UC is the most common form of IBD, with more than 200,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “IBD isn’t one disease but many,” says David Padua, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Group in Los Angeles. There are as many as 30 subtypes, with different causes—genetic, environmental, dietary, or some combination of all three. That means no two cases are exactly alike, he says. Devising a personalized treatment plan that works for you requires time and patience to learn what’s at the root of yours.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a daily journal isn’t just for fun—it can help you identify potential UC triggers, Dr. Padua says. Write down the details of your entire day: what you ate, how you felt, your activities, stress levels, weather, medications, environmental factors—log it all. Perhaps you’ll notice you feel more pain when it rains—or when you spend a lot of time outside, or even when you’re stressing out to make an important work deadline. Share your findings with your doctor at your next appointment. Your doc may spot something you’re missing, says Dr. Padua, helping him or her provide more targeted care.
Any sort of emotional trauma that precedes a UC flare can leave a lasting imprint—and make you feel like you’re losing control of your disease, says Eva Szigethy, M.D, professor of psychiatry, medicine, and pediatrics and director of Total Care-IBD at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Emotional stress can worsen UC symptoms, so do your best to deal with it—with professional help, if necessary. The right therapist can help you focus on what’s controllable, devise coping skills, and create new habits, she explains. “Ultimately, we want to make the patient his or her own best UC manager.”
Set a Daily or Weekly Goal
Goal-setting is a great way to distract yourself from the discomfort caused by UC. “You’re engaging the brain,” says Dr. Szigethy, and in the process also shifting any pain you might feel to the back of your mind. The doctor recommends any goal that involves physical activity: a daily walk or a 15-minute yoga flow are two great options. “You’ll feel good that you’re doing something to improve your health,” she says. Plus, exercise is a proven stress-reducer, which can help alleviate symptoms of UC, too. Make sure you regularly update your goals, she suggests, noting how the brain responds well to novelty.
Read more 9 Natural Pain-relievers for Ulcerative Colitis by Steve Calechman.