How Do I Know if I’m in Remission?

When we are diagnosed with any disease we hear the word ‘remission’ with envy. It generally refers to the period of time where your disease is not showing signs or symptoms. Ya know, closer to your life before your life changed. But the word ‘remission’ means different things in different illnesses.

Remission also means different things to different people. It’s kind of like the color blue. If I ask a bunch of different people to think of the color blue not everyone will envision the same exact hue. Sky blue, royal blue, navy blue. They are all blue.

Let’s take a closer look.

What exactly is remission from ulcerative colitis?

Remission from Inflammatory Bowel Disease means that your disease is not active. The term “active” can mean different things depending on who you ask.  There are many shades of blue. Generally it means your bowels are in good working order; no blood, no cramping, no weird poops, no nonsense. Remission can last weeks, months, a year, or many years. To note, if you’re in remission for only a few weeks are you in remission long enough to call it remission? We’ll dive into this point below.

How do we know we achieved remission?

If you are not experiencing any signs or symptoms of ulcerative colitis then chances are you’re probably in the good ‘ol safe zone. More so, if you have a clean colonoscopy with no signs remission will be confirmed. Some GI docs use your number of bowel movements per day as an indicator. Frankly, I think this is bogus. There is so much more to this disease than how many times we’re in the bathroom. A low number of bowel movements do not always mean the disease is not active.

Often times your symptoms can be dormant but the disease is still very active – maybe even creating scar tissue or other complications without your knowledge. If you are “only bleeding a little” or “only going 5 times” that doesn’t count. It’s better, but not remission. Keep it up. You’re almost there! 🙂

What does remission look like?

Since IBD is an invisible illness to begin with it’s hard to answer this question. We basically look the same. Except maybe, our colons. Here’s an example of my colon in remission vs. not in remission. Yeah, I just put my colon on the internet. BAM.

mangiapaleo healthy colon ulcerative colitismangiapaleo ulcerative colitis flare colon

Well there goes any chance of my catching a husband. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Anyways… Other symptoms of IBD start to decrease such as the obvious bloody stool, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea as well as fatigue, dehydration, nutritional deficiencies, joint pain, and more.

How do I achieve remission?

Sorry to burst your butt bubble however there is no one answer to this. Well, there is. But you have to find it yourself. Everyone works to achieve remission in different ways. There are many treatments for ulcerative colitis. Achieving remission and maintaining remission might also mean different therapies. Some take medication like steroids to knock out the flare and mask symptoms. Then head into another maintenance therapy. Some use a biologic via infusion therapy to help achieve and maintain remission. For some it’s a high maintenance regiment balancing sleep, food, and alternative medicine if you really listen to you body. The paleo diet and other methods I’ve chosen to work with my ulcerative colitis help me maintain remission at certain times. The paleo diet does not work alone. It is balanced with other lifestyle factors (like sleep, etc). Personally, it is used as a maintenance therapy – not necessarily to achieve immediate relief within a few days. I don’t just sprinkle turmeric on my food and cure my inflammation. You’ll find your balance, too. Listen to your body. Listen to your doctor. 

Below are two books that have helped me understand the way my body processes food. These are in no way suggested to replace your medical professional’s opinion. But they will certainly help you understand how this disease can be affected by diet and lifestyle. 

Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall
My Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser

Since IBD is a chronic lifelong disease we shouldn’t get too cocky when we’re not flaring. Remember, statistically it’s rare for your disease not to flare again. So continue doing what works for you. Continue a transparent conversation with your doctors. Find your personal way to achieve and maintain healthy bowels!

 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. All the information on this website is not intended to replace therapies or information of your team of physicians. Please foster a strong relationship with a reliable IBD specialist or other medical professional before making changes to your health routine. 

References:
Interview with Alan Moss, MD http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4014050/ 
Andrew Weil, MD http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03123/Ulcerative-Colitis-Inflammatory-Bowel-Disease.html
CCFA http://www.ccfa.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-ulcerative-colitis/colitis-treatment-options.html
Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ulcerative-colitis/basics/treatment/con-20043763
Everyday Health reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD http://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/ulcerative-colitis-treatment-management/keeping-ulcerative-colitis-remission/

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