Top 4 Tips for Coping with Crohn’s Disease

If you are anything like me, you have always wondered why doctors say food has nothing to do with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). That doesn’t even make sense to someone with a digestive disease. Ask anyone with ulcerative colitis (UC) or crohn’s disease, and they will give you a list of what they can and can’t eat, what they avoid when they are in a flare or at all times, and what they generally struggle with. I am encouraged by the fact that I hear more and more from people who are wising up and eliminating the very worst gut offenders with good success and benefits to their bodies: grains, dairy, and sugar.

We are more powerful than we think we are. And we can effect change in our bodies and lives.

Even though I don’t have all of the answers, I can usually sense what is serving me and distinguish from that which is not serving me. So I choose to do all I can to support my body as best I can.

I choose to use diet and lifestyle to keep symptoms of crohn’s disease in check because I don’t like the alternatives of dangerous immune suppressing medications, steroid drugs, and bowel resection surgeries. I still take medicine currently (mesalamine). I would still like to get off of it entirely, if possible at some point.

The healing journey can be a long and twisty one. In health and in life, it’s not always a simple trek from point A to point B. During that journey for myself, I have tried A LOT of different things to help myself. Today, I want to highlight the best of the best actions that I take or products that I use regularly to keep well:

 

Paleo Diet

Food is energy, information, and medicine. A nutrient dense diet filled with energy from the sun in the form of plants feeds our bodies and souls, while avoiding some of the most common gut irritants, allergens and foods that make our body work harder to digest, assimilate and eliminate.

I have tried elimination diets, gluten free diets, Alejandro Junger’s Clean Gut diet, Natalia Rose’s Detox for Women, juicing detoxes, low carb, paleo, and the Wahl’s Protocol among others. I have dabbled with some of the famous IBD diets like Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, and Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) for autoimmune conditions. In the end, I keep paleo as my home-base now. Whenever I stray too far from the template of mostly home-cooked food; including organic veggies and fruits, wild fish, grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, wild meat; I feel it. In general, I follow this base diet prescribed to me by a functional medicine doctor:

What is the paleo diet?

There is so much new science regarding the gut microbiota, leaky gut, autoimmunity, inflammation, vagal tone, food intolerances and sensitivities, etc. that it is exciting to see the ways in which diet can affect us and why. Even mainstream medicine is wising up to many of the scientific studies coming out regarding the effects of diet on disease. Two of my favorite diet studies and their positive effect on IBD are this AIP Medical Study and this SCD Diet Study .

Healing Touch

We all know stress doesn’t help an upset, anxious or sick stomach, so turning to a deep relaxation method makes good sense. The simple power of touch coupled with an intention for your highest good can transform your health.

Healing touch is a gentle, relaxing touch therapy that involves a trained practitioner performing a sequence of hand movements on a person’s body in order to help balance that person’s energy. Healing touch works on a person’s energetic body, including the mental, emotional and spiritual levels. I have received healing touch from a practitioner I trust for years, and I sincerely credit her with helping me SO much. I can’t say enough good things about the benefits of receiving healing touch. But, I know that my physical and my mental health would be worse off after all of these years with crohn’s disease if it weren’t for her. I was so impressed with this modality that I completed the practitioner training up to Level 4 along with several nurses who took this as part of their required continuing education for their nurse licensing. The research supporting healing touch and it’s effect on depression, anxiety, pain, stress reduction, immune functioning, etc can be found here.

 

Essential Oils

Taking a page out of the ancients’ medicinal tool box and turning to plants for healing is smart and simple.

This is a simple and easy one to use. I use the essential oil DiGize which is a blend of “Tarragon, Ginger, Peppermint, Juniper, Lemongrass, Anise, and Patchouli oils for a spicy, exotic aromatic blend. DiGize oil also includes Fennel essential oil, the use of which dates back to ancient Egypt.”  Since I first discovered it, I have used this oil with good results. It won’t knock out a flare entirely, but it can help a lot, which is what all of these therapies are about. I mix several drops of Digize oil into an almond oil so it doesn’t burn the skin, and I slather it all over my belly where it hurts once or twice a day. This is a great oil to turn to if I ever start to feel “off,” or like I may need some additional support. A bottle lasts a long time, so I see it as a good value.

People have been using plant oils as medicine for centuries, so it makes sense to me that plants can help us, and this one definitely helps me.

Probiotics

Keeping a healthy balance of gut microbiota can go a long way to helping you heal your gut.

I have taken probiotics for as long as I can remember. But this past year, I have experimented with VSL#3 since it has been so well-researched, and it is used as a probiotic medical food for treating people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), UC, or people with an ileal pouch. I think this one is good for me personally, albeit expensive. I go back to it when I am not feeling well, and it helps. I usually buy it at CVS or Walgreens. You have to call ahead or go in to order it, and then they will have it ready within the next day or two. Costco carries it for about $3 cheaper, but it is a bit pricey at about $50 for 60 tablets wherever you go.

