When you or your loved one was first diagnosed with IBD, you probably felt like your life and taking a sudden spiral downward. You may have found yourself in the state of utter confusion, a deep-seated feeling of loneliness and depression taking root in the very core of your being. This may sound dramatic, but too many sufferers of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis feel this way in response to their diagnosis. The good news is that the better informed you become about your newly diagnosed condition, the better off you will be in the long run.
One problem that many people with IBD know all too well, is that these diseases, especially Crohn’s disease, can reoccur. Although therapies can reduce signs and symptoms, often the hope for full remission is stymied by widely varying factors.
Treatment options often include hospitalizations, surgery, and medications, but they rarely include a holistic approach that incorporates acupuncture, a new diet (potentially wheat-and-dairy-free), stress reduction, psychotherapy, yoga and meditation, naturopathic medicine, and a special protocol in detoxification.
When the proper groundwork is set for healing, the treatments, lifestyle practices, and even pharmaceutical medications, are much more effective at reducing symptoms and promoting healing. Our bodies were meant to function as a whole, and treatment plans should always be directed at the whole body to achieve the desired effect of wellness.
For me, as a Crohn’s disease patient, I benefit so much from going to see my regular doctor (an M.D.), and my naturopath (and ND), as well as my IBD specialist at the clinic at Dartmouth. I hope that someday soon, all three will be able to work together seamlessly. Until that time, I have to be the instigator, and make sure that my medical records are sent to all three places, and I have to be very proactive to stay on top of my appointments, asking my questions, doing my own research, and creating my own support system. All of the specialists and doctors are very busy people (as most of us are), and it is imperative for those of us with IBD, or our caregivers, to be very motivated.
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming. But make a list of things to do:
- Walk every day—start small, and gradually add miles. . . . A walk on the beach, like my friend in the photo, really releases stress. Do a short yoga stretch before or after!
- Buy a new water bottle—I love my 22-ounce LifeFactory glass water bottle with the rubber exterior!), and take one step at a time.
- Find a recommended naturopath in your area.
- Make sure you have at least yearly appointments with all the doctors on your “team.”
- Embark on the new dietary guidelines in this book.
- Take a high-potency probiotic (I take 1 capsule daily, called VSL#3, that really seems to be helping by bowel movements), or one that is recommended by your team.
- Consider asking your MD or ND to do a complete blood work-up, and also to test your adrenal function.
- (Last, but not least,) Work with a naturopath, preferably, to balance the immune system to achieve homeostasis that is promoting wellness in your mind and body.
Happy Spring Detox and Motivation….. And Happy Almost Summer!
Our new cookbook is out and Dede would like to give away a free copy to the first two people who comment on this post — tell us a bit about yourself, are you a caregiver, do you have Crohn’s, or colitis, or IBS, or some other autoimmune disease? When you receive your book (send email in PM to firstname.lastname@example.org), please post a review on Amazon for us and we will be eternally grateful!
We are excited to share these gut-friendly recipes from the book and there is a long introduction about how to live with IBD and tips to help.
For the millions of people afflicted with irritable bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s and colitis, it can be a daily struggle to find nutritious meals that won’t aggravate symptoms or cause a flare-up. The Living with Crohn’s & Colitis Cookbook is your essential nutrition guide with over 100 recipes and meal plans expertly designed to improve daily functioning and help relieve symptoms of Crohn’s and colitis.
The Living with Crohn’s & Colitis Cookbook contains everything you need to plan your meals, balance your diet, and manage your symptoms, including:
• A guide to keeping a food journal
• Sample meal plans
• Tips for shopping for an IBD diet
• Gentle and nutritious recipes to help soothe flare-ups
…and much more!
The Living with Crohn’s & Colitis Cookbook features over 100 recipes, including Zucchini Buckwheat Banana Bread, Homemade Almond Milk, Dr. Lang’s Healing Soup, Garlic-Herbed Scallops, Coconut Curry Chicken over Brown Rice, Mushroom Risotto with Cashews and Parmesan, Crabapple Walnut Cake, and many more. The book also features Paleo recipes.
Enjoy these photos from our book!
Switching to a diet high in Omega-3s has been a major factor in my being in remission!
When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s and colitis, I did not exactly jump into the fray of changing my diet and lifestyle… It took a few years! When you set out to try to change habits that are ingrained and also are associated with comfort (mother’s mac ‘n cheese anyone?), it takes time.
Now that I am on the other side of my twenty-year Crohn’s/colitis saga, I am in a place where I want to help others find their own way.
Once thing I have learned through my dietary study, is the fact that we need Omega-3 fatty acids in our diet daily—and not just if you are a Crohnie or uc-er. Every day.
