Monday, 16 June 2014

My Story

Hi everyone, my name is Aimee, and welcome to my new blog! Belly Burdens is a lifestyle blog designed for people with Ulcerative Colitis and/or Fructose Malabsorption, or for people who know someone in a similar situation.

To start with, let me tell you my story.

Since my early teenage years, due to the increasingly unstable nature of my bowel, food and I have had an uneasy relationship. (I now believe this is part of the reason for my aversion to cooking, but that's another story.) My problems with food are largely due to a combination of two things: Ulcerative Colitis and Fructose Malabsorption. I am also mildly lactose intolerant. I have been told by my doctor that this kind of combination is quite common, as one often leads to the other.


I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) when I was 17 years old. This was after I discovered blood when going to the toilet. (I won't go into too many details about that part, other than to say it was not menstrual blood, and I didn't have a urinary tract infection either - I think you can probably work it out for yourselves what happened right?) After my first (and as I would later find out, certainly not my last) colonoscopy, the diagnosis was confirmed. To say I was shocked was an understatement - my first thought was something like “Wow, I have a chronic disease, how is that possible?” I was told that I was lucky, as it was unusual to discover this kind of disease at such a young age. But I didn’t feel lucky - I just was worried enough about surviving high school, and now I had this to deal with as well?!

UC is the less severe form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. As I was glad to find out, UC is reasonably easy to treat, and my case is a very mild one. In fact, I am happy to report that the last time I had a colonoscopy, my doctor said that they could hardly see any signs of the disease, so clearly the medication is doing its job! It does, however, still cause my digestive tract to be unstable most of the time, and my belly often makes funny gurgling noises - I hardly notice them anymore, but sometimes I can get funny looks from others! On bad days, I can also get incredibly painful stomach cramps, but fortunately this does not happen very often.

I am currently managing my UC by taking a medication called Pentasa, with a dosage of one 500mg tablet with food three times daily (NB: Pentasa must be taken with food as it can quickly cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach). Pentasa can affect your white blood cell count, so I must take regular blood tests (usually I aim for every 2-3 months), and because it is an Aspirin-based medication, I cannot take Aspirin for headaches - but of course there are plenty of other options. I also need to have a colonoscopy every 2-3 years to make sure that the disease is still under control.


A few years later, mid-way through my university degree, I gradually started to notice that even with my UC medication, I was still experiencing significant discomfort after eating, including stomach aches, bloating, and reflux, and it was becoming increasingly severe and frequent. In fact, I have had problems with reflux since my early teenage years, however as I could never pin point the exact cause, I had learned to deal with it. At first I noticed that the effects seem to be worse after eating bread, so I avoided eating bread as much as I could. Doing this helped, but the symptoms still did not completely go away.

After a year or so of this, I went to see my doctor, and he booked me in for all of the tests – hydrogen breath tests for fructose and lactose sensitivity, and a bowel biopsy for Coeliac Disease. The test for Coeliac Disease was negative, and I had a very low reading for lactose, but my reading for fructose was through the roof, meaning that I had Fructose Malabsorption (FM). At first I was relieved, as I at least knew now what the problem was – and I was glad that I didn't have to give my beloved milk and cheese! However, when I then found out which foods contained fructose, my heart sank - it was in nearly everything. 

That was nearly two years ago. I now know that while it is not easy and takes a lot of time, money and effort, FM is manageable - but more about that later. At the time, the best piece of advice I was given was by a dietician, who told me to remember that despite how uncomfortable you are feeling, foods containing fructose does not hurt you, and are not life threatening. If you have just found out that you have FM, I hope this helps put things into perspective for you as well.

Have you had a similar experiences? Please comment below, I would love to hear your stories!


Up until recently, I really have just been doing the bare minimum to manage my UC and FM, just taking my medicine and trying to avoid consuming foods with high fructose, as I decided that I did not want to allow these things to disrupt my life too much. However, in the last year, I have gradually begun to gain weight, and have had issues with vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, and generally just feeling unhealthy, so clearly this approach is not working for me.

I have therefore decided that starting from now on, I am going to put more effort into properly managing my diet and focusing more on my health in general, and I am hoping that doing this blog will help to keep me motivated in this. I also hope that my accounts of this journey and the experiences I have had will help all of you, my readers. I would appreciate any and all feedback or input, so please do not hesitate to comment on my posts, or contact me via social media. :-)

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