Newly Diagnosed Vegetarian Living Abroad...

New Topic Post Reply Printable Version
[ << Previous Thread | Next Thread >> ]

Regular Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 82
   Posted 6/2/2009 11:07 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi all!  :-)
I'm from the DC area originally, but I live in South Korea where I teach English.  I'm 28 years old and was just diagnosed with ulcerative colitis after having large amounts of mucus in my stools and mucus-only bowel movements for about 2 months.  It was a very scary time, being away from family and in a country where my grasp of the language doesn't extend much beyond dinner-table pleasantries, but I'm trying to cope as best I can.
I'm having some difficulties with adjusting my diet.  I've been a vegetarian for about 10 years now, though I added seafood back in about 5 year ago (so now I'm technically pescatarian, I guess).  I eat pretty healthy most of the time--beans and tofu for protein, veggies and fruits a-plenty, and (in the US at least--here in Asia white rice is KING) whole grains.  I've had some difficulties maintaining vegetarianism abroad (ham is a vegetable in Korea), but with seafood allowed, it's been ok.
So when I was diagnosed with UC, I cut out the little crap I did eat--diet coke, the occasional chocolate, alcohol, and cheese/dairy--for about a month and was doing ok, so then added some of it back in one at a time to see what I could tolerate.  Trouble is, after a sigmoidoscopy with enema last week and starting Asacol, my system went haywire.  I feel uncomfortably, miserably full all the time--like I have to go to the bathroom, but I don't.  When the real urges come, they're WAY worse than it was before.  When I eat my usual fruits and veggies, my stomach feels bloated and distended and sick.  I've also been having difficulties with extreme fatigue.
Rather than cutting stuff back out, like I should have, I've dealt with the stress by eating comfort foods (mostly dairy and chocolate).  I got so sick I missed a day of work, so I'm back to making smarter decisions, but it's really hard.  I'm interested in trying some of the stuff other folks are trying like the SCD, but I'm not sure it's possible as a vegetarian.  Also, many commonly available foods in the States are not here or are prohibitively expensive.  I'm sure there are some local alternatives that could work as well or better, but I'm not always sure which ones.
Does anyone know if there are resources for IBD vegetarians (or are any of you IBD veggies yourselves) who could offer some advice to someone very new to the disease?  I'd really appreciate it.  (And thanks for letting me vent a little, too.)

Rio in Maryland
Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 891
   Posted 6/3/2009 6:36 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi there,

I'm vegetarian too, and you probably need to try out different foods to see what works for you, but here's what I eat:

For breakfast I Juice I bag of spinach and a handful of carrots (tastes better than it sounds).

For lunch and dinner:
Green veggies or lentils (well cooked, till they're as soft as possible) with turmeric rice
You could also have veg sushi (avocado/cucumber roll)

I don't eat fruits as I seem to have a hard time digesting them, but occasionally I'll add some fruit to the juice that I make. I try to keep my diet as simple as possible, and avoid dairy, caffeine, alcohol, fried foods, sugars, processed foods, artificial flavoring, preservatives.

Hope you're fine soon.
Rio, 33 year old male. Diagnosed with UC in 2006
100 mg Azathioprine (stopped), 4800 mg Asacol
VSL#3 x 3 times a day, Metamucil wafers
Vitamin E enema or Asacol enema occasionally
Spinach & sunflower seed diet / Juicing spinach and carrots

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 224
   Posted 6/3/2009 6:58 AM (GMT -6)   
I don't know if there are any resources specific to vegetarians with IBD. I wouldn't be surprised if they exist - I just haven't come across any (but I haven't looked that hard either). I personally have strayed from my "pescatarianism" to deal with my UC when it acts up. I think I primarily allow greater flexibility because it is just easier - fewer diet related decisions to make.

I suspect the sigmoidoscopy may have triggered an inflammatory response (I had a similar reaction to a colonoscopy a couple of weeks ago). It may take a while for things to calm down. In the meantime you will need to identify appropriate comfort foods (which I don't think would include most dairy and chocolate), and perhaps helpful supplements like probiotics, fish oil and glucosamine (I use n-acetyl glucosamine or NAG), if they are available. Green tea may also be helpful, or any other source of antioxidants. In general, you may want to avoid foods with large amounts of insoluble fiber in favor of those with soluble fiber until your colon calms down (pb4 provides a nice overview in the topic "Fiber good or bad?" on this list).

One possible resource for you is "Listen To Your Gut" by Jini Patel Thompson. It is not vegetarian specific, but I have found it helpful (a downloadable version is available on her website). I don't know how useful it will be to you while in Korea, but may be worth a look.

Wish I could be of more help. Hopefully someone else on this list can provide better guidance.
Diagnosed with UC in 1990.
Current Meds: Sulfasalizine (2 g), Rowasa (now and then), Folic Acid (1 mg)
Supplements: fish oil, flax oil, glucosamine, CoQ10, fiber, aloe vera juice, probiotics.
Other: Raw Milk for breakfast. Currently exploring a raw milk fast one day/week.