I eat wild-caught salmon at least once a week, take flax seed ground up to aid in digestion and add fiber to my diet. I also take an Omega-3 supplement daily that really helps my arthritic joints (due to Crohn’s). I am healthy, fit and the doctors are surprised and how well I am, relying on diet, supplements and a holistic lifestyle.
Someone like me would normally be on autoimmune suppression drugs, but I do not want to do that to my body, and my choice was a wise one as I am incredibly healthy!
Omega-3 fatty acids are found also in walnuts, which I also eat every day. Other sources are the ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) Omega-3 fatty acids found in certain vegetable oils like soybeans, canola and flaxseed, as well as in green vegetables (kale, and more kale!, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and leafy greens). The other type of Omega-3 fatty acid is called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and is present in salmon especially, as well as other types of fatty fish: Bluefish, mackerel, herring, tuna, anchovies and sardines are also excellent sources of omega-3s.
According to Dr. Frank Sacks, Professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, you should have at least one serving of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet daily.
In my upcoming cookbook, Living With Crohn’s & Colitis Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Creating Your Personal Diet Plan to Wellness (with an Introduction by Jessica Black, ND, and a Foreword by Sarah Choueiry, Crohn’s patient and founder of The Crohn’s Journey Foundation) due out in September (!), I have a few salmon recipes, and I’d like to share one now (quick and easy and great for summer dining—remember, if one of the foods, like apples, is a trigger food and hard to digest, substitute it or delete it from the recipe and adjust the mayo and seasonings accordingly)…. Enjoy!
Easy Salmon Salad
2 cans wild boneless, skinless salmon
½ cup mayonnaise, organic
½ cup minced carrots
½ cup minced apples
¼ cup sweet relish, organic and sweetened naturally
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Serve chilled with crackers, on a salad, or alone.
….and I also want add a checklist for how to shop for the best salmon and how to cook and store the fish, as follows:
Wild-caught salmon (in photo) follows the seasonal run of the Pacific Northwest, and we strive to be first to market. According to the folks at Central Market, you should only buy from markets that buy fish from strictly regulated fisheries committed to sustainable practices and the guidelines set forth by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The fish has been out of the water less than 48 hours prior to its arrival, flown in fresh several times a week and each piece is inspected.
Here are some tips from them to best enjoy your wild-caught salmon:
- Eat or freeze within 24 hours. Keep it in the refrigerator covered tightly in plastic wrap until you’re ready to cook it.
- Don’t rinse with water or the color will leach.
- If grilling, preheat grill to medium-high and grease it well with olive or grapeseed oil. Place the salmon on the grill, meat side down, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of the fillet. Flip over and cook 3 to 4 minutes more, skin side down. Also try it with a cedar plank. Sear with meat side down, then place skin side down on cedar plank and close the grill to infuse that cedar-smoked flavor.
- If using a cast-iron skillet, heat it until almost smoking and sear 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Pull it off the heat and let it continue to cook in the skillet until desired doneness.
- Salmon is done when it starts to flake, and it tastes best with a medium center.
Now that you know how to store and prep your salmon—enjoy! You can also pre-order my cookbook right here at your local, independent bookstore, and Sarah Choueiry and I are really excited to introduce you to a ton of great and easy recipes!
Happy Almost Summer!
I found this photo this morning, when I was remembering how scared I was going in for surgery for a bowel resection due to a serious, three-week, blockage of my small intestine from complications of Crohn’s disease.
I only weighed 117 pounds in this photo, taken with my son’s college roommate, Justin, two days before my operation in 2006. I was so skinny and malnourished, it’s hard to believe now that I am over twenty pounds heavier! I also found my husband’s post on my CaringBridge site (which still exists under “DedeCummings”), and I want to tell all my readers and followers of this blog, that you should never give up hope!
Written May 22, 2006 8:35pm
The news from Hanover is very good: Dede was in surgery from about 9:30-noon, and awoke (in a manner of speaking) about an hour later. She had a good grip on the button of her morphine pump, and smiled beatifically every time she heard its answering “beep.”
Dr. Henriques took out approx. 5 inches of her small intestine, of which 5 cm had severe scarring and the rest was worn out, and about the same length of large intestine, which had been scarred by a fistula (an “abnormal passage” connecting the two, resulting from her disease/scarring). The doctor held up his index fingers like a fisherman describing his catch when describing all of this.
He also took out her appendix while he was in there, so we’ll have no access to supplementary information about her internal organs in the future. (Sorry: lame book joke…) Her gall bladder looks fine, just for the record.
He expects her to be in the hospital for only a few days, so she could get home as soon as Thursday. She has already gotten out of bed, taken a few steps, and sat up for a while.
By tomorrow she’ll be treated to smoothies and milkshakes, and can eat some solid food by the end of the week–Dr. Henriques predicts that she’ll be voracious by that point.
Thanks for all of your lovely notes and positive thoughts; I’ll be able to get my computer online in her room tomorrow, so keep ’em coming.