 

These are some of the basic remedies I go back to over and over to keep my gut health in check. Supporting my body in ways that hold it up instead of tearing it down has been key for through the ups and downs over the years.

 

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Turmeric powder for Crohn's

Is turmeric helpful for Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease?

Yesterday, I went to an Educational Symposium for IBD held here in Houston, TX. It was fascinating to hear mainstream medicine beginning to focus on the microbiome as a source of investigation for the cause and treatment of UC. So one of the biggest and most concrete suggestions I took away from this conference was about TURMERIC.

There is no money for drug companies in studying this so I think it’s great that it’s even being studied at all. So here is what we learned:

Turmeric is helpful for Ulcerative Colitis

Turmeric was found to be useful in keeping patients who currently had inactive ulcerative colitis in remission.

Tumeric is helpful for UC and Crohn's

This was a double blind controlled study, which is the gold standard in science. They gave 2 grams of curcumin, which is the active component of turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties, to one group but not the other for 6 months. Both the control group and the placebo also took sulfasalazine or mesalamine. More people who received the placebo relapsed and had a flare than the control group who receiving the curcumin.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17101300

Turmeric and Medical Medium’s Life-Changing Foods

I also just want to point out, because I think Anthony Williams work is interesting, that turmeric is one of the foods he profiles in his encyclopedic-like book, Medical Medium’s Life-Changing Foods.

He explains that turmeric is great for people whose bodies can get stuck in a loop of pain and inflammation, and that turmeric can help break the loop. He also says it can increase blood supply to needed areas. And he mentions that with the high manganese present in turmeric, the combination can be helpful for the cardiovascular system and prevention of cancer. Emotionally, Williams says turmeric can potentially help boost a person’s own self-worth, if you struggle with being down on yourself or question your own worthiness in projects, relationships, etc.

I kind of take Anthony Williams suggestions with a grain of salt, but I do love his emphasis on the positive and the idea that our food is more than just nutrients but also information and support for our bodies. Sometimes it resonates for me, and sometimes it doesn’t, so just take what works for you and leave the rest.

How to take 2 grams a day to replicate the study

I plan to start taking this myself, and see how I do on it. I have been on mesalamine for 10 years now! I am still young and otherwise healthy, so I would like to get off of this and turmeric seems like a perfect alternative for me right now. I’ve come a long way since I was first diagnosed and have completely overhauled my diet and lifestyle, which I know has been enormously beneficial for me. I know this isn’t how it was used in the study, but I’m going to the GI doctor soon and will discuss this with her.

So I did some research on Amazon, and found one that I hope is useful: Doctor’s Best Curcumin

I checked the back and it showed each 500 mg capsule of turmeric contained 75-81% curcumin, so I will probably take between 4-6 capsule per day.

I have always felt it’s kind of weird how researchers do studies but then do not provide the exact source of the active compound that they used.  It would take out the guesswork if they just identified what they used in patients.

How to grow it yourself

turmeric harvest

Apparently you can grow this yourself! I saw a pic of someone from southern California who had a beautiful and large harvest of tumeric, and she said she grew them in pots! Living in the Houston area, I love Bob Randall’s reference book for growing in our area, Year Round Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers for Metro Houston:

You actually have to go the store and find the fresh turmeric root. They are skinny and orange-ish in color. You can plant it anytime of the year, but if the weather outside is under 80 degrees, plant them in a pot indoors. Plant the root 1 inch deep, and the plants grow to be about 18 inches tall and they need at least 12 inches of space around them, in case you are growing outdoors or in raised beds, so you know how far to space them. They prefer hot, humid and shady places. They grow to full sive when you can harvest them in about 4-6 months. Apparently you can cut and freeze the roots to save them after you harvest.

I want to learn to grow my own and use it in teas or add it to a morning smoothie.

Conclusion

I enjoy finding science-based alternative remedies or modalities because I am in love with the idea of bringing our bodies back into balance, recognizing that healing can be physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual. I want to encourage you to read the science and do what feels right for you, but I know that it can be game changer when we decide to take our health back into our own hands.

If you are interested in bringing your body back into balance in a more natural way, check out my Easy to Digest Guide.

Why and How I (Finally) Changed My Diet to Heal from Crohn’s Disease

When we visit the doctor because we are experiencing physical symptoms and the doctor orders some tests, prescribes a pill or schedules a surgery, are you satisfied? How has that been working for you? How many doctors have you been to see, and how is your health doing?

