I often get asked what I do to manage my Crohn’s. I’ve been battling Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) since my first major flare back in 2006. I did OK on biologics–never really having complete relief from my symptoms–but, I’m now on my second attempt at going medication free and about to hit the three year mark (my first attempt got derailed when I decided it would be OK to binge on Papa John’s pizza and cinnamon knots on the weekends…bad idea).
While everyone with IBD is different, I believe there are great benefits to learning from each other. So today, I’m sharing my top six tips for managing my Crohn’s Disease.
1. Clean up your diet!
Before doing anything, clean up your diet (honestly, you should do this whether you have IBD or not). Remove processed foods, sugar, anything that is hard for you to digest, and limit alcohol. I’ve heard many people with IBD say over and over that diet does matter…and, thanks to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, research is now being done to evaluate the effectiveness of certain diets as potential treatment options for IBD and to better understand the relationship between diet and Crohn’s Disease.
Personally, I have found that I do best with a diet focused on protein. I have slowly evolved from a low-carb diet, to keto, to carnivore and now have settled into a keto-carnivore approach. The foundation of my diet is meat (mostly ribeyes, ground beef, and other cuts of steak, but also chicken, tuna, bacon, and shrimp, depending on what I’m in the mood for). After that, I focus on other animal products, like eggs and cheese (I try not to overdo the cheese though, because it can stall weight loss or lead to constipation). I also eat a few avocados throughout the week, a cucumber here and there, coffee every morning (with ghee), and wine a few nights during the week.
If you can tolerate them, I believe animal proteins are the most important food we can include in our diets. Protein breaks down into amino acids, which are the building blocks for our bodies. We need protein for strong bones and muscles, hormone and enzyme production, tissue repair and much more; it is an important component of every cell in the body. After protein, I make sure to eat enough fat for satiety. I have found that the right combination of protein and fats (animals fats, usually from a fatty cut of meat, eggs, or butter) will help me to feel full for the longest amount of time. After that, I’ll include an avocado or cucumber with my meals (mostly because I want a different texture or flavor…and because I love avocados).
2. Try CBD Oil (Hemp Oil)
I’ve written three posts on my full experience using CBD oil and why I became such a die-hard believer in this supplement (scroll down to the “Supplements” category here to view the posts). I currently use the Endoca Raw Hemp Oil 1500mg capsules. I take one in the morning and one at night. I tried to reduce the amount I was taking to just one capsule a day, but within days I noticed loose stools, mucus, and blood return (my tell-tell signs of Crohn’s).
It was only recently in 1992 that the first naturally occurring endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid) was found in the body that led to recognizing the Endocannabinoid System. Since then, two cannabinoid receptors in the body have been identified and are referred to as CB1 and CB2.
The CB1 receptors are predominantly found in the brain and nervous system, while CB2 receptors are predominantly found on white blood cells. In short, CB1 receptors regulate functions like anxiety and pain perception while CB2 receptors regulate the inflammatory process. When the cannabidiol (CBD) found in hemp oil (or CBD and THC found in marijuana plants) interacts with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, some people experience the often-touted health benefits of pain relief, less anxiety, and easing of Crohn’s symptoms, which is what I noticed.
Do note, however, that the quality and quantity of CBD oil does matter. Check out my previous posts for details and links on how to choose a brand and how to gauge your starting dose.
3. Use Intestinal Fortitude Supplements
I’m always trying new supplements, constantly learning and looking for ways to further improve my health. So, when I learned that Intestinal Fortitude supplements were developed BY a Crohn’s patient FOR Crohn’s patients, I had to try them! There are three products that I use from Intestinal Fortitude: the Pro B-11 probiotic, the Gut Lining Repair GLR-6, and the anti inflammatory AI-5.
I slowly incorporated all three supplements into my daily routine, while at the same time, I eliminated the 27g of glutamine I was taking. I noticed that my bowel movements further improved when I did this, so I made the switch completely.
