Monday, May 1, 2017

Ulcerative Colitis + Entyvio Update

I’ve partnered with VSL#3 to bring you this post. As always, the opinions expressed are my own. Thank you for supporting CNC! 

A bunch of you guys have asked how things are going on the Ulcerative Colitis front. I’ve actually debated writing this post for several weeks now because pretty much every time I write an update, things fall apart. (I even hesitate to tell friends and family when they ask!) I feel like I always jinx myself when I share good news, but *hopefully* it’s not the case this time.

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Ok, so a quick recap for those of you who are new to my journey with Ulcerative Colitis:

  • June 2011: First diagnosed with UC after a bad flare. Get better. Stop taking meds.
  • February 2012: Second flare. Get better. Stop taking meds. (Clearly, I don’t learn.)
  • July 2012: Third flare. Stay on meds this time, but I become steroid-dependent. Go on and off steroids to control flare symptoms for the next 14 months. During this time, I try all sorts of things to fix myself with no luck.
  • September 2013: Get pregnant. All UC symptoms go away for 9 glorious months.
  • May 2014: Minor flare. Try all the usual 5-ASA drugs with no luck and eventually go back on steroids.
  • June 2014: Give birth. All flare symptoms go away.
  • July 2014: Start flaring again. Do the usual med game with no luck and eventually go back on steroids.
  • November 2014: I’m in rough shape (going the bathroom 30 times a day/feel like I’m bleeding to death). I finally decide to go on an IV prescription drug.
  • December 2014: After the loading doses, I finally feel better. The drug never puts me in remission, but I’m doing a lot better.
  • December 2015: I start having scary side effects from the drug (swollen lymph nodes), and it’s pretty much stopped working.
  • February 2016: I start a new IV prescription drug. It initially works (loading doses), but then my symptoms come back, not as bad, but I’m still pretty sick. My doctor says it can take up to 5 months to work, so I try a different prescription drug (one I’ve tried in the past) and other topical drugs to keep things manageable.
  • July/August 2016: Boom, I’m in remission! The first time in 5+ years!

Since the summer (*knock on wood*), when the second prescription medication finally kicked in, I’ve been in remission. I’m no longer using the bathroom a dozen times a day or feel like I’m bleeding to death. Overall, I feel really good, and I want to STAY this way, which is why I am so glad that VSL#3 reached out to me about participating in their #VSL3TheJourneyBack campaign. UC is a serious digestive condition and not fun at all, so I want to do everything in my power to keep my gut happy and healthy.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about probiotics recently. They’re just about everywhere nowadays—in dietary supplements, yogurt, kombucha, and even bottled water. Probiotics are important for keeping your digestive track healthy, and, although everyone responds differently to probiotics, there are specific qualities that can affect how well it will work and not all probiotics are the same. When it comes to serious digestive issues, you need a serious probiotic.

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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. To manage these conditions, doctors recommend using a probiotic like VSL#3 to get the necessary amount of live bacteria to make a difference in your gut health. Other brands that you can buy over the counter, don’t have nearly as many. 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. VSL#3 formulations contain from 225 billion to 900 billion bacteria per serving (available by prescription).

Not all probiotics and bacterial strains are the same[1] . If you suffer from a serious digestive condition and have tried general probiotics without success, you may want to try VSL#3. 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. It has eight different strains of bacteria, which makes it one of the most potent probiotics in the world and adding this specific combination of probiotic bacteria can help you manage your unhealthy gut.

VSL#3 has actually been the subject of 170 studies and is proven to be beneficial in the dietary management of UC, IBS, and ileal pouch. Guys, there’s scientific evidence that shows it’s a probiotic that works, so I’m hoping it helps me maintain remission for a long, long time. I’ll document my experience with VSL#3 over the next 30 days, and I’ll share the details via blog and video on CNC!

Additional information that you might find helpful:

Question of the Day

Do you take probiotics? What has your experience been with them?

P.S. 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!

Reference: [1] 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.








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Sunday + Beyond

^^Pre soccer pancake breakfast! Fueling up!

I had an 11 am game yesterday and played another half with the team after us, all in 90-ish degrees. It was super hot, and I ran about 8 miles during the two games. Taking a rest day today! I drank a bottle of water enhanced with Vega Hydration followed by a Hydroflask of ice water, and then came home to enjoy this cold, refreshing smoothie bowl around 2 pm. It included banana, milk, yogurt, frozen berries and Vega Coconut Almond.

