Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
is most often diagnosed in young people. It is a truly life-altering diagnosis, made even more complicated by a stressful time in your life -- college. If you're newly diagnosed with IBD at college, you'll want to take things slow and learn about your disease and how it affects you. This could mean curtailing social activities or scaling back your work and class schedule, at least for a little while. Here are some of the bigger problems you'll face as a young person with IBD, and some tips on how you can work through them.
This is a huge part of a young person's life, and a digestive condition like IBD makes it more difficult. The good news is: You can absolutely date. You will just want to be a little discriminating, and you'll want to pick the right time to go out. What is the right time? When your disease is giving you a breather, whether that's a particular time of day or during a period of remission -- it's up to you. You will need to pick and choose your social outings, and you'll want to plan appropriately to make sure you have a good time.
Getting Proper Medical Care
If you are going away to school, you'll want to take advantage of the healthcare options that your college provides. Larger schools will have a health center, and smaller schools may have a relationship with a local health center. This will likely be your first line of defense when you feel run down, or are experiencing an unusual symptom. In the event that you need more care than what the health center can provide, you'll need the name of a local gastroenterologist or internist who has experience with IBD. Remember to keep your regular doctors in your hometown apprised of what's going on with your health. They're the ones who are most familiar with you and your IBD.
There are going to be times when you're not feeling well enough to attend class. Unfortunately, not everyone is understanding of chronic illness, especially when it happens to a young person. Most people are used to teenagers and young adults enjoying good health, and IBD is the type of illness that's not visible to the casual observer. You'll want to face this situation head on before it even becomes a problem. If you know you are currently struggling with your health, let your professors know, and start a dialogue right away. You don't want to suddenly be missing from class without warning. Besides that, your education is valuable, and you don't want it to be in jeopardy when there is a way to work through issues with IBD and absenteeism.
Nutrition and Eating in the Cafeteria
You may not think of the college cafeteria as a very forgiving place for someone with IBD. However, if you're eating most of your meals in one, you'll need to know how to get the nutrition you need to stay well. You'll want to stay away from high-fat and fried foods, as well as foods that cause excess gas or may cause diarrhea. If your cafeteria doesn't offer enough of the types of foods that you need, you'll want to contact the nutritional experts at your school. It is in everyone's best interest to have high-quality, healthful foods for the students, and your school will want to hear from you about the nutritional challenges you face.
College students tend to have poor diets, but you really can't afford to let this part of your life slip when you have IBD. Nutrition is a key aspect to keeping yourself healthy and your disease in check. There may be times when you are on a restricted diet
, and there may be other times when you feel you can pretty much eat what you want. You'll want to be with your friends, but you also don't want to overindulge and make yourself sick. Again, you'll want to be prepared for where you're going and what the menu will be. Don't be caught by surprise and be tempted into eating something you shouldn't, out of hunger or because you're looking to be sociable.
Roommates and Housemates
One of the best (and the worst) things about going away to school is the people you will live with. You may know them already -- or you may not. In either case, you'll come to find out that living with someone is a far cry from just being friends. When you have IBD you sometimes need to use the bathroom many, many times a day. On occasion, it will be an emergency. Anyone you're living with will need to have a little understanding and patience with your disease. You can bring them around if you approach the situation with a good attitude and some simple explanations about life with IBD.