Learning to Manage My Ulcerative Colitis One Day at a Time

I opened a door into my world of living with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) several weeks ago. Throughout that time, I have been taking VSL#3, a serious probiotic medical food to help manage my UC symptoms. Along with taking this high-potency probiotic daily, I filmed weekly check-in videos. To be honest, taping myself was one of the hardest parts. Despite being an occasional model, it was hard for me to be in front of the camera. As for taking VSL#3 – that was easy! I took the unflavored packets every day for three weeks. I found that I enjoyed it best with a small glass of apple juice every afternoon because it tasted like juice.

As I mentioned, I filmed my journey with VSL#3 using my iPhone and JOBY tripod. I am not a selfie-taker and am a relatively private person, especially online to protect the privacy of my children and me. But I also am very honest and show my mood on my face, so when I am having a bad day, it shows. If I’m experiencing low energy because of my Ulcerative Colitis (UC), motherhood exhaustion, work stress, sickness and a big move (we moved into a new home the week I started taking the probiotic), you will see it in the video. Honesty is the best policy, and for those of you suffering from an autoimmune disease like me, I know you can relate to the ups and down of the disease. I may not look pretty every day, I may not always be a ray of sunshine, but I am just a woman doing the best I can, and trying to live a “normal” life with a cureless disease.

During this process I realized two things about myself.

The first is that my life is crazy. My disease is unpredictable and comes on like a freight train. Keeping up with my family is a full-time job. My business is a creative outlet that I am so passionate about, but it ebbs and flows, and creates a lot of stress and worry.

The second thing I learned is that I cannot control a lot of things, but I can control the way I care for myself. In the management of UC, a high-potency probiotic medical food like VSL#3 may help maintain remission when added to traditional therapies.

So, in addition to taking VSL#3 every day to strengthen my gut health, I need to control my stress levels with daily exercise, prioritize sleep, maintain a strict and healthy diet and avoid the foods that increase my chances of a flare-up. It is so easy to get down on myself, as anyone suffering from an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) like me can relate to. When I suffer physically, I also suffer mentally. Whether you are struggling with flare-ups every single day (as I was 15 years ago), or just occasionally (as I am now), suffer from low energy and a weak immune system, or live a high-stress life, one thing is for certain; You have to stay positive. I try to do this every single day. I try to tell myself: I can do it. I can get through the day and smile. And, I can ask for help when I need it (which is also hard for me to do).

My top three goals that I was hoping to get out of this experience in taking the VSL#3 were:

  1. To help manage my UC symptoms. VSL#3 is 10 times more potent than the average probiotic (average CFU =15.5 billion). The average probiotic (according to IRI data 09/12) contains about 4.3 billion CFU. This makes VSL#3 one of the most potent probiotics in the world. Adding this specific combination of probiotic bacteria is beneficial for an unhealthy gut like mine.
  2. To take the time for myself (hard to do as a mom, business owner, and wife) and to reflect on my serious health/digestive issues. If I don’t take care of myself, I might be sick every single day, and then I cannot take care of my family that I love more than anything. When I help me, I help my family. And when I don’t feel guilty about it, it’s even more amazing.
  3. To reach out to a community of other people suffering from UC, IBD, and/or IBS. According to a Harris Poll* conducted on behalf of VSL#3, amongst 607 U.S. adults ages 18+ who have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), UC or ileal pouch; nearly half of them (46%) believe all probiotics are pretty much the same. And, roughly 2 in 5 IBS, UC, ileal pouch sufferers (41%) don’t understand which strain of probiotics is best to help treat their symptoms. I want to help someone, who may relate to me, who has been sick like me, and whose sickness can create a depression and hopelessness like mine has at one point. If I can help raise awareness of probiotic options, and relate to one reader on one of these blog posts, that would mean so much to me.

I accomplished number one and two. As far as number three, you will have to let me know! Email me at hello@jsorelle.com to share your story with me.

