My Story

My IBD and IgA Story

My inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) journey hit the 20-year mark in January 2023. In early 2003, my intestines started to bleed and I began my long battle with intense abdominal pain, mucus, and IBD flares. After a few months of worrying about the blood I noticed in the toilet coming from my colon, I went to the college health clinic that April and told the doctor at the clinic about my symptoms. I was extremely embarrassed at the time, still in my early 20s, and it took me those few months to work up the courage to talk to someone.

After a brief exam, however, I was told I had an anal fissure and was sent on my way. I managed my symptoms on my own — and tried to hide them as best I could — for the next three years. In 2006, I had my first major IBD flare of uncontrollable bloody diarrhea that lasted for over three months. I was going to the bathroom so frequently that I didn’t feel that I could make it to the hospital to see a doctor without having diarrhea in my car, so I stayed at home and hid from the world. I eventually saw a doctor in December 2006 and had my first colonoscopy in February 2007. 

Stephanie Gish with her Pill Cam
Showing off my pill cam

Since so much time had passed between the onset of my flare and my colonoscopy, my symptoms had already begun to settle down. The gastroenterologist didn’t give me a diagnosis at that time, but continued to see me as a regular patient for the next few years. I struggled to manage my symptoms on my own after that, and did so primarily with Tylenol and Imodium. My gastroenterologist did a pill cam and colonoscopy in 2008, but felt my diagnosis was still inconclusive. Finally in 2009, after another colonoscopy, my doctor diagnosed me as having ulcerative colitis and then later updated the diagnosis in April 2010 to Crohn’s colitis based on my clinical history and colonoscopy reports. 

After diagnosis, I tried a variety of medications from mesalamine tablets to a combination therapy of Imuran and Humira. I stayed on medications for about four years, underwent frequent colonoscopies, and then started my journey of trying to remain in remission through diet and lifestyle. Over the years, I ventured down various dietary paths that had me fermenting vegetables at home, drinking raw milk, and even going full carnivore. I read as many books as I could and followed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the low-FODMAP diet, ketogenic diets, and countless others. I then incorporated intermittent fasting into my lifestyle, along with meditation, mindfulness, and various supplements. I swapped my gym membership for at-home workout equipment, including a Cellercise rebounder, and settled into a routine that felt balanced.

Stephanie Gish in hospital bed just after kidney biopsy
Right after my kidney biopsy

I had a few hiccups after coming off medications, but have remained in remission for the better part of six years. Though my IBD is well-controlled a this moment, I had a kidney biopsy in January 2021 that confirmed IgA nephropathy. As I’ve learned to navigate life with IBD, I am prepared to do the same with kidney disease. I now take medication to help control proteinuria (protein in my urine) to protect my kidneys and will continue focusing on quality food, fitness, and other lifestyle practices to reduce stress and help me maintain a positive outlook and mindset. 

While almost half of my life has been spent battling IBD, I have not let it stop it my from living life to the fullest. I’ve learned to adapt and overcome and spent many years traveling to different countries, living in multiple states, and following my passions everywhere I go.

—Stephanie Gish

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