• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Lifting the weight of debilitating inflammatory bowel disease

October 13, 2019

Fitness, nutrition and health are incredibly important to Marissa Russo. She's been doing CrossFit for the past six years and is used to exercising five times a week. And Marissa has maintained that pace despite dealing with the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease for nearly 20 years.

For a time, however, as her medical condition spiraled downward, Marissa's ability to continue her active ways appeared to be in jeopardy. Then she turned to Mayo Clinic, where she found help from Michael Picco, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and a specialist in inflammatory bowel disease at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

"Dr. Picco and his team are the Cadillac of GI services. They do what it takes to get you whatever tests you need," Marissa says. "They are very quick to respond, and they're advocates for you. They make you feel like you're their number one priority from start to finish."

Disturbing decline

Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term that describes incurable disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the two main types. Marissa began experiencing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease when she was in her early 20s.

"It all started when I was about 22 years old," Marissa says. "I couldn't keep any weight on. Every time I would eat something, I felt like I had to use the restroom immediately."

When she started noticing blood in her stool, Marissa went to a gastroenterologist who diagnosed her with Crohn's disease and began treatment by prescribing Marissa anti-inflammatory drugs, including corticosteroids and sulfasalazine. The medications, which she took for 10 years, improved her symptoms. But when she was approaching her 38th birthday, Marissa's condition took a turn for the worse.

"My symptoms were becoming more frequent and harder to put into remission," Marissa says. "I went from taking the drugs for two weeks to having to be on them for four to six weeks. I would go six months without being able to get my flare-ups under control."

Read the rest of Marissa's story.
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.