While VSL#3 has been helping my body physically, what has surprisingly helped my mind and spirit has been my VSL#3 Journey notebook. I have been taking time to reflect on my physical and mental state every day. How does my body affect my mood? How does it affect my energy? How do my meals affect my body and health state? How have my supplements and probiotics helped me manage my UC symptoms? How do I honestly feel about having to struggle every day with UC and CD?

I used to cry and say to myself, “Why me?” Why do I have to deal with such a serious digestive disease that affects every aspect of my life? Why do I have to have a higher probability of being diagnosed with Colon cancer later in life? Why do I have to live in fear daily of a debilitating flare-up? Why do I have a lower immune system than the rest of my family? Why do I have the weak body?

But now, with life experience, maturity and knowledge, I say to myself, “This is me.” I choose to be positive and not let my disease make me depressed, hopeless or negative. And even when my Endoscopy and Colonoscopy show an ugly and scary stream of ulcers in my digestive track, I am beautiful inside and out. Even when my body is weak and suffers from my digestive ulcers, I am strong. When I ask for help, it does not mean I am weak.

I am grateful for VSL#3 because it has helped add good bacteria in my gut. A more positive gut brings a more positive mind and spirit. I am also thankful that by taking VSL#3, it made me take time for myself to reflect on my own health.

Overall, I do feel better after this journey taking VSL#3 and I recommend it to people suffering from UC. I can’t say I’m less tired or stressed because of the probiotic. I’m a mom and I have a life, so those symptoms may never go away, but if I stay on this path of taking a serious probiotic like VSL#3, exercising, and being strict on my dairy-free and wheat-free diet every single day – I can gradually strengthen my body. I may be able to diminish the occasional flare-ups. I may be able to get better results on my next Upper and Lower GI’s (Endoscopy and Colonoscopy) with less ulcers.

There is no cure to my disease, but there are things that exist like VSL#3 that make life more manageable. I plan to continue to take VSL#3 daily. I am hopeful I feel better little by little, and get stronger day by day. I am hopeful on living my best life – not with UC and CD in the driver’s seat, but with UC and CD in the rear-view mirror.

If you suffer from serious digestive conditions like IBS, UC (like me) or ileal pouch, try VSL#3. VSL#3 is a high-potency medical food and must be used under medical supervision. For more information on VSL#3 please visit www.vsl3.com.

To purchase VSL#3, visit http://vsl3.com/pharmacy-locator/ to find a VSL#3 in local pharmacy near you or order it online at https://shop.vsl3.com/vsl3-c2.aspx.

Don’t’ forget to print out this VSL#3 Patient Savings Card and bring it to your pharmacist, along with a prescription from your healthcare provider, to save up to $80 each month on your purchase of VSL#3 DS and up to $40 a month on VSL#3 unflavored packets. Visit here for more information and talk with your healthcare provider today to take part in the savings program!

For additional giveaways and exclusive offers, join VSL#3 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vsl3probiotic. Be sure to check out their series of videos including helpful info about managing IBS & UC at www.youtube.com/user/VSL3Probiotic.

You can find delicious low-FODMAP, IBS-friendly recipes at http://www.vsl3.com/discover/ibs-friendly-recipes/

Reference 14 Sood et al., Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 11:1202-9 (2009)

*Harris Poll conducted the GI Issues Survey on behalf of VSL#3. The survey was administered online within the United States between April 1 – 7, 2015 among 607 adult’s ages 18+ who have been diagnosed with a digestive or gastrointestinal condition, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis, ileal pouch (“sufferers”).

VSL#3® is a high-potency probiotic medical food that’s clinically proven in the dietary management of IBS, ulcerative colitis, and ileal pouch. To learn more visit www.vsl3.com and LIKE the brand on Facebook.

This is a product-provided, sponsored conversation that contains affiliate links. All opinions, text and experiences are my own. VSL#3 is a high-potency probiotic medical food for the dietary management of IBS, UC and ileal pouch and must be used under medical supervision. Please speak with your healthcare provider for any specific questions. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.





