Tina Haupert, cookbook author, creator of the popular blog Carrots ‘N’ Cake, and co-owner of Designed to Fit Nutrition and Nutrition House Software, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2011 in her early 30s. After trying a variety of treatments, from medications to alternative therapies to diets, she’s been in remission since 2016. Being a blogger and recipe developer — not to mention wife and mother — in addition to exercising regularly (her blog began as a weight-loss journal) and starting a customized meal plan and nutrition coaching service keeps Haupert going constantly. Somehow, she found the time to tell us about her journey to health.
PFL: Receiving a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis (UC) can take some time, given that there’s no definitive test. What was your experience like?
TH: Ulcerative colitis came out of nowhere for me. Prior to my diagnosis, I was super healthy. I never got sick — I rarely even had a stuffy nose! Then, out of the blue, I started having diarrhea. At first, I didn’t think much of it; maybe I just ate something that didn’t agree with me. A couple of weeks later, my husband and I drove to a friend’s wedding about three hours away, and I must have asked him to stop a half dozen times. At the actual wedding, I probably excused myself just as many times to find a bathroom, and that’s when I started to notice mucus and blood in my stool. At that point, I knew I needed to see a doctor. The next week, I had a flexible sigmoidoscopy and my ulcerative colitis diagnosis came shortly after that.
PFL: What’s your current treatment routine, and how are you managing UC?
TH: Knock on wood, I’m currently in remission, thanks to Entyvio, an infusion that I receive at the hospital every eight to nine weeks. I pay attention to what I eat and avoid certain foods when I can. Several months ago, I did the LEAP protocol [a food sensitivity eating plan] and have had success with (finally) identifying what foods make my [gastrointestinal] symptoms worse.
PFL: I’ve read that you credit regular workouts for your ulcerative colitis remission. Did you work out before your diagnosis? How has it helped you?
TH: I was active my entire life and even ran a marathon just a few months before my diagnosis, so there was no way I was going to stop exercising. Of course, I love the post-workout endorphins, but I also love feeling like a normal, healthy person (and not feeling bad for myself). Exercise shows me what my body CAN do instead of focusing on where it’s deficient.
PFL: Your blog is full of fantastic-looking and -sounding recipes. What foods do you have to avoid so you don’t have a flare? What are your favorite “good” substitutes for “bad” ingredients?
TH: I don’t eat much red meat nowadays. (It never really agreed with me, and then the LEAP test confirmed it.) I also avoid wheat, highly processed foods, fried foods, and artificial sweeteners. I try to avoid wheat, so some of my favorite substitutions are rice and rice products, so I don’t miss out on some of my favorite foods. Some favorites: rice cakes, rice crackers, rice cereals (like Chex). I also love using sliced sweet potato as “toast.” I also add marine collagen to my iced coffee, oatmeal, and other foods for some added protein. Collagen has gut-healing properties.
PFL: You’re so active and positive. Do you have any advice for others about how to live well with ulcerative colitis?
TH: Find a doctor [whom] you trust and respect. This is always my number-one piece of advice. I love my current [gastrointestinal] doctor and only have wonderful things to say about him. I respect him so much and trust that he has my best interests in mind. He listens. He’s compassionate and caring (he always gives me a hug when I see him) and he has a great sense of humor, which, of course, helps navigate this crappy disease. He also tells me to drink wine, so we’re definitely on the same page.
LIVE your life… You have so little control over your body, so it’s easy to use the disease as an excuse to miss out on life and blame everything and everyone around you, including yourself, for what is happening to you. I’ve totally been there and it sucks so much. Don’t be a victim to the disease. If anything, when things get hard, realize you have a choice and fight harder. There’s almost always something you can do. As the stoic Epictetus wrote, “Disease is an impediment to the body, but not the will, unless the will itself chooses.”
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