My bum foot was on fire and throbbing after all the soccer on a bumpy, poorly kept field, so I iced it in the hammock later that afternoon and again that evening. Not a bad view!

It was such a gorgeous evening that T and I enjoyed cocktail hour on the deck with some cheese and crackers (because I was too hungry to make it to dinner!) and reading material : )

And for dinner we made Blue Apron Spiced Beef Pitas with arugula salad.

We are still working our way through Westworld, although it’s getting quite complicated! (It doesn’t help that I fall asleep every time we watch it – eek!)

This morning I had to roll my foot all over this well-loved Yoga Tune-Up ball before I could get out of bed. I got this years ago, and it’s such a life saver if you have foot problems or pressure points on your back that need a good massage. I keep one in my car too!

For breakfast I am leftover smoothie (I made a ton yesterday) mixed with yogurt and granola on top.

Hope you all have a great start to the week!

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Dear Mark: Superfoods, Plants for Pollution, Raw Liver Danger, and Irradiated ‘tsticles

Superfood: Spoons of various superfoods on wooden backgroundFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m addressing four questions and comments from readers. First up, do I subscribe to the idea of superfoods? If so, what do I like? If no, what do I consider “super”? Next, we know that plants—house plants, garden plants, trees—can absorb pollution and release stress-lowering odors. Is there an optimal arrangement of flora to achieve these goals? After that, I address a reader comment about the dangers of eating raw liver, followed by an intrepid reader who found the reference for the sunbathing testicle study from last week.

Let’s go:

I would like to know what you think about super foods and/ or your favorite superfoods you use?

I don’t generally go for “superfoods.” The goji berries hand-picked by Tibetan lamas and placed in their armpits to salt-cure on a sweaty mountain ascent. The 110%-cacao cacao nibs, the raw maca root you gnaw and try to convince yourself is delicious, the heritage chia seeds cultivated from Moctezuma’s own personal stash.

It’s not that those foods don’t possess some interesting, helpful qualities. They’re generally very nutritious. But you’re not going to eat them that often (who else has a half dozen mostly-full bags of random Navitas Naturals produts in their pantry?), and eating them once in a blue moon won’t give you any superpowers.

I think many foods are super, though. Foods like wild salmon, egg yolks, liver, dark chocolate, purple potatoes, turmeric, fatty fish, aged cheese, various ferments are excellent “supplemental foods” (hat tip to Paul Jaminet)—foods with proven benefits and broad appeal in the kitchen. Even some common staples like garlic, onions, and ginger have incredible support in the scientific literature for their health benefits. These are the “superfoods” you should focus on because they’re time-tested, they’re easy to integrate into your diet, and they actually work. Don’t reject the goji berries and maca, mind you. Just don’t base your diet around them, and don’t think occasional consumption will supercharge your health.

Hi Mark, (not really nutrition, but paleo nonetheless) I would love your take on plants clearing pollution at home (and some details on the best combinations perhaps) and plants that give off plant odours that reduce stress.

This is a two parter. First, which plants reduce pollution?

The easy answer is: probably all of them. One way plants reduce pollution is by trapping it. I mean that quite literally. The major reason trees, grass, and other types of flora reduce airborne particulates is that the particulates attach themselves to the foliage. They become repositories for the pollution. This is different from metabolizing the pollution and rendering it inert. The pollution is still there. It’s just not getting to you.

A recent paper reviewed the determinants of how much particulate matter gets deposited:

  • Conifers can accept more deposits than deciduous trees.
  • Needles accept more than broad leaves.
  • Pine accepts more than yew and ivy, but less than juniper.
  • Leaves with more “hair” and wax accept more deposits.

When we’re talking about airborne chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia, certain plants actually filter them. Lucky for us, NASA did a comprehensive study to determine the specific detox abilities of various plants. Check the list and see what works for you.

As for the second question, once again, almost everything probably works.

The forest bathing research out of Japan suggests as much. Forest bathing lowers stress, reduces hypertension, improves immune function, and lowers blood sugar whether the forest is cedar, hiba, oak, or beech. And followup studies using cypress oil, cedar wood chips, cedar interior walls (which is relevant, as many Japanese homes are made of cedar) have all found similar effects. You could probably use a sack of cedar mulch from the nursery.