We Heart Stripes

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Jessica got craftsy with an H&M shirt for Momtastic. It must have been luck (or maybe she’s got style), but she transformed a blue and white striped shirt into a DIY off the shoulder top that’s currently hot and in-style.

http://www.momtastic.com/style/682661-diy-off-the-shoulder-top/

We love stripes of all kinds – pinstripes, seersucker, wide and thin. We’re in love with the classic stripes that scream summer, sophistication and class. If you’re not into DIYs, or don’t want to tackle this one (you can totally do it because it’s no-sew), we get it. We’ve got you covered with some fabulous finds below.

 

 

A Colorful Summer Party with Sunglasses and Ice Cream

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Summer vibes are strong in our houses right now, and it feels so good! It’s so close we can practically taste and smell all the wonderful things about summer – watermelon, cocktails on the porch, pool days and fun in the sun. The 2016/2017 school year is almost over, so we’re celebrating all the vibrant shades of summer. Nothing is brighter than ASTROBRIGHTS® Papers. Nothing is cooler than a stylish pair of sunglasses. And, nothing is sweeter than ice cream cones. All together they make one heck of a School’s Out For Summer party.

The most amazing thing about this party is that paper is the main component for all the décor. In fact, not just the décor is made of paper, the activities are primarily paper, too. Everything else – the bubbles, chalk, juice, music, candy and ice cream (the real deal, non-paper version) is just an added (but not necessary) bonus, and most can be found around the house.

It’s time to COLORIZE the start of summer, ya’ll. Here’s how to kick it off bright!

DIY Sunglasses Piñata

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Parties are just more fun with a piñata. If we had nothing but a piñata at our kid’s birthday, they would be thrilled and not notice anything else was missing. But, they can be expensive, and if you do things last-minute like us (actually, just Jessica and Jodi procrastinate, not Jenna), it costs too much to overnight ship a piñata. Luckily, we had cardboard, duct tape and ASTROBRIGHTS paper on hand to help me make the coolest piñata around town – a pair of sunglasses.

First, draw the shape of the glasses on cardboard. We used an 8×10 cut out of each lens and drew a larger tracing around it. Once everything is drawn, use an X-acto knife to cut the cardboard glasses shape. You will need a front and back, so once one pair of glasses is done, trace it on another piece of cardboard and cut it to create a second pair. Next, cut 3-inch wide strips of cardboard for the sides. Carefully bend the strips to fit the curves of the glasses.  Use small strips of duct tape (or masking tape) to secure the strip in between both pieces of cardboard glasses. We only had zebra print duct tape in our crafting bin, but we suggest using clear tape, or brown masking tape for this step. Before the entire thing is bordered, leave a small opening large enough to fit your hand in it. Drill (or punch with scissors) two small holes on top of the piñata. Insert the rope into one hole and use your hand to pull it along the inside so it can go up and out the other hole. Also, at this time, stuff the piñata with small toys and candy. Once it’s filled and the rope is attached for hanging, close up the last part of the piñata with a strip of the 3-inch cardboard and duct tape it.

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Once all the edges are securely taped, begin to cut 1.5-inch to 2 inch wide strips of paper. Use scissors to fringe the strips. Start to glue (Elmer’s Glue works here) each strip on the cardboard glasses. One crucial tip is to begin at the bottom and work your way up.

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Once the entire thing has strips of fringe, cut out two large (8×10 size each) lenses for the glasses. Add glue to the back of them, and add them to the sunglasses frame.

We used Rocket Red™ colored paper, not card stock weight, for fringe around the piñata and Eclipse Black™ for the shades. How cool are those shades? Plus, it was pure entertainment for the kids as they hit it to find the goodies inside.

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DIY Summer Vibes & Rays of Sunshine

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We don’t know about you, but we can’t get through summer without our most favorite accessory, sunglasses. Thus, those little round (or square, oval, butterfly, oblong or aviator) must-have frames were the source of inspiration for our main backdrop, the rainbow of sunglasses.

