People who live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have had many questions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccine rollout is no different. The good news is that prominent IBD physicians are advocating for people who live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis to get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19). As healthcare professionals, many of them have already received a vaccine themselves.
After speaking with Dr David Rubin, highly respected IBDologist, fierce advocate for patients, and consummate educator who graciously responds to my emails, on About IBD, I became better aware of the concerns of the IBD community in regards to vaccination. I’ve spent the better part of the last month working towards answering questions and reading research.
To that end, I have come up with 5 nuggets of information that address some of the chief concerns about COVID-19 vaccinations in people who live with IBD.
Did an IBD diagnosis change the direction of your life? For Danielle Golden and Joe Teeters, being diagnosed as a young adult had a profound influence on their lives. The plans they had for their lives were derailed, but they only met, formed a strong friendship, and founded Double Baggin’ It because of their IBD. Learn more about their disease journeys, how they met, and how they use humor to raise awareness of IBD and ostomy life both inside and outside the IBD community.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have had many questions. Now that vaccines against the virus are becoming available, people living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis need even more information in order to make decisions. I asked Dr David Rubin, Chief of the Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition and the Co-Director of the Digestive Diseases Center at The University of Chicago Medicine to answer some of these initial questions about the first COVID-19 vaccines (manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna). Topics discussed on this episode include:
How vaccines work
How mRNA works
How IBD medications affect the immune system
IBD medications and their potential effect on COVID-19 vaccination
When we’ll have more information about COVID-19 vaccines and IBD
Why side effects with vaccines are expected and what they mean
Kids with chronic illness face special issues when going back to school because they’re at risk of their accommodations becoming eroded. In particular, children who live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis might be in danger of not being granted appropriate bathroom access. I speak with Dr Brad Jerson, a Pediatric Psychologist in the Division of Digestive Diseases, Hepatology, and Nutrition at Connecticut Children’s and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. We discuss the worrying behaviors that parents should watch out for in their kids and how we can help kids who feel scared to go back to school.
What’s in your microbiome and how does it interact with your IBD? The bacteria that’s in the gut of someone that lives with IBD is different from the bacteria in the the gut of someone that doesn’t have IBD. This is a major area of study because it may help researchers not only in developing new treatments but also in better understanding IBD. That’s why I asked Arielle Radin, Director of Clinical Research for Gali Health, to talk to me about the Footprints Program.
The Footprints Program is an ambitious research project that is going to sequence poop and saliva from IBD patients. It’s being used in conjunction with the Gali Health app, which is made especially for IBD patients to track their symptoms and connect with other people who live with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Participants in the Footprints Program will get access to some information about their microbiome. They can then look at the changes over time and see if there are any trends with the symptoms that are kept in the Gali app. It sounds pretty amazing, which is why I signed up for the program. Arielle Radin, who answers my questions about Gali Health and the Footprints Program, and on a personal note, tells us about getting married during the pandemic.
Being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) can upend your entire life. Then being diagnosed with a rare liver disease on top of that? It could truly break you down and leave you feeling hopeless. But that’s not what happened to Jenna Ziegler of The Comical Colon. Not long after her ulcerative colitis diagnosis, her doctor was concerned about her liver test levels. With more testing and a lot of patient empowerment, Jenna now has a presumed diagnosis of primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC. She tells how she has fought to get the tests she needed to understand her level of risk, and the treatment that can help prevent PSC from progressing and causing more damage to her liver.
Do you have a sense of humor about your IBD? Jenna Ziegler of The Comical Colon found that keeping her sense of humor has helped her through the challenges she faced after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in college. After fighting her way back to health after severe flare-ups and carving out the life she wanted for herself, Jenna received another stunning diagnosis: a rare liver condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC. Over the years she has done the hard work to learn how to be an empowered patient and she shares her 5 tips on how you can learn to advocate for yourself.
As of this writing, for the past two months, I have not been to a pharmacy or a grocery store. I have used a delivery service. I, like many other people who live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), am immunocompromised because of the medication I receive. I am now reliant on other people to obtain the things we need for our household, but it’s unclear to me if this is the right decision.
I attended a briefing given by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) which was focused on COVID-19 and how the disease may affect people who live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The briefing was given by three specialists: AGA Patient Education Advisor, Rajeev Jain, MD, AGAF, of Texas Digestive Disease Consultants; David T. Rubin, MD, AGAF, Joseph B. Kirsner Professor of Medicine, Chief, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, University of Chicago Medicine, Illinois; and Russell D. Cohen, MD, AGAF, Professor of Medicine, Director, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, University of Chicago Medicine, Illinois. Drs Jain, Rubin, and Cohen are all integral in the IBD community and generously lend their time and expertise to helping both healthcare professionals and patients better understand IBD. What follows are highlights from this presentation that illustrate what has been learned so far about the intersection of IBD and COVID-19.
The impact of human activities on the environment is well-documented. Many people are concerned about how their daily lives can have a negative effect on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the health of ourselves and of our children. My background is in environmental science: it began in high school when I worked to institute a recycling program in the lunchroom. I went on to earn my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Michigan State University.
While there’s nothing we can do about having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), there is something we can do about how it impacts our environment. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis need treatment over a lifetime and this comes with a variety of choices. Environmental responsibility may be pretty far down on the list of things most people with IBD are concerned about, but there are some simple choices we can make that can have an impact.
The place were we have a lot of control as patients is in our own home and in how we manage our disease (alongside our healthcare teams). A few little changes can make a positive impact in how your IBD affects the word around you. I present some areas where we can think about making choices in regards to our IBD that may help us leave a smaller footprint.