I would rather suffer from just about any other malady than chronic diarrhea, but when you have ulcerative colitis, you don’t get much choice. The gods of inflammatory bowel disease won’t barter for less-debilitating symptoms—you know, I’ll give you two headaches a week and three days of fatigue for your chronic diarrhea. Instead, you have to suffer through and come up with unique ways of managing chronic diarrhea so that it doesn’t completely disrupt your life.
No Set Schedule
The first thing I learned about managing chronic diarrhea is that you can’t predict when it might become an issue. If you have ulcerative colitis, you know that diarrhea can strike without any notice at all, and that you have limited time to make accommodations for yourself. Whether you’re driving to Disney World with your family or sitting in an important meeting with your boss, the body needs what it needs.
Therefore, you have to learn how to roll with the punches in managing chronic diarrhea. One of the best ways to do this is to let people know you have ulcerative colitis, and that your plans might change with little notice. This isn’t something you necessarily want to write on a memo to everyone in your office, but letting your superior know that you have an uncontrollable condition can make your life easier.
Make Friends with OTC Drugs
If I’ve learned one thing from my life with ulcerative colitis, it’s that over-the-counter medications are usually just as effective as the ones for which you need a prescription. I’ve had just as much success with Imodium and Pepto Bismol for chronic diarrhea as with more expensive prescriptions, and they are often easier on the stomach. If you have this problem, start stocking up on your favorite medications and keep them handy.
For managing chronic diarrhea, however, it isn’t enough to just have a supply in the medicine cabinet. Although I work from home now, I used to keep boxes or bottles in my desk drawers at work, in the glove compartment of my car, and even in my briefcase. Having that type of instantaneous relief can work wonders for ulcerative colitis sufferers, especially when dehydration is a significant risk.
Learn to Monitor
Managing chronic diarrhea doesn’t mean that there won’t be times when your symptoms are worse than normal. During severe ulcerative colitis flare-ups, diarrhea can become a serious matter, and can lead to the aforementioned dehydration. Some people find it easiest to keep a log in the restroom to record the number of loose stools during a specific period of time, while others use their best guess. Either way, you need to know when to get to a hospital.
Even if you’ve loaded yourself up on Imodium and Pepto Bismol, you might find that chronic diarrhea becomes more than you can safely manage on your own. In these cases, it is best to get to a clinic or hospital where you can be hydrated intravenously, which will avoid serious consequences.
Managing chronic diarrhea can be completely different from one patient to the next. What works for me might not necessarily work for you, and it all depends on the severity of your disease. Ulcerative colitis is a problem that requires constant treatment, as well as open communication with your doctor. Talk about your chronic diarrhea and brainstorm ways to help your condition for a more normal life.