Day 7th’s Prompt: World Health Day – so let’s talk about daily nutrition and diet. After your diagnosis, did you alter your diet or health routine? If so, how? How do you maintain a healthy regiment? #HAWMC
When you have IBD, diet and nutrition are topics that lead to a lot of frustration. We know that every person with IBD is different and has had varied experiences in this area. Most of us also know, that our food choices are not the reason for our symptoms or for the flares in our disease, but that some food choices might aggravate our disease once we are already experiencing a flare. For some of us, some foods are just harder for our bodies to process or break down—but our reaction to food is an individual experience and cannot be generalized; the trauma and functioning of our digestive tract is just not a “one size fits all” conversation.
I do not maintain a healthy regiment! My experience with food has been a rocky one. I have seen nutritionists, done research, and tried the usual Crohn’s diets. For example, my GI wants me on a permanent low fiber/residue diet. This is basically the BRAT diet (Broth, Rice, Apple Sauce, Toast/Tea), with white noodles, potatoes, and chicken thrown in, as tolerated. Besides the low residue and BRAT diets, I have done the SCD diet, liquid diets, and clear liquid diets. I have tried to follow the general guidelines given to me when I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which included not eating foods with a skin or a shell, nothing with seeds, no beans, no raw vegetables, nothing spicy, limit red meat, dairy and fat, no caffeine, no alcohol, no vegetables with a stalk, no corn, peas, or foods high in acidity. I’m sure I am leaving something out, but my point is that basically, you are instructed to not eat anything except for white starchy carbohydrates and poultry. This type of eating does not lead to healthy nutrition, or to staying fit and at a healthy weight, especially after dealing with the side effects of high steroid doses for long periods of time. I will say though, that I do feel worse when I eat foods from the “do not eat list.” But, I also feel bad when I eat foods from the “okay to eat list.” So basically, for me, no matter what I eat, I am in pain, with abdominal cramping, and making frequent visits to the bathroom. Diarrhea, vomiting, urgency, frequency, distension, and cramping are symptoms that I will always have, whether I am in remission or not, due to the state of my insides since my surgeries. But because these symptoms severely limit my quality of life, I am always looking for ways to try to experiment with my food choices, to see if there are changes that will help me feel better, despite what my experience with the disease and the medical research has taught me.
One day, I decided all I was going to eat was crushed ice (except when out with friends or special occasions, because that would just look weird). It was actually really helpful and I probably felt the best on that diet. I did it for a year, but then I started to have root sensitivity with my teeth and other damage to my teeth as well, so I stopped. Then, this past year, I basically just ate pierogis. Again, it was a bland diet, but it just left me feeling, well…fat!
I would like to try a gluten-free, organic diet, that also incorporates not eating the foods on the “do not eat list.” I am already pretty much dairy free and eat very little red meat. The problem is that where I live, we do not have organic and gluten-free food choices at our grocery stores and eating that way is more expensive, and I am poor.
As for nutrition, regardless of food, my body no longer absorbs nutrients, because the lining of my intestinal tract is too damaged, so I take prescription doses of vitamin D, receive vitamin b-12 injections monthly, and get iron infusions as needed.
I honestly haven’t found a healthy routine for myself yet. I have had active Crohn’s for the last five years, as well as have had a serious degeneration of my spine, which makes exercise painful and dangerous outside of the supervision of a physical therapist. I think that having a healthy, balanced routine will always be hard for me, due to the nature of my diseases, immune system, the damage to my digestive tract and the side effects from the medications required to try to control these illnesses. I hope that one day I will be able to write a post about how healthy my lifestyle is, but the truth is that right now, I’m not healthy and I might never be. Sometimes we just have to accept the reality of our situation. And right now, this is mine.
I encourage anyone with IBD to listen to their own body and to do and eat what feels right for them. Again, IBD is a disease with many faces. We must all do what is right for us. Only you, with consultation from your GI, can make the best health/nutrition choices that will be best for you!
I wish you all happy bellies!