The first step is to cut out colorful frames for all the glasses. You can use an electronic cutting machine like Silhouette America Cameo to cut the glasses, or trace and cut one you find online. We used Terrestrial Teal™, Outrageous Orchid™, Sunburst Yellow™, Rocket Red™ and Martian Green™. Add Eclipse Black™ lenses behind each frame. For the rays of sunshine radiating from the sunglasses, cut 3.5 inch strips of paper. Add them to a wall, and you’ve got yourself a pretty rainbow of sunglasses. To save the wall from any paint removal, use 3M Removable Putty. It worked great.

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DIY Mini Ice Cream Parlor

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Ice cream on a hot summer day is just pure joy. Our goal was to re-create that feeling of an ice cream parlor and happiness on a summer day with an ice cream activity for the kids. We all know how quickly our children grow. We mark their height at the beginning of the school year, or when they are young, but we don’t do it at the beginning and end of the summer. We’ve never marked their height with ice cream before. Why not start now? It was a huge success – like creamy, vanilla ice cream combined with gooey, chocolaty brownies, drizzled with caramel and topped with a cherry success. Yes, it was that good, and fun!

To make the DIY paper ice cream awning, use scissors to round one side of the paper. Line them up along the wall, and use 3M Putty to hang them along the top, straight-edge part. For the awning, we used Pulsar Pink™ and Celestial Blue® colored paper.

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Trace and cut letters for the phrase, “Ice Cream As Tall As Me,” and add it to the wall under the awning. If you have a Silhouette electronic cutting machine, that will save you time, but it’s not a deal breaker for this project. Next, cut out triangles in the shape of ice cream cones. Tape the cones to the bottom of the wall. Cut out ice cream scoops 6 inches tall, which will help you give a “more accurate” estimate of each child’s height. Next, cut out sprinkles and cherries, so the kids can decorate their ice cream scoops with sprinkles, and finish their tall ice cream with a cherry on top. This was our kid’s favorite part.

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One by one the kids ran over to their cone and stacked their ice cream. If only they could actually order an ice cream this tall. One can dream, right?

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We enjoyed real ice cream shortly after the breaking of the piñata, and it was oh so yummy. The countdown is on – 17 more days of school, and then school’s out for summer! You can bet we will have our shades on!

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This post is in partnership with ASTROBRIGHTS. We were crafting with and coloring on ASTROBRIGHTS paper long before this post. It’s always been a fave product of ours. Thank you for supporting the brands that support j. sorelle. ASTROBRIGHTS was one of the first, so we are very grateful.

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means j. sorelle receives a small commission from the sale of certain items; however, the price is the same for you, whether it’s an affiliate link or not. 

DIY Paint Splatter Jeans

diy-paint-splatter-skirt

Jessica and her daughter went crazy with paint! It was the first, and maybe only time, Gabriella could throw paint around and cover her jean skirt with non-washable bright colors. It’s a must-do project for any color and paint-loving kids.

Get all the details here at Momtastic.

 

 

My Journey with Ulcerative Colitis

Most people probably can’t tell by looking at me, but I’ve battled a debilitating disease every single day for 15 years. It is all consuming, no matter how hard I try to put on a brave face. You may or may not know someone like me suffering from the same horrible gut diseases. But, today you know at least one, and that’s me.

My name is Jenna. I love wine, fashion, vintage treasures, handbags, stilettos, black and white movies, luxurious paper and going on walks. I am a 32-year-old business owner, married to the love of my life, and a blessed mom of three beautiful boys.

Here’s my story.

I was diagnosed with both Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease (CD) when I was 17 years old; UC in my small intestine and colon, and evidence of CD, but not an exact location of where. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and sores, called ulcers, in the inner lining of the large intestine, which includes the colon and the rectum. The inflammation causes erosion of the lining of the colon, leading to bleeding, production of pus, diarrhea, and severe abdominal discomfort.

