Friday, August 28, 2015

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Part 1 :My Story

by Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND

Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella diagnosis that refers to chronic inflammatory conditions that affect the lining of the intestine, with Crohn's disease (CD) and Ulcerative colitis (UC) being the two main branches.   This disease process disrupts the body's ability to digest food, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste.  

IBD is prevalent now more than ever, especially in Canada.  One in every 150 Canadians is living with CD or UC - a rate that ranks highest world-wide.  Most alarming to me is the number of new cases of CD in Canadian children has almost doubled since 1995.

This disease can be very disruptive, isolating, exhausting and debilitating.  With symptoms like bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, bowel urgency, nausea, vomiting, weight fluctuations, anemia and the worst fatigue you can imagine, it can very well feel like life won't ever be the same.  

The conventional medical system looks at IBD as being idiopathic, which means that there is no reason for onset other than possibly genetics. Hearing that there is "simply no reason" can make people feel helpless as to what can be done to put them into remission and keep them there.   Naturopathic Medicine does not subscribe to this thought process. As a ND I believe that IBD has a root cause that needs to be addressed and that there can be multiple blockages that are internal and external, which can prevent someone from healing.   Over the next 12 months I have decided to write about the main factors that are contributing  to the increase in incidence of IBD, as well as what can be done from a naturopathic perspective to promote healing and hope.  

I am using my first post in this 12 part series to explain how the word hope started me on my journey to becoming a Naturopathic Doctor who has a passion and special interest in IBD.

I was 18 years old when I started my first year of my undergraduate degree in biology.  I had moved to Alberta from Toronto and, like many young adults, this was my first time away from home.  I was excited and motivated to do my best in school so that I could pursue a career in the medical field.  

Slowly through my first year I noticed I wasn't feeling the same.  My energy was lower, I lost my appetite, would have constant stomach pain, and "The Freshman 15" weight gain everyone talks about, was more like " The Freshman minus 15" for me.  I started noticing changes in my stools, especially mucus, but had no idea what that meant and  I sure wasn't going to start talking about it with my friends because I thought it would just go away.  

I remember the night that I couldn't ignore it anymore.  I had ended up passing out after a very painful bloody bowel movement.  It was the first time the pain was that intense and the first time I noticed blood.  I was taken to the hospital in Calgary where they did a colonoscopy.  The reports came back clear and that everything was normal.  Needless to say, everything was not normal.  Later, when I returned to Toronto for the summer, I was put on a course of antibiotics that made all my symptoms worse and this was the beginning of my first "Flare". 

I was diagnosed with Moderate UC and told that I would have this disease for the rest of my life.  The options put to me by my 1st Gastro-Intestinal specialist were "medication, then if that doesn't work more medication, then if that doesn't work, more serious medication, and if that doesn't work we would have to cut your colon out, maybe just a piece, or the whole thing, which in that case you would have to have a bag attached to your abdomen for the rest of your life." I remember feeling devastated, like I would never have the life I wanted.  I was 19 years old at this point and never had been seriously sick before. So now to be told I would have this for the rest of my life felt hopeless.  

I decided to do what I was told and take the medications that were prescribed for the next 3 months. My main symptoms got better for a month but didn't hold.  I packed my bags and decided to go back to school for as long as I could.  When I returned to school, I was lucky enough to have the Women's Dean looking out for me.  She told me that she had a friend in the community that was a Naturopathic Doctor and he would be willing to see me.  Within our first meeting he changed my diet, talked to me about my emotional state, which I had never explored before and prescribed a solid supplement regime.  Over the next couple of weeks I literally saw and felt my body change.  By the time I was home for Christmas that year my symptoms had cleared and I was better than my old self.

My UC story definitely does not end there as I had many more lessons to learn about how true health is obtained and maintained on the physical and the emotional level.   This was, however, the beginning of my journey to becoming a Naturopathic Doctor.  When my patients ask me why I became a ND, my answer is always "Hope."  I decided when I went into remission that if I could give one person the hope that life could be more than a disease and that we have the ability to change and heal, then that's what I wanted my life's work to be about.  

If you are interested in learning more about the Naturopathic approach to IBD please contact me at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment or schedule a 15 minute meet and greet that can be done in person or over the phone.