If you want to learn more about how the Intestinal Fortitude supplements were developed, listen to the Crohn’s Fitness Food podcast, Episode 11, with Will Jenkins, founder/creator of Intestinal Fortitude.
4. Start Walking
I know most people with Crohn’s Disease typically suffer from diarrhea…and I’ve certainly had my share. However, for the past year I’ve been struggling with constipation off and on; sometimes severe. In the past, I used to go walking for about 45-60 minutes every morning. But now that my commute to work is an hour (and has been since I moved a couple years ago), I haven’t been able to go for daily walks like I used to. And, if you’ve ever Googled constipation, you know that exercise is almost always recommended.
So, rather than go walking for an hour all at once, I’ve started taking multiple short walks throughout the day. I’ll simply take a few breaks and walk two or three times for about 10-15 minutes. The other added benefit to this is that because I have a desk job and tend to sit for eight hours straight, this is an extra incentive to get me up and away from my desk. It helps to clear my mind, re-energize me, and makes me more productive for the rest of the day. I’ve also noticed that my digestion has improved and constipation isn’t a problem when I’m consistent with my daily short walking bursts. Exercise in general tends to help me with my Crohn’s, so this is an easy way to stay active.
5. Consider Fasting
I just recently wrote a post on why I enjoy fasting (anywhere from 16-36 hours), but the quick version is that it gives my digestive system much needed rest and time to heal and repair, it allows me to finally quit obsessing over every calorie that I eat, and it actually makes me feel calmer and a little more zen-like…as if I were a monk 🙂
The freedom to feast and then fast is very liberating to me. I enjoy the foods I tolerate, then let my body recover and give it a chance to heal my gut. If you want to consider fasting, start slowly. Like anything, fasting takes practice if you want to get better at it. It does get easier and offers multiple benefits from improved insulin sensitivity to cellular autophagy. Check out my previous post for more information, tips and resources (books and podcasts) on fasting.
While fasting is generally safe for healthy people (especially if you’re just skipping a meal and starting Intermittent Fasting), there are some people who will want to talk to their doctor first. Anyone who is already malnourished from IBD, is diabetic, suffers from another chronic illness, is pregnant, or has any health concern, should talk with their doctor to address any possible issues or medications that could be affected by fasting.
6. Reduce your STRESS!
I know, this is easier said than done. But, over the past six months I’ve learned to let go of the little things. It took some practice (and still does) along with a change in mindset, but it has helped tremendously.
Here are a few key things I’ve been practicing to help me let go of the little things and say goodbye to stress:
- Don’t feel obligated to fix or solve every problem if someone simply asks you a question (especially if it’s not in your lane), you can just say that you don’t know!
- Speaking of your lane…stay in your lane. If it doesn’t concern you or have anything to do with you, forget about it.
- Focus on yourself, not others. In general, don’t worry about what everyone else is or isn’t doing, just focus on what you need to accomplish (at home, at work, etc.) and block out everything else that is just noise.
- Be grateful for the little things and express your gratitude…even if it’s for something basic or mundane, like your spouse taking the trash to the curb the night before garbage day.
- Prioritize the time you need for yourself (from sleep to just chilling). It’s OK to say NO to events or activities and focus on the things you want/need to do.
- Find a hobby that you are passionate about and dedicate time to that every day (having something you are passionate about will also help you to forget about the extra noise and all the other things that don’t concern you).
- Walk outside for a few minutes each day to breathe in the fresh air and feel the sunshine on your face.
- Let others help you. You don’t have to do everything; ask for help when you need it.
- Leave work at work!
- Practice being present in the moment, no matter where you are.
I share these things from experience; I’ve done them all and they have helped me greatly! I’m not perfect and I still have to practice and continually remind myself to do these things, but the more I do them, the easier it gets to feel at peace and stress free. Bottom line, the world will keep spinning so learn to stop and smell the roses.
What are the top tips that have helped you manage your Crohn’s Disease or other chronic illness? Share in the comments below, I’d love to add to this list and give our readers an even more comprehensive digest for improving their health!