#808moms: Colon health is (mostly) no joke

When I was 28, I had a colonoscopy.

As a woman who goes to the doctor often, I have to say the colonoscopy was one of the easiest procedures I’ve been through. Unfortunately, I had to get really sick before I made a lifestyle change. I’m more of a scared straight kind of person.

Now that I’m pregnant again, I’m more aware of my colon health. If I hadn’t had that colonoscopy more than 11 years ago, I wouldn’t be eating greater amounts of fruits and veggies today.

denise plate editMost pregnant women have a shift in hormones that causes slower digestion. This causes constipation and gas, so my already slow system comes to a standstill with the iron supplements my doctor has recommended for my anemia. It’s a good thing that I’m a little more aware of my body now and I eat accordingly. It really doesn’t take a lot to make healthier choices: an apple here, broccoli in the stir fry, brown rice when I’m not eating with my hubby, hogging all the fruit in any buffet (sorry folks, my colon needs it).

I realized I needed to make these changes after a health scare in my late 20s.

I was burned out and my weight was at its highest. I’d been a teacher for the past six years and decided I needed a change. To treat myself before I made a career move, I decided to take a two-week trip to Disney World Florida. During the trip, my stomach was slightly upset.

Progressively over the next month or so, I started to get cramps every time I ate and would have to run to the bathroom. I couldn’t even look at food without feeling nauseated. I was also dropping weight fast. In total, I lost about 30 pounds in a month or two. I was terrified that I might have cancer or something really bad.

denise plate edit 2I didn’t have health insurance with my job yet. Out of desperation, I called a clinic, paid cash, and saw a doctor. He ran a bunch of labs and thought I had an infection in my colon. He gave me a  10-day cycle of strong antibiotics. He warned that this would eliminate both the bad and good bacteria in my colon and I would need probiotics. So, I did the treatment and it stopped the infection.

As soon as I had insurance coverage, I saw a gastroenterologist. He recommended a colonoscopy and abdominal ultrasound. The prep for the colonoscopy was the worst part. I had to drink a gallon of salty-tasting water that completely cleans out your digestive system. But the colonoscopy itself was easy. A nurse gave me conscious sedation. I had a nice nap and woke up to the doc saying he was almost done. I looked up at a TV screen of my exam and saw my intestines. A tiny clamp was taking a small bite of tissue from my colon while my doc was telling me that they were doing a small biopsy for further testing. Then he said I was done and I was wheeled into another room to recover. There, a very sweet nurse said that I was supposed to pass gas and to not be ashamed, which made me burst out laughing.

The gastroenterologist said I had two conditions:  a mild fatty liver that showed up on the ultrasound and diverticulosis, which was found from the colonoscopy. Diverticulosis is common in people over 50, most likely from years of having a low-fiber American diet. Small pouches form on the side of your colon and when the pouches become infected, as mine did, it’s called diverticulitis. Because of my constant indulgence in cheap, low-fiber food while growing up, I had an older person’s colon. The fatty liver also confirmed that I hadn’t been eating well.

From that moment on, I watched my fiber intake, drank more water, exercised a little more, and took a daily dose of Metamucil fiber.

While everyone has their own health obstacles, we shouldn’t live in fear of them. Getting the help you need to figure out how to make a few small changes for the better will ensure you avoid complications later.

For more information on colorectal screening for HMSA members, head here: www.hmsa.com\KB00200.

#808moms is an occasional series from blogger (and mom) Denise Lau focusing on the triumphs and challenges of motherhood. Continue the #808moms discussion with us on Twitter and Facebook!

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