Travel Symptoms for UC and Endo

I have mentioned in the past that the diet for endometriosis and the diet for Ulcerative Colitis are quite contradictory to one another. In the years that I only knew about my endometriosis I knew exactly how to avoid getting endobelly – the distended belly that results from inflammatory foods such as carbs. But once I was diagnosed with UC, I noticed that sometimes the distended belly is not from endo but in fact from some bodily confusion where my colon decides to just hold tight to my “food” for a while before releasing it. Here are my observations:

As my food moves down the descending colon I think it gets stuck there for a bit and is painful to say the least, due to the massive pressure it puts on my body. Then as the bulk finally moves into my sigmoid colon it is painful  – like actually painful – and very speedy. As I am often curious how healthy my bowel movement is (cus who doesnt look in the bowl after a good one?!?) the size of the bowel movement is much smaller than the size of my swollen belly before everything came out, which leads me to believe there is a lot of swelling and edema (water retention) happening as well.

Last week as I was preparing for my trip to Atlanta I had a bit of (what I thought was) endobelly. I thought, “maybe I should do one of those before and after pics to share with people”. But I also forgot that traveling also makes me bloated. After three days (below, left) my belly was quite the basketball. I waited and waited,… no relief until finally I landed back in Vancouver last night (5 days later) and my body felt at ease (below, right). Needless to say there are endless trips to the bathroom to go from the left image to the right image, but man does it feel good when its out.

I have NEVER shared these types of photos before so Im a little nervous at the criticism I might get, but knew in my heart it was time to share this. I hope this makes others feel less alone with these symptoms.

Identity Crisis – redefining who I am after endo and UC

Feeling lost from auto-immune diseases

I know this sounds utterly drama-tastic but I literally feel like Im having an identity crisis. Over the last few years I had built myself up to be the strongest, most positive person there was. I was exercising every day, eating a whole food diet, and happy as a clam. I had found the love of my life, managing somehow to make long distance work. I found the most incredible job that allowed me to shine, and I moved back to Canada for it. Then shortly after my move, the endometriosis pain kicked in in places I had never felt it before. I was so fortunate to get a referral and acceptance into the BC Women’s Pain and Endo clinic but that was probably for me, the beginning of of the end. I was put on the wait list for the excision surgery and I was very diligent about an endo diet to control the inflammation and bowel movements until the surgery. I was asked to skip my periods, and therefore take Visanne which I was always reluctant to do. The hair loss started and the spot bleeding was equivalent to period pain at first. A few months later, the biggest bout of what seemed like a terrible flu accompanied by bloody, mucousy diarrhea with uncontrollable urgency sent me to the ER with a hospital stay of 10 days to confirm I had moderate to severe UC. I would have gone home earlier but the first round of mesalamine didnt work (I was pooping them out whole) and they had to try a different brand.

Since my UC diagnosis I have been on a low residue diet which – if any of you are on it still – is the OPPOSITE of an endo diet. Its literally high carb, high protein, NO FRUITS OR VEGGIES, no lentils, nothing with fiber. Do you know how utterly counter intuitive that is for endo????

4 months later, both doctors squabbled over whether I was in good enough shape to have the excision surgery. I was mad at my own body for putting me in the situation where the inflammation may prevent me from having the best surgery of my life. Needless to say I was able to go through with it, and it ended up being much more extensive than anticipated. The good news is, its mostly all out. The bad news is I feel like between the scar tissue on my colon and the UC itself, I actually dread having a bowel movement. AND I think the worst part about it is every morning I wake up with what I like to call a bolus of poop just hanging out in my lower colon waiting until IT is ready to come out. Nothing I can do about it and it looks and feels exactly like endo belly – so really I havent come that far yet.

Im trying to be patient. Im trying to be positive. But I am honestly no longer the person I was a year ago. I can barely walk for 20 minutes. I have to be so careful what I eat, not to mention alcohol is out of the picture (plus or minus a beer here and there). Im in pain constantly. Im tired constantly. And for the first time in 10 years I think I may have to up my anti-anxiety meds just because of how much is going on. I have missed so much work and I HATE missing work. Im a Director of Sales at a start up company in BC that is gaining tons of momentum and yet, I feel like Im the bottle neck. I do realize that “I am not what I eat”, and that this will take time, and hopefully once the inflammation has gone down I wont feel the endo pain again, and my UC will eventually go into remission. But for now… especially for RIGHT now… I feel like shit.

Part 1 – a glimpse of a change; from skinny-fat to aware.

