For anyone with ulcerative colitis (UC), remission is a beautiful word. No longer having to cope with daily painful bowel movements, stomach cramping, and discomfort gives you a lot more time to enjoy your life.
One mistake many of us make, however, is to deviate from our treatment plan when we’re enjoying a remission period. UC is known as an unpredictable condition, meaning flare-ups can come and go without much warning.
Still, there are some key strategies that can help you prevent flare-ups and stay in remission long term.
Continue taking your medications
It can be tempting to come off of your UC medications when you’re in remission. Drug therapies can be expensive, and sometimes the side effects aren’t ideal. But skipping or refusing to take prescribed medications can leave you five times more likely to suffer a relapse.
So which medications are the best for you to take when you’re in remission? Your doctor may recommend the following:
- Aminosalicylates. These are anti-inflammatory drugs that are used to treat mild to moderate flare-ups of UC.
- Immune system suppressors. These medications are able to reduce inflammation in the body by suppressing the immune system.
- Biologics. These medications work to stop enzymes and proteins that are developed naturally in your body from causing inflammation. Biologics are relatively new to UC treatment, and have proven very effective in keeping people with UC in remission.
Eat well to live well
Although food can’t cure your UC, certain foods that are high in antioxidants (like blueberries, cherries, tomatoes) and low-fiber veggies that are pureed or cooked are staples for many people with UC. Also, you may want to try eating numerous small, digestible meals throughout the day rather than big meals.
Even when you’re in remission, sticking to these eating strategies is important. There are also some elimination diets you can try that have helped some people stay in remission, such as the following:
- The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) completely eliminates refined sugars and complex carbs from your diet including all grains and most dairy. The SCD is popular for people with UC because it promotes easily digestible foods that don’t trigger inflammation. There are many forums and books written on this one diet alone, so before you try it, get informed.
- The Low-FODMAP Diet is meant to reduce the gut discomfort of people living with irritable bowel syndrome by eliminating FODMAPs — sugars found in certain carbs and alcohols that are hard for the gut to absorb.
Get routine checkups
Routine checkups are important, especially during remission, so that your doctor can take stock of what is happening inside of your body — which you can’t see. Visiting the doctor can help you feel on top of your remission and reduce any anxieties you might have about potential flare-ups.
Reduce that stress
Life can be stressful. Living with UC on top of managing daily routines can sometimes seem overwhelming. You may spend a lot of time worrying about your next flare-up, especially if you feel guilty for eating poorly one night or drinking too much on a weekend.
The more stressed out you are, the harder it is for your body to remain in UC remission. Stress may lead to less sleep, drinking more, and picking up old bad habits.
To help keep stress levels down, try:
- joining a UC support group
Staying in UC remission isn’t always something you can control. Sometimes UC seems to have a mind of its own.
But you can significantly increase your chances of remaining in remission by being faithful to your drug therapy, eating well, and checking in regularly with your doctor. Exercising, sleeping enough, and enjoying time with your friends and family may help to not only take your mind off UC, but also make you feel better and, ultimately, enjoy life more.