Patient Blogs | Ulcerative Colitis
6 Years, 6 Tips: My Favorite Tips for Living With Ulcerative Colitis
photo of man writing in notebook

In the 6 years that I’ve been living with ulcerative colitis (UC), I’ve learned some things that have made my life easier. If you also suffer from irritable bowel disease (IBD), perhaps they will also work for you. Here are my six favorite tips.

  1. Write Things Down.

What did you eat 2 days ago? How many bowel movements did you have? What did they look like? Did you have any pain? Unless you wrote things down, I bet you have no idea.

If you experience the symptoms of ulcerative colitis -- loose, bloody stools, abdominal pain, the urgency to have a bowel movement, weight loss, and fatigue -- it’s extremely helpful to write down what you eat, how many bowel movements you have, and what they look like. Relying on written data is better than relying on vague memories.

Unless I am experiencing a flare, I don’t have to keep track of such details anymore. In the past, however, I used a plain old spiral notebook to record this data because doing so made it easier to tell if my condition was getting worse, or when I was trying a new medicine, whether I was getting better.

  1. Wear Adult Diapers.

Sometimes it’s useful to wear adult diapers. I first wore them was when I noticed that a suppository caused an oily leakage that left a mark on my pants. I first tried adding another layer of underwear, but it didn’t help. The oil still made it through to my pants. An adult diaper prevented the oil from getting on my clothes.

Of course, they’re also good if you’re experiencing symptoms and want to avoid an accident.

  1. Call Ahead.

If you receive an intravenous biologic at an infusion center and it has to be mixed up before you receive it, find out if you can expedite the process by calling ahead. Until a year ago, I received a biologic this way. I would call the center an hour before my appointment. Once they knew my weight and that I was feeling good, they would mix up the biologic and have it ready for me when I arrived. It usually took about 2.5 hours to get hooked up, receive the infusion, and get unhooked. So, calling ahead kept the appointment from being even longer.

  1. Consider IV Placement.

If you receive an intravenous biologic, have the IV placed in your nondominant arm. When I was hooked up, I would often use my time to read or grade papers. I’m right-handed, so it was much easier to work when the IV was in my left arm.

Bonus IV tip: The tape used to keep IVs in place is very sticky. Trimming your arm hairs makes pulling off the tape less painful.

  1. Ice It.

If your biologic is an injection you give yourself, icing the injection spot for about a minute before the injection makes it less painful.

  1. Take Advantage of Savings Programs.

If the manufacturer of your medication offers a savings program, enroll in it and take advantage of it. Although using it might mean a little extra hassle such as having to submit receipts or your insurance provider’s explanation of benefits, or having to refill your medication by calling the pharmacy rather than using their website or app. You could save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year by using the program.

I hope you find these 6 tips as helpful as I do.



Photo Credit: Giada Canu / EyeEm via Getty Images

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Brett Gaul

Brett Gaul

Diagnosed since 2016

Brett Gaul has lived with ulcerative colitis since 2016. A philosophy professor, Gaul enjoys sharing his passion for philosophy and helping students live more meaningful and successful lives. When he’s not having interesting dinner conversations with his history professor wife and three children, he likes reading, running, and rooting for Minnesota sports teams. 

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