I am by definition ‘skinny’. I wear size 2 pants, on average an XS dress size, and Im too light to donate blood without having drastic side effects. My whole life I have done exercise but by no stretch of the definition am I athletic. I am a food blogger so naturally I love the taste of fat. Pork Belly is like my version of chocolate cake. And with a few fluctuating pounds here and there which I like to call water weight, I am skinny. In my teens I was vegetarian for 6 years and learned about amino acids found in meat substitutes, and how to obtain all the nutrients through fruits, vegetables and grains/pulses. But… I have always struggled to have definition in my body. Dont get me wrong, I have a butt and big boobs so Ive got me some curves, but you’d be hard pressed to find my abs or biceps. Over time I just kinda accepted that my genetics prevented me from having that type of body.

So the there’s what doctors would call TOFI (Thin on the Outside; Fat on the Inside), then there is skinny-fat where thin people actually have fatty organs,… and then there is me. Somewhere between skinny fat and skinny. Not medically red flagged but still unhealthy.

Last year I made a huge move in my life and relocated from the ever freezing Ottawa Canada to sunny Los Angeles California. No more hibernating in winters, no more woolen sweaters to hide behind, no more excuses not to run outdoors every day. So I did it. I made the pact to myself that I would pay more attention to my body and keep moving.

me when i loved here
Me when I arrived in LA. Skinny but no definition.

While the transition was absolutely amazing,  I started to struggle with adult acne. WTF!?! Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the sun. Maybe it was all the sweat causing clogged pores. I tried using organic makeup, acne preventing face wash, doing more facials, … you name it. I was doing everything I could because who wants to have adult acne at 32? Not me. I used to get a few pimples on my chin before getting my period, but this was full on devastating chin zits. I was trying so hard not to let it get to me. I even consulted my physician and asked if there was a birth control pill that could help prevent the acne. (note: I have struggled with endometriosis for half my life and have been on birth control to help with the pain, so no way around that).

And then I had my AHAA moment. My girlfriend and I had gone out to do some errands and had picked up an extra large diet coke on the way home. My favourite. In fact, this was one of those diet cokes with the Raspberry flavor shot in it. This was normal for us. I buy super sized diet coke and it lasts me all day long, sipping as I work. coke is always in my refrigerator. But I would NEVER buy regular coke. Its just not tasty. And, aspartame is way healthier than regular sugar. So there’s that. Well let me tell you, thank goodness for that diet coke because later that night I went out for some drinks… maybe one too many… and nothing cures a hangover like a diet coke. Its got something magical in it. And if you have a few slurps and then go back to bed, you wake up cured. Except the diet coke had been sitting out all day yesterday and it was flat. It was like caramel. It was absolutely positively disgusting. So, how come a flat diet coke is so much worse than a bubbly cold diet coke. I didnt know, and I didnt really care, but what I did know is I was actually addicted to the bubbles.When I sat back to think about it, its carbonation that I seek out. I rang my girlfriend and asked if she has a diet coke but all she had was a seltzer (club soda). AHA… the bubbles! So if the bubbles are what I like, screw the other ingredients I dont know how to pronounce. AND I dont even have a sweet tooth so I dont need whatever magic is in the diet coke to make it so sweet.

It wasnt like I was trying to be healthier, I just realized I could get the carbonation from a less conspicuous drink. So, I skipped the diet coke and bought a case of regular seltzer from the store that afternoon once I had recovered. Here’s what happened.

Within 24 hours, I was exhausted. So exhausted I could literally sleep all day. I had a headache the first day but after a loooooong nap I was good to go again. Day 2 was a little better. And by day 3 the headache was going away and I was able to get through the day without a power nap. Day 4 was incredible. I felt more focused than I have in a long time. And when presented with a diet coke on day 4 I was repulsed. I couldnt even think of putting that back into my body. On day 5, I went for a run and (though I have been running for years!) it was the first run where I felt the muscles working, my stomach flexed, my joints loose, and everything was functioning. I felt light, focused, and … healthy? I felt for the first time like I was burning parts of me, and not parts of left over gunk.

A few weeks later I was expected to have PMS> and for me this usually means mood swings and a lot of bloating. Like, totally uncomfortable, watermelon belly bloating. I started the countdown to my period. I have endometriosis so the countdown is a pretty normal routine for me every month. 5 days to go… no bloating. 4 days to go,.. oh I can feel some of those mood swings…. 3 days… 2 days… NO BLOATING! By cutting out aspartame, and by nature all other artificial sweeteners from my body I was functioning like a healthy human. My period was terrible but nothing new there. Post period, I started to get a firmer body. Not skinnier, just, firmer. I didnt go down in waist size I just looked trimmer. I dont know how to explain it, I just felt human. I felt light and focused and firmer and hotter and better.

WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO ME? AND HOW COULD I MAKE MORE OF THIS HAPPEN?

…to be continued.

Part 2: Eliminating Artificial Sweeteners

Part 3: Juicing