In some human diseases, the wrong mix of bacteria seems to be the trouble.
I recently discovered a new blog that is specifically for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. It is called Health Rising and the link is below.
There are articles that explore gut health and microbiota by Ken Lassesen, that really explain the importance on overall homeostasis for everyone, whether you have Crohn’s, colitis, IBS, IBD, Celiac, etc.
I am on a strict diet of no dairy, no grains, no sugar. Supplements include probiotics and turmeric. I am really healthy and haven’t had symptoms for almost eight years! I did have a partial bowel resection, in 2006, that changed my life and set me on a path toward wellness— that is when I wrote my book because I was disillusioned by the recommendations of my GI doctors who said I should take heavy-duty, autoimmune-suppressing drugs.
Read more: Bacterial Resistance, Infection and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Fighting Infections Pt. I http://www.cortjohnson.org/blog/2014/03/26/bacterial-resistance-infection-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-fighting-infections-pt-1/
In some human diseases, the wrong mix of bacteria seems to be the trouble, Part 2.
A recent NPR story on gut bacteria and Crohn’s disease really impressed me, so I want to share it in its entirety here on my blog!
Mix Of Gut Microbes May Play Role In Crohn’s Disease
The particular assortment of microbes in the digestive system may be an important factor in the inflammatory bowel condition known as Crohn’s disease.
Research involving more than 1,500 patients found that people with Crohn’s disease had less diverse populations of gut microbes.
“[This] basically for the first time identifies what might be the bacterial changes in patients with Crohn’s disease,” says Ramnik Xavier, of Masssachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who led the work.
More than a million Americans suffer from Crohn’s, which seems to start when an overreactive immune system causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding, weight loss and other symptoms. Many patients have to take powerful steroids (which can have serious side-effects), and some have parts of the digestive tract surgically removed.
Mounting evidence has suggested that microbes living in the gut might contribute to the problem. So Xavier and his colleagues compared the species of bacteria in more than 447 Crohn’s patients to the mix of microbes in more than 221 healthy people.
In their paper published in the journal Cell, Host and Microbe, the researchers detailed the clear difference they discovered: The patients with Crohn’s seemed to have too many of the sorts of bacteria that rile immune systems.
In addition to having less diversity in their gut microbes, Xavier says, the Crohn’s patients had fewer bacteria that have been associated with reduced inflammation and more bacteria associated with increased inflammation. (The findings were confirmed in 800 Crohn’s patients from other studies.)
Interestingly, children whose doctors had tried to treat their Crohn’s symptoms with antibiotics before they were properly diagnosed had a mix of microbes that was the most out of whack.
“We may have to revisit the use of antibiotics in [these] patients with early-onset Crohn’s disease,” Xavier says.
Instead, doctors might eventually do better to identify and prescribe treatments that mimic the helpful bacteria, he says, along with foods or other pharmaceutical agents that reduce or counteract the harmful bacteria.
“There’s the possibility that we might be able to identify [some] sort of super-probiotics that might be able to correct the gut back to the healthy state,” Xavier says.
UCLA pathologist Jonathan Braun, who studies microbial ecology, says the paper offers important first insights into illnesses beyond Crohn’s. “Other diseases are thought to be driven at least in part by bacteria,” he says, such as some inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. Bacteria may also be involved in obesity.
Humans should work harder to understand bacteria, Braun says, “and live with them when they’re helping us, or get them to serve us better when they are causing harm.”
Good for the media to pick up in the importance of balance in the flora and fauna of the gut—remember, everyone is different and there is no know cure for Crohn’s (for UC, the large colon can be removed, putting the patient in remission, but that is not the case for Crohn’s unfortunately).
So, with Spring on the way, now is the time to set some goals for health: sign up for Team Challenge with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, walk 3 miles a day (get your heart rate up by walking up hills), do yoga/meditate, get lots of sleep, make an appointment with a naturopath, too. Spring brings with it hope for new life (and here in Vermont, lots of mud!).
I would definitely recommend getting another opinion. I got two!
One of our readers wrote to say her doctor told her she “shouldn’t feel any pain from UC.”
Pain is a bi-product of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. My disease caused pain when I flared—it even felt like labor pains! I have Crohn’s. My disease is characterized by scarring—called fibro stenotic disease. UC does not usually go through the outer wall of the large intestine the way Crohn’s does with the small… So some people don’t have pain, but have diarrhea instead.
Remember, everyone is an individual, and we have different symptoms and react differently to different foods, or stress, for example. I (Dede) always say this: listen to your own body, ease off on trigger foods, like dairy or wheat, be proactive in your health care and do research and ask questions. Bring a list, and a partner or a friend, to your doctor’s appointments.