Although I was young, the statistics show that my age was not uncommon. Unfortunately one of these diseases alone affects 1 in 1,000 Americans and mostly starts between the ages of 15 and 30.

I’ll never forget my first flare-up, which is the term used to describe an episode of ulcerative colitis symptoms. I was a Junior in High School. It occurred the night following my last day of finals. Just as my adrenaline was coming down from a stressful time, my immune system crashed.

My flare-ups, which typically occur at night, involve excruciating abdomen and back pain, unhealthy weight loss, loss of appetite, inability to get comfortable or be still, insomnia, diarrhea and (as of late) vomiting. I cannot walk, lie down, or sit up without crying. It is difficult for me to describe the pain; it’s like an all-consuming burning sensation in my whole body that just won’t cease. It is an extremely exhausting, frustrating, painful, hopeless and embarrassing feeling. The hardest part for me is that I can’t control it. It’s my body, yet no matter what I do, it comes on without warning, like a freight train, swift and powerful.

Following my 1 to 2 daylong flare-ups, I get what I like to call my “UC/CD hangover.” My body is exhausted, achy, sore and tender. It is very hard to function and walk, so it felt almost impossible to study, hang out with friends, and play competitive tennis. To this day, I still suffer from these day-after aches and weakness, only to fear another flare-up later the same day. It makes working and taking care of my family so much more difficult.

Around the time of my diagnosis, I remember feeling starved, from not only my disease symptoms, but also from fasting before my Endoscopy / Colonoscopy procedure that diagnosed my digestive track ulcers. I weighed about 100 pounds at the time, the lowest weight I’ve ever been. Following the procedure, my doctor told me to go home and eat anything I wanted. So, naturally as a teenager I ate bowls of macaroni and cheese and pizza. My health worsened exponentially after my procedure for many days. I had a 103 fever and painful flare-ups that lasted for several days.

Shortly after my diagnosis, I was told to take a steroid (maybe for the rest of my life). I did this for a few months, simply out of pure desperation to ease some of my symptoms. But, thanks to my very loving parents, we opted to seek out additional, more natural remedies. The natural path and MD licensed doctors told me that they didn’t want to “put a band aid on my injury,” but rather “heal it for years of remission.” I went off the steroids, and started a chelation regiment, which included IV treatments with high-potency and natural vitamins. Initially the treatment was daily, and then it was tapered down to every-week, every-other-week, every month, and finally every-other-month before I was done.

This strict IV treatment, in addition to probiotics, vitamins and diet put me into remission for a few years. My diet consisted of only grilled chicken, cooked vegetables, non-dairy fruit smoothies, and steamed brown rice. I removed sugar, raw veggies, raw fruit, wheat/gluten, dairy, potatoes, legumes and white rice from my diet completely. I was not in a full remission, but thankfully I was better. I would have occasional flare-ups (less than 10 per year), but it was a vast improvement from nightly flare-ups.

Just when I seemed to have it all figured out, I left for college, drank with friends, and ate what typical college students eat (fried food, fast food and wheat-heavy food). Just like that, all my hard work had been reversed, and the flare-ups began to happen more frequently. I wish I had made my diet and gut health a priority during my college and post-college years. But, I lived, and I learned. I learned that what I put into my body directly affects my gut, and ultimately my health and happiness.

My post college life and battle with my disease has led to another enemy in the battle for my remission – stress. Research shows that although stress doesn’t cause ulcerative colitis, it can make your signs and symptoms worse and may trigger flare-ups. I can personally attest that when I am stressed and/or neglect my needs, I get sick immediately and begin a cycle of flare-ups. I have an extreme Type-A personality, which makes me susceptible to high stress. Recently, the stress levels in my life have increased (marriage, 3 children under the age of 5, opening a boutique store only to close it 3 years later, maintaining a graphic design and printing business and building a house), which means my health has taken a back seat.

