If college is the first time that you're living away from home, it's probably also the first time you're completely in charge of managing your inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). To keep your ulcerative colitis symptoms at bay, you'll want to live healthily, which can sometimes be at odds with the "typical college lifestyle."
Making sure that you're eating well and not getting stressed out will help you stay healthy and get the most of your college experience. Here's how to put that plan into practice.
Whenever Serena Ehrlich goes someplace new, she scouts out the location of the bathroom. That's because Ehrlich, 38, a Los Angeles-based salesperson for a commercial wire service, has ulcerative colitis. She developed the disease 12 years ago and has been in remission for the past three. Still, the old habit lingers. "Everyone who has ulcerative colitis will tell you that when you walk into a bookstore, a shop, or a restaurant, that's the one thing you want to know first. It's our rule of thumb."
Doing what it takes to keep control of your ulcerative colitis may be the biggest factor in adjusting well to college life.
"We're really big on encouraging students to do things as normal as possible," says Ellen Zimmermann, MD, a gastroenterologist who started a support group for students with IBD at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The group has been a model for IBD groups at other colleges. "We should be able to work out a system where they can accomplish the same things as their peers.”
The process of doing that may just be a little bit different for those with UC, says Zimmerman, who is also director of the Gastroenterology Specialty Clinics at the UM hospital. She suggests that students with UC get plenty of rest, keep regular hours, take their medications as prescribed, and stay hydrated throughout the day.
She also recommends that they explore dietary issues to decide what works for them and what doesn't – and then stick to that. "They should eat regular meals, keep their nutrition up, and really stay in tune with their own dietary triggers for their disease," she says.
"We encourage students to take control of the disease," she tells WebMD. "Being proactive really helps, so that they don't get into that cycle where there's some dietary indiscretion that causes more symptoms, and then they get more dehydrated and less capable of being a successful student."
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.