When people tend to write or speak passionately about something it is usually because they feel some kind of connection to the cause, purpose, person, event, etc., You get it, there is a personal, vested interest. Here lies the good stuff…when we dig in, dig down and really understand the why behind the reason a person chooses to share what they will, credibility is often discovered and a story is unveiled.
One of my favorite things to chat with people about is how to bring anti-inflammatory foods into their diet. Why: Because it is so much easier than one may think . Before I jump into all of the yummy, delicious, disease fighting food that you can start to easily add to your diet to fight inflammation, this is why I am invested.
I was diagnosed…
with Crohn’s disease when I was 28. My grandma died of Colon Cancer when I was 9. My sissy was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 5. Deep breath. When my Gastroenterologist said the words to me, “You have a chronic disease that you will have forever, there is no cure and you will always need medicine to control” I felt immediate suffocation. My world stopped. The next thing I felt was hot water running down my cheeks, tears. And then, anger. Why?! I exercised, maintained a fairly healthy diet, tried to make good choices, I wasn’t even 30 yet. I didn’t share all of this right away with hardly anyone, I couldn’t . Actually it was really tough for me to tell my closest family & friends. I still have the email. It wasn’t embarrassment, I was just having the most difficult time coming to terms with the fact that I now have my very own long term disease, forever. It was almost as if I didn’t verbalize it, it wouldn’t exist. Denial, if you will. While I was having some symptoms at the time, it was nothing like what I would experience in the major flare up years down the road. I remember trying to wrap my mind around “medicine forever” and told myself I would do everything in my power to not have to be reliant on medicine. That was the beginning. That very weekend my doctor started me on medicine right away.
getting to know my disease…
As a researcher, I became familiar with my disease, learned the ins & outs and soon became incredibly grateful that I was considered “mild” at the time. I’m an “all in” kinda girl and I figured once I got past the pissed off & shocked stage, it was time to own it. I understood that the medicine was what helped to control my inflammation. Not alone though, stress, diet, exercise, every single choice I made truly impacted the chances of my disease being disrupted. Within the same paragraph though, I would read that unfortunately, research has not been able to prove that one food or another may cause a flare-up. There were “possible” foods that could cause aggravation, but nothing concrete. Basically, every person may react different. I read about progressive cases and knew a beautiful, young woman who was going through a hell of a fight on her own, in her early 30’s.I had no idea and still am uncertain about the ugly beast that could rear its head at any moment and take control of my gastrointestinal (GI) tract, but I am certain that I will do everything in my power to avoid that from happening and the rest, is out of my control.
Genetics, family history, being a female, geological location, the water, soil, the speculation about what could cause any of the diseases in the Irritable Bowl Disease category goes on and on and on and on. Clearly, there’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes determining what actually causes IBD. Frustrating, absolutely. (And they say to keep stress down to manage flare-ups…such a double edged sword!!) But, that doesn’t change the diagnosis or symptoms of the disease. Crohn’s is an auto immune disease. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases. At the root of autoimmune diseases, inflammation. It can be a killer, if not controlled.
According to several definitions, the definition of an autoimmune disease is : An illness that occurs when the body tissues are attacked by its own immune system. (Sounds like an internal war zone going on in here!) The immune system is a complex organization within the body that is designed normally to “seek and destroy” invaders of the body, including infectious agents. Patients with autoimmune diseases frequently have unusual antibodies circulating in their blood that target their own body tissues. Your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake.Yikes is right!
what you cannot see can hurt you
Autoimmune diseases can affect many parts of the body. Some of the first and very common symptoms of an autoimmune disease is: low fever, fatigue, muscle aches. Inflammation which can cause redness, pain & swelling is also extremely common. It is really important to note that inflammation is something that can’t always be seen. Therefor, what you can’t see can harm you. That is why it is SO important to make as many choices as one can that may help to prevent & reduce inflammation. The key is to keep the inflammation at bay. Once the intestine becomes inflamed (during a flare-up) the damage is done, the GI tract is scarred and the inflammation and scarring cannot be reversed. Inflammation, especially for extended periods of time results in more and more scarring of the intestine, eventually leading to surgery.
