A great question. I could go with a wikipedia answer (a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)…It is a form of colitis, a disease of the colon (large intestine), that includes characteristic ulcers, or open sores. The main symptom of active disease is usually constant diarrhea mixed with blood, of gradual onset.) This is actually a really good description. Or medicinenet describes it as “chronic inflammation of the large intestine (colon). Ulcers and inflammation of the inner lining of the colon lead to symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding.” That one is good too.
What I am coming to terms with in my own life is that ulcerative colitis has really become my teacher as well as my assignment. After dealing with my tiny little ulcers for 8 years now (eek!), I have come to the conclusion that I am actually happy that I was diagnosed with it. Or at least grateful. There have been so many emotions and ailments and ups and downs and highs and lows with it all…but along the way, I have learned so much about my body, my mind, my spirit, and of course, my colon. Until a few years ago, I was pretty sure a balanced diet meant sometimes getting a bean burrito instead of a bean tostada with my double decker taco. I was living on a pretty strict diet of stress, Taco Bell, cereal and alcohol. And lots of each. At this point of my life, it is the norm for me to be brewing kombucha, teaching yoga and going through my vegetables to make sure I’m getting enough colors and nutrients for my body. Without colitis, I’m really not sure where I would be right now. But it probably would not be at the state of awesome health that I’m finding myself in.
But back to the point….ulcerative colitis has a really wide array of symptoms that are associated with it. Many people have to go to the bathroom 10-20 times per day with UC. I feel extremely fortunate that this particular symptom never came up with me. But I do have the inflammation, the uncomfortable bloating, some urgency at times, and my favorite, the blood and mucousy stool. For a long time, I would sit on the toilet for extended periods of time while trying to poop, even though nothing would actually come out. And when it did, it was super loud and ridiculous sounding. I try not to do that anymore because A) it’s a waste of time and B) I don’t think it was helping the situation.
At the end of the day, my colitis is not nearly as bad as some others that I’ve read about. But it’s not exactly ideal either. I’ve been in a constant “flare-up” (I use quotes because it’s really more of a norm) of bloody stool since November 2004. It has gone away for a few weeks to a few months at a time using a variety of medication (more on this later) but nothing has really stuck yet. I am extremely hopeful that my current lifestyle choices (MUCH more on this later) will help me stay out of my “flare-up” zone. It’s only been a few days in a row so far, but I feel so much better that the minor traces of blood that I sometimes get now don’t bother me nearly as much.
To close out, here’s a super gross picture of exactly what my colon looked like last time I saw it, except I had more mucus:
Hopefully that is the last time it will look like that!! Only time will tell :)