It has taken me a little while to write this post, simply because it has taken me a fair while to understand what it is I am popping twice a day.
Before I had my colonoscopy at the end of April I was given these tablets called Asacol – the IBD nurse suspected I had Ulcerative Colitis rather than Crohns, and these tablets in particular are given to UC patients rather than Crohns patients – but she didn’t really explain what they were. All I knew is that they are medically known as immunosuppressants – which reduce the activity of your immune system. I mean, what does that even mean? The immune system isn’t a tangible ‘thing’.
So I was a little confused, but I started to take the tablets nonetheless, and although they reduced the flare ever so slightly they weren’t as magic as I now know the steroids are. But since being officially diagnosed I have done more research, asked more questions and attended an IBD Patient Talk put on by Crohns and Colitis UK, so I am better equipped to talk about them now and I actually understand why I am taking them and most importantly what they are doing to my body.
Firstly ‘Asacol’ is simply the brand of the medication, so that’s pretty irrelevant, the actual medication is called ‘Mesalazine’ which is part of a group of medicines called ‘Aminosalicylates’, Mesalazine is one of the most commonly used aminosalicylates (Patient.info).
There are very few common side effects to this medicine, and having joined a couple of groups and twitter chats – all I hear is positiveness on these, which makes a change! Some UC sufferers have been on these for 8+ years and they have helped them stay in remission. I am currently on a high dose of 1600mg a day, but I know in time this will be brought down depending on how active my disease is being, so I have high hopes for these.
So what do they actually do?
- Reduce the activity of the immune system;
- Induce your body into remission;
- The dose may increase during a flare up and decrease when symptoms ease off;
- They have an anti-inflammatory effect on the cells within the gut;
- As the name 5-ASAs suggest, there are different types of Aminosalicylates, Mesalazine is one of them, you may be prescribed different ones depending where the inflammation is;
- There are different types of 5-ASAs, tablets, suppository or enema – I am only talking about Asacol tablets in this post as that is my experience;
I’ve also found an incredibly helpful document produced by the NHS (click here to read it)
I hope this has helped at least just one of you understand in more detail what you are taking.