The First Year

Prior to being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I smoked cigarettes for approximately 15 years. Just under two years after quitting, I started to have some strange GI symptoms. For years I had known that my digestive system wasn’t perfect, but I had a long history of food sensitivities and just assumed I had some kind of mild IBS. I self-treated by taking a L. plantarum probiotic that worked really well for me for a while until it simply stopped being enough.

At the end of 2016, I made an appointment with my GI doctor and told him I believed I had UC based on my symptoms and my medical history. He told me that I was too young and that he believed I had IBS. We scheduled the colonoscopy for the end of January 2017.

After the procedure, the doctor informed me that I had mild proctitis. I immediately asked what I could do, or stop doing, with regard to my diet to help heal my body. He told me that diet doesn’t matter, but mentioned the low-fiber diet. I actually followed this diet briefly in combination with canasa. I believe it only last for about 2 weeks. I found the specific carbohydrate diet and started that right after.

For a few weeks I felt great. Between the canasa and the SCD, I felt like I was actually going to be okay. I was following the intro diet from the book and having wine occasionally. I hadn’t yet found the facebook support group, so I was doing everything alone and I don’t believe I was doing it perfectly. Between that and finding out later that I had been ingesting a lot of legal foods that my body just did not like, I actually started to get worse.

In April 2017, I was put on oral mesalamine in addition to the canasa – two pills daily. It worked for about 3 weeks and then I got way worse. We upped the dose to four pills daily, but I still ended up needing to be hospitalized at the end of May 2017. My admission to the Hospital of the University of Penn was actually my first visit with my new GI doctor at HUP.

As an inpatient at HUP, I was diagnosed with severe extensive pancolitis via a contrast MRI in combination with daily calprotectin, bloodwork, and obvious symptoms. There was no additional scoping at this time. The doctor was prepping me for remicade.

After 5 days in the hospital, I was able to convince them to let me go free with my 40mg prednisone taper. I had decided that I was going to try SCD again, but use LEAP to guide me and stay on the mesalamine. I did not want to be on a biologic.

Fast forward to October 2017: I had a sigmoidoscopy in which my GI doctor confirmed clinical remission. I was now off the prednisone, taking 4 pills of mesalamine, and using canasa nightly. The only change I had made from before being hospitalized was the LEAP diet. I now fully believed that diet – the right diet – was the game changer for healing with this disease.

Additional notes: It turns out that I had been eating a lot of legal foods that were reading as highly inflammatory. Once I cut those out and upped my vitamin D levels, I felt pretty amazing.

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