Eating Well + Knowing Your Triggers = More Control
Laura Nedbal was 15 years old when she was diagnosed with UC. Now a 21-year-old student at Columbia College Chicago, she says she does everything in her power to stay well.
Because she is on a medication that suppresses her immune system, she needs to make sure she is as healthy as possible.
She cooks for herself so she can keep better track of the ingredients. In general, she goes for fruits and vegetables and steers clear of corn, nuts, seeds, coffee, and alcohol.
"You have to watch what you eat," she says. "If I feel a flare-up coming on, I make sure I'm not drinking caffeine or carbonation because that upsets my stomach more."
Nedbal also makes sure she drinks plenty of water during the day because diarrhea can lead to dehydration.
And she’s careful when she needs to take other medications to control her UC. For example, when she's on prednisone for a flare, she tries to limit her salt intake to reduce the swelling and puffiness that steroids can cause.
Though it can be tough to always watch what she eats, Nedbal feels that it helps her stay on track – both physically and mentally.
"With the medicines you're on, sometimes you get so tired," she says. "You really don't feel like yourself. It can really bring you down. So you just have to stay on schedule with everything.
Social Life With UC
If you’re of age for drinking alcohol, dodging the drinking scene on campus can also be tough. Although drinking alcohol isn't always off limits to someone with UC, it may aggravate symptoms or lead to flare-ups. Also, alcohol must be avoided with some medications commonly used to treat UC.
Nedbal, who avoids alcohol for health reasons, found it hard at first when everyone else was out partying. But she quickly learned how to go out and have fun without drinking.
"Just because other people around you are getting drunk doesn't mean you have to," she says. "You can find someone who doesn't like to drink either and have a good time. You shouldn't let it limit your life or limit your fun."
This attitude has also helped Nedbal get more out of her college experience. She has an internship at a web company and works part time at a shoe store. "This allows me to focus a lot more on work and school without having to deal with hangovers, so that's always a plus," she says.
College and UC: Strategies for Stress Relief
Even though stress doesn't cause ulcerative colitis, it can aggravate your UC symptoms. So the more you can do to keep stress in check, especially during semester's busiest times, the better off you will be.