I’ve been doing a fair bit of research on this new concept health gurus have put out regarding “clean eating”, gluten free diets, and those different lifestyles. Although I have always been an athlete and active person I haven’t paid a lot of attention to my diet until I took a exercise science and nutrition course. I then realized, it is a very important part of being healthy and fit. Although I wasn’t able to finish the nutrition class I learned a lot and became very interested in health and fitness, I even thought about majoring in nutrition.
Having Crohn’s disease doctors and nutritionists always said I had to stay away from certain things, follow a gluten free diet, and so on. I never thought my diet actually affected me and my insides that dramatically. That was kind of ignorant for me to think because I have a digestive disease lol. So this past year I’ve read a lot and tried some different things that I’ll share with you all. I realized I can be healthy, but I have to tweak my diet so my stomach doesn’t flare up. Now, this of course is different for everyone because unlike most diseases Crohn’s varies SO much from person to person.
First, I tried “eating clean”. This meant, everything I ate was fresh and no processed food or extra sugars. I ate only fresh fruit, fresh veggies, natural peanut butter, and things like that. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, and homemade everything. NO extra added sugar what so ever, the only sugar I ate was the naturally occurring sugars in food. Well, this was a recipe for disaster (no pun intended). All of the fresh food made my stomach burst into tears. The pain, it was unbearable. Although I didn’t show other signs of a flare this definitely irritated me to no end. Now even though it pains me to think (not literally), the processed food for some reason sets better with me.
A funny story that brings me to actually (I get side tracked pretty easily). When I was younger the only thing I could eat in a big flare up was McDonalds chicken nuggets. Nothing else. Gross, I know. My doctor questioned it but as with Crohn’s I would rapidly lose a large amount of weight and anything to keep the weight on he would say “go for it”. I’m not sure if anyone else has experienced something like this before, but it is even odd to me. I can’t say anymore that McDonald’s does me good, but my symptoms have also changed substantially as I’ve gotten older (another mystery of Crohn’s disease). Now, during flare-ups because I have so much pain and bleeding I rely on Powerade and packaged soup.
But anyways, I stopped “eating clean” and now I just eat healthy, or my kind of healthy.. I don’t obsess over my diet but I make healthier choices. When making healthier choices and feeling the results, grabbing for that cookie isn’t as tempting. But, if I want that cookie, or a bowl of ice cream bring it on!
Another rage now a days is cutting out carbs. I would never and I could never cut out carbs completely. They say a healthy way of getting carbs is by eating whole grains, nuts, seeds, and all that stuff that is absolutely TERRIBLE for us Crohnies. Like I said, I tried this… and I paid for it with days of pain getting up to an 8 or 9 at times. So now I just stick to getting carbs and sugars through fresh fruit (mostly without the skin due to it being harder to digest) and tortillas and things like that. But, if I want a big fat bagel, I will have one. I think that is the most important thing in eating healthy. You can’t obsess over it and if you want something every now and again, have it! Also, an easier way of eating my greens instead of a salad, or even some cooked veggies are hard to digest, I put spinach or kale in smoothies. This sounds bad but its actually delicious!
Another tip for Crohnies: when you’re having a bad day stomach wise a good option is fasting. Not completely but usually I’ll pack my fridge with fresh or frozen fruit and do a day or two of JUST smoothies or if you have a juicer that works too! On these days I make sure I drink plenty of water and 3-4 cups of green tea (which is a great detoxifier too!) A liquid only diet is something doctors would do way back when (and some doctors still recommend it) to give your insides a break. On these days that I do this I usually don’t go to the gym. I sometimes will actually get in the routine of this once or twice a week even when I’m feeling good. It gives my body an extra boost and motivates me when I get off track and have been eating badly.
I have a secret too. Food is huge with keeping you “regular” if you know what I mean. And I’m talking everyone, not just people with digestive issues. My dad has sworn by the cereal Total. I didn’t believe him until about two weeks ago when I tried it. When I’m not completely flaring, I am mostly constipated (one extreme to the other lol). I had a HUGE issue with this. I was taking laxatives daily, and tried just about anything. Well, I stopped being stubborn and listened to my dad and WOW, worked like a charm! One bowl a day is all I needed and if I don’t have that one bowl a day, I look 5 months pregnant with all of the gas and poo stuck up there, no exaggeration. It’s not just the fiber either. I’ve tried taking fiber, eating more fiber. It’s the type of fiber and combination of things in it. It is also awesome for getting all of your vitamins! No need to take a multivitamin (which are overrated if you have a balanced diet and aren’t deficient in anything).
Another part of being healthy is getting regular exercise. I’ve shared conversations with people who would love to go and workout but their joints are just too bad. I can sympathize greatly with this but if you have this problem go back and read my post on my joint pain and what I take for it, it works wonders! I try to get to the gym ATLEAST 2 or 3 times a week. It boosts my mood, especially if I haven’t been feeling good and it also keeps my physique even if I only have the energy to walk on the treadmill for a half hour. Since my back injury I’m pretty much back full force but I have noticed exercising my core takes a toll on my stomach. It sounded dumb to me at first but if my stomach muscles are sore from a lot of ab workouts I tend to have intestinal pain and tenderness a couple days after (not just my abdominal muscles, I can feel the difference). I don’t know if any of you have but I thought it was a little weird seeing as this hasn’t happened to me in the past.
I take pride in my body and even though I like my carbs and sweets (sometimes, I don’t have a huge sweet tooth) I think it’s important to realize what you’re putting in your body, especially with a digestive disease. Food fuels your body and most of the time if you eat like crap you’ll feel like crap. Most of us Crohnies can’t change our lifestyle like people with normal digestive tracts but we can tweak elements of our diet. By just changing small little things you will notice a huge difference in your overall health and even in your disease. I try to still cut down on my intake of unnatural sugars because I know our bodies aren’t meant to have those kinds of sugars. An example, I cut out a lot of sugary drinks and juices and now I mostly only drink fresh tea (hot or iced) and water with lemon or other fruit. If I want to sweeten things I add honey, fruit, or stevia. I feel so much better and refreshed. Also, when I don’t drink those sugary drinks my stomach doesn’t act up as much when I eat.
Putting it positively, having Crohn’s disease is a journey and you have to make the best of it. Eating is a huge way of controlling symptoms, shaping your body, and improving your well-being. Eating healthier and exercising normally has made me feel more alive and energetic even on days I struggle through. But, another important thing for your health that a lot of people are deprived of is sleep and it’s time to get those important seven to eight hours of sleep for me! Getting the right amount of sleep (7 to 10 hours) is vital. It goes hand-in-hand with a good diet and daily exercise. Stay healthy my friends! 😉