Moving Away from Medication

I’ve resisted writing this post for quite some time as it seems to be a rather controversial subject in the world of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Since being diagnosed in 2015, I’ve been on a cocktail of different medications including Mesalazine, Prednisolone, Budesonide and Azathioprine. I was always able to control my symptoms with a selection of the above at any one time, but despite achieving remission from Azathioprine, something just didn’t sit right with me. 

Before I start getting into this, I just want to stress the importance of talking to a medical professional before even considering tapering off from your prescriptions. I did not, and was very told off by my consultant and pharmacist – let me make the mistakes, and you learn from me and do it properly!

Secondly, in absolutely no way to I endorse a lifestyle free from medication.
If it wasn’t for my 6 months on Azathioprine, there is no way that I would even have been able to consider moving away from medication. Tablets seemed to give me back the life that Crohn’s was annoyingly trying to take from me, and despite their side effects, I was always so grateful to have been given a solution that would help me back to ‘normality’. I have many friends within the IBD community who rely on medications of all types (infusions, injections, tablets, etc) that are essential for their health and for them to live normal lives. I support all decisions, all choices.

If you’ve got Crohn’s or Colitis, you should know by now that this is a completely personal disease and that every journey and everybody’s body is different. Therefore each persons decision about what they need or want to help them live their life is completely up to them and differs from person to person.
So here are 3 reasons why I decided to stop taking Azathioprine and start my journey on becoming free from medication:

  1. Side Effects
    Around six months into taking Azathioprine, I started to notice significant levels of hair loss. I also found fighting illness to take a ridiculously long time, a result of which had me ‘lose my voice’ to a sore throat for nearly a month. Additionally, my arthritis seemed to become more noticeable which all-in-all just made life a bit of a pain! Although my stomach was behaving like an angel, I was experiencing new nasties from the medication. To me, it didn’t feel like I was ‘healing’ but more that I was suppressing one illness with another.
  2. Finances
    As ridiculous as it may sound, I began to grow bitter of the monthly prescription charges. I was constantly in the pharmacy asking for repeat doses or new additions to the mix, and I genuinely felt hard-done-by that I was paying almost £20 a month for medicines that I didn’t want to take. Unlike some incurable illnesses, there is no allowance to cover medical expenses (that I am aware of) and each time I had a new prescription, I felt genuinely pissed off that I had to be permanently paying to make myself feel better.
  3. Lifestyle
    For me, it got to a point where I decided I wanted to shape my life differently and re-think my health and body. I’ve never been particularly active or healthy (sorry) and somehow the seed of doubt about prescription drugs was planted in my mind. The more time passed, the more I started to convince myself that I wanted to look at my health more holistically and do as much as I could ‘naturally’. I started first with Acupuncture for my arthritis (something I’ve suffered badly with since being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease) and then slowly moved my diet to Vegetarian/Vegan – I would be lying if I claimed to be 100% vegan, however much I try. I invested in every bloody supplement under the sun and now (try but fail) to be more active.

It’s been 7 months, maybe even slightly longer, since I’ve taken a single tablet for my Crohn’s Disease – and I’m genuinely feeling great. A couple of months ago I had a flexible sigmoidoscopy which revealed there was inflammation in my gut (who knows what part, I didn’t listen very well) but other than that all my blood tests are in a good place and I haven’t been called in to see anyone following the Sigmoidoscopy. I have a routine appointment coming up on 14th June, so I will report back then if there is anything new!

My view on what I do with my body is something that is very personal to me.
I have previously been verbally attacked on social media for saying that I am free from medication, which I find very upsetting. Imagine if I went round and messaged people nasty things for being on medication? I wouldn’t even dream of it. The reality is, I still am getting to know my body and getting to grips with this illness – even 3 years down the line! And what might work for me today, could be the reason I’m in a flare tomorrow. Nothing is promised or permanent, but as long as you are happy and healthy in your body and striving towards your own personal goals against your condition – then isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what is most important?

I feel very lucky to be fortunate enough to be able to manage my Crohn’s without the help of medication, but to some people, even the idea of moving away from meds is ridiculous! The moral of this post is to highlight that medication or not, you need to make sure you’re doing the best for you. It’s important to remember that everyone is going on their own journey and to respect their decisions along the way. So let’s support one another and learn from their unique experiences, rather than judge or be judged.

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