Fact: About 23 to 45 percent of people with ulcerative colitis and up to 75 percent of people with Crohn’s disease will eventually require surgery. Some people with these conditions have the option to choose surgery, while for others, surgery is an absolute necessity due to complications of their disease.(Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation)
when my world came to a screeching halt
In my personal case, I can always tell when I am having a mild flare up. My body runs very warm, especially when I sleep, my stomach becomes distended, to the point it is painful and it feels like a potato peeler is scraping the inside of my intestines. Graphic, yes, but not near as graphic as what could happen if I don’t do everything in my power to control my urges, make good food choices, control stress & exercise. I have had one debilitating flare – up. It knocked me down for almost 3 months straight. Fetal position, fever, couldn’t keep food in, blood in stool, excruciating cramping, the drop you to your knees kind of cramping, the whole nine yards.When there is a flare up as described above, the following is what is actually happening on the inside: chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Chronic inflammation impairs the ability of the affected organs to function properly, leading to symptoms such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and fatigue. (CCFA.org)
I look back now and realized that if I was to ever have a flare up like that one, the timing couldn’t have been better. Considering the fact that I live a near 100% mobile lifestyle, I was actually between projects at that time and could focus on my needs to get healthy. It was a slow process and I had no choice but to take the healing process slow. I went from pounding out 10 mile runs with no problem to barely jogging for 15 minutes without stopping due to exhaustion. I learned to be thankful for that though because in the months prior, I was no where near jogging anywhere, except in my mind. I came to truly appreciate everything I could actually eat, taste and keep in. I took full notice of when my stomach wasn’t in knots causing me to be curled up in a ball. In the beginning, the relief would come maybe twenty minutes at a time and I was so grateful for every minute I was given. I learned that I couldn’t always control my body and that I had to respect it, listen to it and try to give it what it needed. There was colonoscopies, endoscopies, suppositories, steroids and several medicines involved. The good news was that we were able to get myself back under control. The bad news, my meds were 4x what they were pre – flare up and I will always wear that scarring, on the inside.
the storm has calmed, for now…
I maintained the higher meds for about a year. Personally, I was happy to be under control, but as someone who believes in the healing power of food, exercise & lifestyle, I was disappointed and didn’t want to accept the fact that I would be reliant on prescription medication for the rest of my life. Not to mention I was spending close to $360 a month on a bottle of medication. Being self – employed, individual health insurance is a battle on its’ own to be fought. We’ll save that for another day. The trade off was that I was and am currently in remission. Don’t be fooled, this is a silent sense of security. Remember, just because you can’t actually see what is going on, does not mean it is not there. Remission is: a period of time the person is symptom free. Remission can last for months or years. The person can feel just fine and this is where it gets tricky, the disease still lives within you…and for me, I do everything NOT to disturb it. There are no guarantees, though.
maintaining remission without prescription
Fast forward / rewind to last year. I was connected through a trusted a source to someone who offered to help me heal with food and wean my way off of medication, which has always been my goal from day #1. If I could control where I am without prescription medication and remain in remission, my sacrifices would be worth it. I learned so much about inflammation, what to look for when grocery shopping, dining out options and what to absolutely avoid all together. It’s not easy, trust me, but the way I feel is so worth it. Will power is something you have to wear on the outside every single day and letting yourself make the easier choice is not an option, it just isn’t. I have been medicine AND symptom free for a year the end of May!!! Please know this was not a decision I took lightly and there was and is risk involved, but it was the right choice for me. I also was NOT going to do this on my own. The memory of a severe flare-up is so vivid, I definitely needed professional guidance on my journey.
Fact: According to the CCFA, Elective surgery may also be recommended for some people with IBD to eliminate the risk of colorectal cancer. Patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have a higher risk for colorectal cancer than the general population. Colorectal cancer rarely occurs in the first eight to ten years after initial diagnosis of IBD. The risk increases the longer a person lives with the disease. People whose disease affects most of their colon are at the greatest risk for developing colorectal cancer.
i don’t go a day without
beginning every morning with about 4 ounces of aloe vera juice. It is the first thing to enter my system when I wake up and the last thing I swallow before bed. Aloe is like an internal band aid – soothing, healing & renewing. The next part of my morning routine is a cup of peppermint tea. It is a massage for the internal organs and I swear, wakes everything up! For the first eight months, I had a teaspoon of sauerkraut before every single thing I ate, religiously. I cut out all wheat AND grain, they are not two of the same things. Dairy, gone. Canned foods, had none of them. Any refined sugars, outta here. I end every day with a cup of Chamomile tea, to calm. This is a glimpse of the changes I had to make in my world to get to a better place. I could probably write a whole blog entry on that time period, as can my boyfriend. 😉
This post started simple and became an out pouring from my heart. Not a lot of pictures, simply words that paint a picture. There are other details, personal struggles and facts that I could share but what this is about is opening up, hoping to reach that one person who is looking for someone to understand them and to tell you that you are NOT alone in the struggle. All of our struggles may be different and similar, but they are each our OWN and no one struggle is more important than another. To each their own; respectfully.
This post is also about sharing. I want to share with you some of the easiest ways to fight inflammation. It truly is the root of so many diseases and whenever you can, key word….EASILY work that into your life, why not?!?! Take a read!!
My faves?! Blueberries, pineapple, salmon & ginger!!!
Hidden Bonus Tip: simply cut ginger into your water every day….yum!!!
Curious about the difference between Crohn’s & ulcerative colitis? Let me make it simple for you – click below.
Interested in learning more about some basic, easy, everyday things you can do to improve your overall health? Yes, this Coach is related to me, but it all started with her personal journey…
Have a wonderful day my friends. And do ONE new thing today that will improve your health over time. Good health is a true gift, but we must take care of it.