Part of the problem is that doctors are behind the times and not seeing what is becoming abundantly obvious to many people who are sick. It’s not working. Mainstream medicine is missing both the mundane and the spiritual. At the mundane level, we are not hearing from the doctor about the very basics of feeding your body well, sleeping, and making lifestyle changes like reducing stress through meditation and of course, physical movement. Some docs get it, but most don’t. It’s too simple, too basic. And the docs are missing the opportunity to help patients explore the larger implications of what purpose illness, especially chronic illness, may be serving in your life.

 

“Illness is a reset button, a re-director of one’s life or call to action. It says, change your old life pattern. It is not a matter of blame or guilt but the courage to grow and change.”

– Ashley Hurst, Wellness by Design

 

In my own life, I have found illness to be a major aspect of my life. I was relatively young and in my early 20’s when I was first diagnosed with crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that I was told in the most matter-of-fact way that there was no cure for, and that I would be sick and have to take medicine for the rest of my life. This wasn’t the first time I’d been given this kind of a whopper of a health sentence. I’d heard this twice before from both mental health doctors and a skin doctors, and that was just as an adult. This is an example of totally broken healthcare. How is this in any way helpful to a patient? When with just a little digging these days, you can find numerous stories and even some clinical evidence of people reaching remission through simple diet and lifestyle changes.

I followed the standard of care set out by my doctors, including daily maintenance medication as well as taking more medication when I experienced “flares” and my symptoms were worse. I faithfully went to to my colonoscopies (ugh!) so they could look at my insides and see if the disease had progressed enough to give me stronger interventions. However, I intuitively knew there had to be a better way.

I searched for diet and natural remedies for years, considering I had been diagnosed with a digestive disease, this made sense to me. I always felt what I ate had an effect on me sometimes making my symptoms worse, although the GI doctors I’ve seen over the years always insisted that diet has no affect whatsoever on IBD or crohn’s disease. Then why would I feel better if I didn’t eat at all? The trouble was with finding what foods were good for me to eat and what aggravated my system.  I was an educated patient, and I always noticed the discrepancy between the incidence of IBD in first world and third world countries and wondered if it had something to do with our processed food diets in the United States and other first world countries.

Ironically, scientific research is confirming what my intuition pointed the way towards all those years ago: clinical remission has been achieved by patients following diet protocols as seen in both this SCD Clinical Study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and this AIP Medical Study conducted by Dr. Gauree Konijeti, the Director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program Division of Gastroenterology. These are examples of clinical remission being achieved by diet alone, and the results are EXTREMELY impressive!

The tragedy, in my mind, is that it has taken me 10 years since I was first diagnosed to follow the courage of my convictions and change my diet. I plead with you to not let this be you!

I worked with people here and there who did food sensitivity testing or just gave me blanket statements to give up x, y and z. I would change for a time and then go back to what I was used to because it seemed easier, but also because I felt there was no authority behind “alternative” practices, even when my OWN experience showed me differently. I never had anyone hold my hand to help me change, who believed in me, who acknowledged how hard it is to change or that change is a process.

For much of the time, I was grasping everywhere for the decision to change, but there is literally a sea of confusion when you are trying to transform your diet and health. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read, always searching for how to make the changes I thought might help me: elimination diets, SCD, paleo, the Wahl’s Protocol etc, etc, etc. I definitely got bogged down in analysis paralysis, and introspection and learning instead of action and doing. The studies I mentioned above are both recent and were not available even a year ago let alone 10 years ago.

It wasn’t until I was embarking (yet again) on revamping my diet almost a year ago now, that my husband of almost 12 years now pointed out, “The diets you’ve followed before have really helped you, right? You’ve gotten better before. So do it right this time, and don’t just quit and start eating everything again all at once.” He helped me see, as only an objective outsider who’s watched me through all of this could see, that I’ve been able to get better before, why has this been so hard for me to sustain a change and navigate my health?

Now, I know that this is actually normal and that there is a psychological model for change that basically explains this. We move through the stages of change at our own pace and recycle through them all the time, and less than 5% of people actually go through the changes of pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination/transformation in a linear manner. And the 5% of people who manage to change in a sequential order without any recycling of the stages are typically military or super rule-abiders, which has never been my style. So we’re all just normal, in the best possible way. And if I can forgive myself for 10 years of cycling through contemplation, preparation, and action, then so can you for whatever your hang ups have been regarding your health.

Cleaning up my diet has been a massively transformational and positive experience for me, both physically and mentally to know that I finally did it! And there’s a lot more to be said about why and how I cleaned up my diet, which I plan to write more about soon. And there’s also more to the story of healing from chronic illness than the physical, and I will be writing about the psycho-spiritual aspect that I previously mentioned doctors are missing, too. If you’ve read this far, I assume you are ready to clean up your diet and make positive steps in the right direction for your health.

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