I don’t want to be curled up in a ball at a party anymore. I don’t want to be throwing up all night, while my kids sleep, anymore. I don’t want to urgently run to the bathroom all day long anymore. I don’t want to live in fear and miss out on social events anymore. I know this seems like an ideological, unobtainable goal for someone with my disease, but I will fight to even get a small percentage of a better life. If I don’t have my health, I have nothing. And, with an amazing husband and kids (plus a dog, who also has Ulcerative Colitis as well – go figure), I have too much to live for.

Thus, for the last few years, I have committed to a strict wheat-free and dairy-free diet again to get my health back on track.

My mom always told me probiotics were essential to my health (in fact, they are essential to everyone’s health), and based on the research, my mom was right. However, I have learned that not all probiotics and bacterial strains are the same1, which is why I’m so excited about VSL#3. VSL#3 is a high-potency probiotic medical food that is clinically proven in the dietary management of the serious digestive issues irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis (UC) and ileal pouch and must be used under medical supervision.

VSL#3′s unique synergistic composition, with eight diverse strains of bacteria, makes it one of the most potent probiotics in the world. VSL#3 is 10 times more potent than the average probiotic (average CFU = 15.5 billion). The average probiotic (according to IRI data 09/12) contains about 4.3 billion CFU.

I live in fear of my disease from the minute I wake up until the minute I go to bed. But, I’m incredibly hopeful that adding VSL#3 to my daily routine can help me manage my UC symptoms. Bring on the good bacteria! I want to feel stronger, healthier, and more functional without the painful, embarrassing symptoms. My disease will never go away without a cure, but if I can manage my symptoms day-to-day, and live a healthy, more energetic life to keep up with my family, I win.

I’ll be trying VSL#3 every day for the next three weeks, and tracking my symptoms as the weeks progress. Check out my second post after three weeks to read about my results! I hope you join me on my journey #VSL3TheJourneyBack.

If you suffer from serious digestive conditions like IBS, UC (like me) or ileal pouch and have tried general probiotics found on the pharmacy shelf without success, you may want to try a serious probiotic, such as VSL#3. It’s worth trying, right?! I’m looking forward to seeing the difference. VSL#3 is kept refrigerated behind the pharmacy counter, which preserves and maintains the high potency and vitality of the carefully designed formulation of billions of bacteria.

Interested in trying VSL#3? Now you can take part in VSL#3′s new Patient Savings Program. Simply print out this VSL#3 Patient Savings Card and bring it to your pharmacist, along with a prescription from your healthcare provider, to save up to $80 each month on your purchase of VSL#3 DS and up to $40 a month on VSL#3 unflavored packets. This is the largest savings ever offered for both VSL#3 and VSL#3 DS. Visit here for more information and talk with your healthcare provider today to take part in the savings program!

For more information on VSL#3 please visit www.vsl3.com

For giveaways and exclusive offers, join VSL#3 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vsl3probiotic. Be sure to check out their series of videos including helpful info about managing IBS & UC at www.youtube.com/user/VSL3Probiotic.

You can find delicious low-FODMAP, IBS-friendly recipes at http://www.vsl3.com/discover/ibs-friendly-recipes/

1Reference: Bertazzoni, et al. Journal of Chemotherapy.25.4.193-212 (2013); Fedorak RN, J Clin Gastroenterol. 42:S3; S111-115 (2008); Lammers KM, et al. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 38:165-72 (2003)

VSL#3® is a high-potency probiotic medical food that’s clinically proven in the dietary management of IBS, ulcerative colitis, and ileal pouch. To learn more visit www.vsl3.com and LIKE the brand on Facebook

This is a product-provided, sponsored conversation that contains affiliate links. All opinions, text and experiences are my own. VSL#3 is a high-potency probiotic medical food for the dietary management of IBS, UC and ileal pouch and must be used under medical supervision. Please speak with your healthcare provider for any specific questions. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.