is one of the symptoms. It's important that I prioritize stress reduction--as such, I've signed up for yoga on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, which I start tomorrow. Although diet is not a treatment for the disease (it can't reduce inflammation), it can alleviate symptoms, and obviously, a healthy diet is essential for dealing with any chronic condition.

So I'm now DELIGHTFUL to dine out with, since I have cut out:

* Meat (other than fish)--this one's been going on for years, though
* Dairy (no cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream, or any other delicious thing)
* Chocolate and excessively sugary things
* Soda (goodbye Diet Coke addiction) and other caffeine (except I'm not cutting out tea entirely)
* Alcohol (same reason as caffeine--it's a diuretic)
* Deep fried foods (fries and fried shrimp are no more...)

I am trying to limit the amount of food I consume at one time, also, though eating something whenever I feel hungry (as it's really hard to judge how full I'll feel with such a different diet). My doctor also suggested giving up spicy food, but that would be almost impossible in Korea (plus I just love it too much--I couldn't bear a world without chocolate AND gochu!!!). However, I am no longer requesting that the Indian food place make me cry with my curry and skipping the raw peppers.

I've been doing this with decent success for about 5 days now and after the first two, my stools became almost normal and I had less pain when having a bowel movement. I'm not totally relieved, but I'm pleased with my success thus far.

Also, I've started a daily food journal with detailed descriptions of bowel movements, stomach feelings, and hunger pangs. I will spare you online readers of this, but I will note my fitness efforts in this blog and my weight as I track it.

Weight: 80kgs (for you Americans, that's 176lbs)
Fitness: School Field Trip--7 km walk through a mountain path
Food Summary: Generally healthy, though a bit too much at once at dinner--it's sitting like a lump in my stomach almost 3 hours after consumption. One sip of a special kind of makkoli (it had five flavors!).

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