A few weeks ago I underwent a medical procedure, Stem Cell Therapy, in the hopes of treating my Ulcerative Colitis condition. I've had a lot of questions from everyone about what the treatment involved and if it's made a difference. Now I'm at the 2 month post treatment mark I'm able to share some results with you and wanted to tell you about what the process was like for me as well. Stem cell therapy can be used to treat a very wide range of conditions and if you want to learn more about the treatment in general, check out my other post here.
Basically, it’s an advanced medical treatment which utilises the incredible power of stem cells (if you haven't heard of stem cells before give it a Google for a thorough read). Stem cells are your body’s 'starter cells’ that have the ability to seek out damaged tissue and repair it, by transforming into a range of tissues in the body from bone, muscle, collagen, cartilage, and selected organs.
I saw Doctor Joanna Romanowska for the procedure, which takes about half a day. The stem cells are extracted from your body from fat (mini-liposuction done under local anaesthetic in a sterile room). I imagine having a medical excuse to get liposuction would be a bonus for a lot of people but, having naturally very little fat myself, I was a little nervous; and, as it happens, they did have to do two liposuction sites instead of one to gain enough tissue. The stem cells are then separated out from the other tissue by centrifuge; they are then treated and counted, while you're free to pop out and grab lunch. Depending on the condition being targeted, the stem cell solution is injected directly into the associated joint or tissue, or (in my case) injected intravenously through the arm.
A little nervous - Just before we started the procedure
Did it Hurt?
The mini liposuction was performed after local anaesthetic so there was very little discomfort. Because I had to have two lipo sites, the second site felt a bit tender as we couldn't use as much anaesthetic on that side but all in all the pain was minimal and normally this process shouldn't take long. They did offer me something a bit stronger than local if I found the process a bit challenging but I found I was fine without it. Then the injection process is quick and easy, just like having an iron infusion (or a lengthier blood test); it takes about 20 mins and then it's all done.
Proof that I ate a real burger
Why were you eating a burger afterwards?
A lot of you were shocked to see me eating a burger after the procedure since I haven't been eating gluten, wheat, or dairy for 6 years but there was method to my madness. While the stem cells were still fresh in my system I was told I needed to attract them to my digestive system and since they're drawn to inflammation in the body and gluten and dairy creates inflammation in my system, that was the best thing I could do to give the procedure a helping hand. I had a Wendy's Spicy Chicken burger and it was pretty good!
What’s the recovery period?
The recovery is surprisingly easy really. The liposuction was taken through two small sites in my lower back so I had to wear some gauze and a compression belt over that for two days, then just the compression belt on it's own for a further 5 days. The belt is quite good actually - it's a bit like wearing a waist trainer and it reduces any pain and swelling. I was able to do pretty much anything other than swimming etc the following day so no 'down time' as such. The area was initially very bruised and sore to touch but wearing the belt alleviated the pain. The beauty is, because the solution is derived from your own body, there's zero risk of your body rejecting it and it doesn't require a general anaesthetic so all up it only takes half a day in the medical clinic. I even drove myself home afterwards and went to the gym the next day.
Last week at my 2 month check up with the doctor
What are the Results?
It's now two months after I underwent stem cell therapy and I have noticed some improvement in my UC symptoms. After an in-depth review with Doctor Romanowska, every day symptoms such as the pain, discomfort and inflammation have already lessened. I also used to get a lot of pain in my joints, I assume from years of heavy impact related exercise, though potentially also related to the medication I have to take for UC. As a bonus I've found my joint pain has actually improved significantly since treatment and I can go for short runs again without suffering discomfort afterwards. The maximum benefits from stem cell treatment won't appear until around three months (can take longer too), so I'm about 2/3 of the way there and while symptoms haven't disappeared, any movement in a positive direction is life changing for me. I'll keep you updated with my progress as things improve.
Thanks for following my journey and I'm always happy to answer any questions you have, just e-mail or message me through Instagram. And if you're interested in learning more about the potential of Stem Cell Therapy, you can check out www.stemcelllife.nz for more information.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this post is merely intended to create awareness of potential treatment options available and to share my experiences. I recommend you consult directly with a medical professional concerning your own health.