Post Edited (ickypoo) : 6/3/2009 6:02:37 AM (GMT-6)

Regular Member

Date Joined Oct 2007
Total Posts : 486
   Posted 6/3/2009 7:04 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi there. Being far from home and being sick can be scary. I've done it and it all worked out fine, but I know how disorienting it can be. Hang in there and perhaps there's some humor to be found in learning how to say "enema" in Korean. You could start a list of words you never thought you would to learn how to say. :)

I'm not vegetarian but when I'm flaring, I often stay away from most meat. I eat sweet potatoes and spinach a lot and that seems to give me a lot more energy. You might check out the anti-inflammatory diet on Dr. Andrew Weil's website:

I try to incorporate the general concept into my diet. Also, it highlights which foods have natural anti-inflammation properties (like ginger) which you can add to your diet.

I don't know whether you can find good,cheap acupuncture in South Korea, but if so, that's something I would try.

Are you taking anything other than Asacol?
UC for the last ten years
Current Meds: 6MP since 2006, Lialda, Asacol foam, Lomotil
Past Meds: You name it; I've tried it. (Asacol, Colazol, Pentasa, DiPentum, Rowasa, Canasa, Cortenema, sulfasalazine, Cortifoam)
Alternative treatments I have had success with: Acupuncture, Hypnotherapy

Eva Lou
Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 3442
   Posted 6/3/2009 10:27 AM (GMT -6)   
Personally I found it very hard to stay on a vegetarian diet while flaring... I had been vegetarian for nquite a while, & found so much fruit, veggie & whole grains wreaked havoc on my intestines. It got to the point where my diet was so limited, that I finally called it quits. Plus, I was craving protein in a big way, & was just unable to get the amount I needed from non-meat sources. You can only eat so many eggs! And I didn't eat those at all for a long time. Sweet potatoes, avocados, roasted peppers, spinach, potatoes, applesauce, tofu... that was about all I could eat without massive distress. I don't know of any IBD resources for vegetarians, but I'm sure they are ot there. I went vegetarian due to ethical reasons, & I've found that I'm able to eat meat & dairy products now without ethical dilemmas by going the slow food route- only purchasing humanely raised & processed products direct from the farms. You may think about going that route, but I'm betting Korea isn't one for sustainable humane farming practices! Good luck!
diagnosed with UC '02
Asacol- 8 tabs/day
Remicade-10mgs/kg- since 4/07
Imuran- 150mgs/day
various probiotics
Fiber supplement

Regular Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 82
   Posted 6/3/2009 6:52 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks guys for all the suggestions!

It's a little difficult to get ahold of supplements and more ethically raised foods here, but they definitely have Chinese medicine doctors (all of whom practice accupuncture) in spades. Actually, they're easier to find than a normal doctor (but I do live in a city in Korea kind of famous for Chinese medicine doctors...). I will probably look into that. Maybe when I come home for a visit this summer I can look into probiotics and other supplement stuff.

I'm going to investigate the Vegan Healing Diet. Don't know if it'll work... I'm a little skeptical of its main premise that your crap diet made you sick, so a good diet will heal you, as my diet before the disease was not a typical American diet (especially the last two years living in Korea and eating mostly rice and soup and kimchi!) and therefore it seems unlikely that my diet was the CAUSE of the disease. Still, reading the book can't hurt.

I do think that ickypoo was onto something with the suggestion that the procedure itself may have exacerbated my symptoms. They seem to be abating now. Baked (in the microwave... don't have an oven!) potatoes help.

I'm just frustrated by the fatigue. I haven't been able to be consistent with my taekwondo training since this whole mess began in mid-March and now even my weekly swing dance and walking around for groceries and stuff is becoming too much. I even skipped morning yoga from fatigue, and that's been the only thing that's been helping with my symptoms so far! I took a day off work (first day off for actual disease, not just testing) this week and I really hate doing that. It's maddening.

I've been reading that the Asacol can take 3 weeks or more to start working. Is that true?

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2007
Total Posts : 4538
   Posted 6/4/2009 10:52 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi storysinger! Welcome to the forum. This is a great place. Sorry to hear you were diagnosed with UC.

The Asacol can take a few weeks to start working, yes. It started helping me within 2 weeks, I think. I am a vegetarian, too. I ate a healthy diet before getting UC so I really don't think it's caused by eating a poor diet, but you're right, it can't hurt to read a book. =)

I had to miss 3 weeks of work when first diagnosed b/c I was so ill I could barely leave the bathroom, so I understand the frustrations of missing work and the fatigue, etc. Once you find the right medications, you should improve and hopefully get back to your normal routine.

As far as veg. food suggestions, when I'm flaring really badly I try to stick to easily digestible foods like bananas, potatoes and sweet potatoes, applesauce, canned pears and peaches, lower fiber bread, white rice, eggs, peanut butter and yogurt. Most of the time I am able to eat a normal diet. This disease really varies from person to person. It might help you to keep a food diary for a few weeks to track what you eat and any symptoms you have.
25 years old; diagnosed March 2007;
Currently: persistent rectal inflammation
Asacol, 4 tabs, 3xday; Rowasa nightly; Viactiv; Metamucil wafers; multivitamin; Primadophilus Reuteri; sublingual allergy drops; Ortho Tri-Cyclen

New Topic Post Reply Printable Version
Forum Information
Currently it is Tuesday, September 18, 2018 10:03 PM (GMT -6)
There are a total of 3,004,492 posts in 329,146 threads.
View Active Threads

Who's Online
This forum has 161740 registered members. Please welcome our newest member, Liz in Colorado.
186 Guest(s), 6 Registered Member(s) are currently online.  Details
DBwithUC, swimmer2, MG0351, Serenity Now, Indigo69, AZ Guy