Those are trees, though. It’s not exactly feasible to grow a redwood or cedar tree in your house. What about house plants? This paper (PDF) found that geraniums, chrystanthemums, cyperus, and begonias were all potent sources of phytoncides—the stress-relieving plant odors. Other studies have shown that lavender and rosemary aroma can reduce cortisol and improve free radical scavenging, or that a combo of lavender, rosemary, clary sage, and peppermint aromas reduce perceived stress in university students.

The real key might be interacting with the plant—any plant. In one study, young adults found that simply transplanting house plants from one pot to another reduced physiological and subjective markers of stress by quieting the sympathetic nervous system.

Now, for some loose ends from last week.

Whenever the subject of raw liver consumption comes up, I want to shout THINK TWICE. I contracted campylobacteriosis from adding raw chicken liver to a smoothie. Yes, I’d been regularly consuming raw beef, lamb, and chicken liver for months with nothing but positive, energy-boosting results. Yes, I’d frozen this particular batch of fresh, localyl-sourced liver for a few weeks before consuming it, but this time, the bacteria survived the freeze. I, who hadn’t contracted so much as a cold in years, got very, very ill, and two courses of antibiotics were necessary to wipe out the infection. More than two years later, my digestion is still not 100 percent. Never again for me. Think twice.

Great comment. Thanks for writing it.

It is indeed a risk. While deep freezing is pretty good at killing parasites in fish, it’s mostly ineffective against pathogenic bacteria like e. coli or salmonella. Those are hardy bacteria.

I’ve never had an issue with raw liver. Then again, I don’t eat raw liver on a regular basis (I prefer it cooked), and I get it from the same place each time (a source I trust). For what it’s worth, if I didn’t know the provenance of my liver, I wouldn’t eat it raw.

Here’s the study that you were looking for, Mark:
“Ultraviolet Irradiation and Sex Hormones in the Male” by Abraham Myerson and Rudolph Neustadt
Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease: February 1940 – Volume 91 – Issue 2 – p228

That’s the one. Thank you!

That’s it for today, everyone. Take care, let me know what you think down below, and thanks for reading!

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Weekend: Friday + Saturday

^^another cool face!!!

How was your weekend?! We had perfect weather and lots of chill downtime at home.

Friday night T, M and I walked downtown for dinner. We have a new playroom in Cville called Little Planets and they were hosting a drop-off date-night event, so Mazen and Sylvia set up a date there for the evening. The playroom has both open play and drop-off sessions during the day and select evenings. I love that you can drop off for an hour while you run some errands or get a drink for up to 3 hours. The space is beautiful, and Mazen and Sylvia had a great time!

T and I went to Hamilton’s for its people-watching patio. I had the Leese-Fitch Chardonnay and we shared the shrimp and grits and the crabcakes. Both were sooo good!!

This is how I wake up every morning – lots of snuggling!

We didn’t have much time for breakfast because we had to get to soccer by 9, so I had an oatmeal bar and a Siggi’s to get me going.

The shirt dress!!

After soccer we came home and played around the house all day. We started with arts & crafts.

Coloring sure is relaxing!

We followed that by Play-doh fun. This one is black glitter, and we have a birthday cake one too with colorful “sprinkles.”

I had a big salad with roasted veggies and cheese for lunch –

Mazen went over to the neighbors to play for a bit, and I spent some time staring at my living room shelves and trying to edit them a bit. I also moved the appliances out from under the gray piece in the kitchen because they were getting a little too much dog hair on them! I put two baskets there instead (that now store dog items and shoes) and put vintage boxes on the living room shelves where the baskets were. Musical baskets!

Look at my rose bush!!

We have a new hydrangea plant that needs to find a spot this weekend : )

My friend Emily came over to hang out for a while, and we made late-afternoon cocktails with kombucha, lemon, bourbon and rosé! (My new favorite shorts.)

Mazen decided to do some “work” in the office. He had the news on and everything!

The boys went to the garden shop for tomato plants, and I had 45 minutes to read a magazine and snooze. Epic! (Cottages and Bungalows is one of my favorites.)

For dinner we made this recipe and I opened this wine. One thing I love about Winc are the great labels! They make great party gifts. You can let the company send you your monthly bottles or you can pick them out yourself (and add more) and I always get the ones with great labels like this one or the #TBT series.

We spent the evening sitting on the deck star gazing (and some of us were watching hockey through the windows…) We had a slight breeze in the air, and if I closed my eyes it felt like I was on the deck of a beach house. The ocean is callllllling!

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