Anyone who has had a major ulcerative colitis flare knows how painful it can be; how it can literally disable you. Cramping is typically the culprit and does not yield any “completion” of a bowel action; one just cramps and it is often stabbing.
As with any illness, ulcerative colitis is best kept in check with good medical follow-up and continuous attention to day-to-day practices such as drinking enough water; getting enough exercise and, minimizing stress.
Despite the most compliant ulcerative colitis sufferer working as hard as possible with respect to prevention of an ulcerative colitis flare-up, ultimately, by the very nature of the disease, a flare will occur. We all dread it when it does.
Most sufferers of ulcerative colitis know when they are having a typical “transient” flare and when something has really changed to the point of needing to see their doctor.
It is necessary to look at the component of stress in ulcerative colitis whether it is prior to a “flare” or during one, because of all the major factors with respect to maintenance, stress can have such a dramatic physical and emotional impact on someone with ulcerative colitis.
Stress has the capability to change the rate of digestion; the speed of digestion; the type of chemicals that are released in the digestive system and, amazingly can even literally change the colon.
What is the “motor” that controls stress? That most important factor is deep-breathing. As I said in another ulcerative colitis article, I was amazed to find that the normal person has flatulence an average of 12 times a day; imagine the possibilities of a person with a hyperactive bowel compounded by excess gas and air. I further found out and reported that we swallow significant amounts of air every time we talk and eat. What can aid in that unfortunate ingestion is deep-breathing or perhaps another example might be steady breathing.
What do you do when a flare strikes? Perhaps more accurately, what do I do when a flare strikes in using deep-breathing?
Sometimes a person has warning of an impending flare and they can sit down and begin to clear their mind and pay attention to their breathing in order to stave it off. However, what can one do when they are just “ambushed”?
Most people don’t employ their entire diaphragm when taking a breath. This does not relax the body sufficiently and encourages shallow breathing.
When I am hurting I lay on my left side with no constrictive clothes on that would impair any bowel activity. Lying on your left side is the best side for encouraging gas and air movement. Then, I start with each part of my body and concentrate relaxing it. Actually I start with my abdomen and take very slow, deep breaths “diaphragm-based”. The first few usually really hurt but after a few it seems to calm down. Before I start with this activity I take a drink of warm water and take a Valium.
My next step is to go through my entire body part by part and “meditate” on relaxing it. It actually does relax me and that often does either relieve cramps or encourage further movement of the gas and air.
If after that, I get a regression, then a get up and take very slow steps in conjunction with deep-breathing. Remember that pain causes most people to hyperventilate; which add to the problem.
If after some time you are getting no relief then maybe you should call the doctor.
For me, the use of deep-breathing in the midst of an ulcerative colitis flare keeps me calm and gives my digestive system a chance to recover from whatever initiated the pain.
With ulcerative colitis nothing is “fool proof”. However, we should, as patients of a chronic disease such as this always be on the lookout for any tool that will give us an additional weapon in our arsenal and, I think deep-breathing fits the bill.
“Easing Cramps With or Without Having Ulcerative Colitis” 6/23/08 by Gary Davis at Associated Content