Diet and Ulcerative Colitis: What I Have Learned
When I was young I learned very early that what I chose to eat had a significant affect on the quality of my lifestyle to be free of nausea, diarhea and painful abdominal pain. I’m speaking about the issues people face who have the conditions of Lactose Intolerance, Irritable Bowel and Ulcerative Colitis.
These are three conditions I have faced all my life, and only at the age of 30 did I finally seek the opinion of a Gastroentologist to determine if I had a significant health problem that needed treatment.
For the first three decades of my life, I had self-diagnosed my condition primarily due to a sense of embarassment. You see, when I was in grade school, high school and college, no one spoke of any such condition.
When a young child, I can remember needing to rush to the bathroom, holding back tears as pressure built up within my abdomen, forcing me to seek an immediate opportunity to free my bowels of this acidic diarhea that often was the norm. I learned quickly that I would not eat or drink and then try to travel within an hour’s time, or I would have a strong liklihood of a potential disaster.
I can remember as a teenage, several of us would go to the local restaurant and have ice cream sundaes while we flirted with the cute waitresses. My visits to the restaurant were cut short by a mad dash to the bathroom as my body processed into a virtual eruption.
And just like a volcano, it occurs with little warning, it is violent and destructive. In recognized that if I moderated my diet through avoidance, I would be less suceptible to these resultant problems.
As with many people, my condition isn’t something that is readily diagnosed by a simple test. The condition is variable, and in most cases such as mine, is nearly directly related to dietary intake. There are six main areas of food/beverage that affect me most significantly and they are; creams, spices, fats, leafy vegetables and alcohol.
Initially, I knew that things like ice cream and other fatty foods such as ribs and gravies would result in havoc in my digestive tract. In High School, i would avoid any and all gravies and would never partake in leafy veggies.
Then in my twenties I found that when grazing at cocktail parties, I would often be stricken early in the evening with severe stomach cramps. I quickly learned that almost every dip contains some sort of cream or cream cheese. It was this experience during cocktail parties that puzzled me and brought me to my Gastroentologist for my diagnosis.
Today I have learned a great deal about my tolerance for the dietary items that cause me distress. While total avoidance is an effective solution to these concerns, it isn’t always practical so concessions can often be an effective alternative. Probably the most significantly harmful dietary components for me are heavy spice laden foods and certain alcoholic drinks.
For some time I merely avoided any and all foods that affected me adversely. I would never have problems with grains so I enjoyed a lot of breads, pasta and cereals. I found that lean meats and fish never affected me adversely. By contrast the same meats or fish with sauce or heavy spicing would affect me tremendously badly.
Suffice it to say that I don’t eat any mexican or indian foods due to their heavy use of spices. It may be hot to the taste, but it’s even hotter on its exit! So eating out at such establishments is absolutely off my agenda.
In my case Mexican food has the most insidious affect, because it usually is heavily spiced, includes cream in many of its dishes and if I were to imbibe in a mixed alcoholic drink with vodka, I would most certainly spend 40% of my time in the bathroom over the next 8-10 hours in sheer misery. Trust me, there is not taste that overcomes the pain and irritation that results from that combination.
In general, I find that the grease from most meats and poultry do not agree with me at all. Therefore, I either eat skinless chicken or turkey, or grill it to cook off the fats, then discard the skin. With meats, I stay away from those fatty cuts such as certain hamburgers and ribs. It isn’t that difficult a task, but sticking to the practice isn’t always a conventional alternative.
For instance, each year there is a fundraiser at a local brewery that is known as “Rib Fest”. Hundreds of rib purveyors promote the virutes of their special Texan, Tex-Mex, Kansas City, or Denver recipies. There is some great musical performers and it is outside on the lawn, so the event is a fun social event which I enjoy, but my meal there consists of a beer and some french fries!
So if I keep to lean meat or fish and grains such as rice, everything is great. Once I add in a large salad with onions and leafy lettuce and if I were to add lots of spices…with a vodka-tonic drink….I’m once again miserable.
When eating out, I never have fried food, as I most likely will not agee with what they use as a frying agent. Grilled or broiled food is generally the pick of the menu. I don’t eat any dips, so at a cocktail party, I’m the one eating the celery or tomatoes plain!
Since I’ve learned how these things affect my digestive tract, I can minimize the inconvenience and pain that comes can result from the conditions of Lactose Intolerance, Irritible Bowel and Ulcerative Colitis. In my case, these conditions escalate with increasing exposure to the wrong food/beverage/spices.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is how to cook great, healthy food that is delicious and is kind to my system.