One time, I brought my husband, and he had done all this research (he’s an English professor ;)… at one point in the meeting, the gastroenterologist leaned over his desk and said to my husband, “Hey, what do you have on that drug?”
One thing to be aware of: getting off Prednisone. Did your doctor tell you to taper off slowly? My GI did. I love my team at Dartmouth Hitchcock in NH, it’s important to find a clinic and doctor you can trust who really listens to you!
Diet—yes, can cause pain and symptom flares. Don’t let a doctor fool you! Listen to your own body!
There is an excellent website-forum called www.ihaveuc.com and you should “tell your story,” and pose any questions you have there, also.
Greetings from Vermont. I am the co-author of Living With Crohn’s & Colitis: A Comprehensive Naturopathic Guide for Complete Digestive Wellness (with a nationally-known naturopath, Jessica Black, ND). Our book has helped so many people afflicted with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, part of the growing auto-immune diseases that cause diarrhea, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and cramping. These inflammatory bowel diseases, and other auto-inmmune disease are on the rise exponentially across the world, especially in the developed countries where processed food is available.
Think about it: There are certain behaviors that cause body/mind stress: We address this in the book, but I want to tell you that I am a patient/survivor of a stress-induced flare-up in 2006 that almost killed me. On my 5 foot 8 frame, I weighed 117 pounds. I spent a month at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. I was 45 and very sick, with 3 children at home and a business to run.
Stress was the way I worked, and I was on autopilot without taking time for myself. That has all changed, and I have been in clinical remission for the last 7 years! Let me tell you more….
As many readers know, I went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota this past May to have a complete second opinion. I spent two days of my weeklong stay, at the wonderful stress reduction clinic.
Here are some of my tips gained from my research, and how I try to keep my disease in remission:
A lot of us have low level stress. Most of us don’t live in the hyper-aware world, and we suffer the autopilot behaviors that contribute to what I call “the slow burn of stress response.” Our heart rate and blood pressure might be elevated, and our breathing and muscle tension is like this — shallow breathing and knots in muscles. There is an area at the base of the brain called the amygdala. This is the seat of our emotional reactions, or “flight of fight” response to stress. Many Americans live with this elevated, but low level elevation daily… a little bit of “Flight of Fight” stress is really okay, but not on autopilot.
Look at our brains — In our pre frontal cortex, there is an area responsible for relaxation, and it is not easy to stimulate and not an adrenal release, as per the amygdala part of the brain.
First we need to be aware of this pre frontal cortex We have to explore our own behaviors and habits, break out of autopilot, and participate in a personal practice. There are some things you can’t control, like weather or traffic jams; however there are some things we can control, and are important… An example from the workshop was if you have an overbearing mother (don’t worry, Mom, not YOU!), and how you need to take care of yourself first and use the excuse of health, and scale down. Awareness helps, and limit your exposure to stressful people and situations. It’s a process… keep boundaries in your mind, but “caring boundaries.”
Unhealthy responses to stress in our life are anger, etc. It is important to develop a healthy exercise routine, learn and use relaxation techniques (see below), and take care of yourself. This neural pathway gets easier and easier to tap into (see diagram at right). For example, my body knows and relaxes immediately when I walk into my home “yoga area” where I have a TV, and a carpet with a yoga mat. I use Rodney Yee’s DvD, “AM/PM Yoga,” and do the exercises every day… it gets easier and easier to tap into the relaxation part of my brain, and it is replenishing.
After a stressful day:
- Call a friend
- Read a book
- Walk the dog
- Ride a horse
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen
- Play the piano
- Do some gardening
In order to break out of autopilot, do a few things on this list on a regular basis.
Benefits: Concentration, Problem solving, Sleep…
We need to be participants: This involves “letting go of the wheel,” loosening your grip, and takes time and experimentation.
In the wonderful workshop, our instructor gave the analogy of flying on an airplane, and how you put the oxygen mask first, then help the child.
Talk therapy is another way to help relinquish the autopilot lifestyle… A regular monthly session with a trained, recommended therapist will do wonders for helping to care for yourself, establish boundaries, and feel safe.
Evaluate your stressors and prioritize your time, as you move forward in the break from autopilot.
Give yourself permission eg., “Be kind to yourself and ask for help.”
Often we don’t think about our career as a choice made for healthy reason, and it might be time to reevaluate what we do for work.
It is important to spend time with friends, develop hobbies…. Hanging out with people who make me laugh is a goal. A hospital study involved a control for two groups with the same malady: One group watched funny movies every day, and got out of the hospital faster.
It’s a process, and it is important to practice positive self talk.
Start a simple practice of Tai chi and chi gong
Walk around with a gentle smile on your face and try to share it with strangers—you use less muscles and tension when you are not frowning, which can contribute to an overall sense of well-being and a way to focus on releasing the internal stress caused by being on autopilot…
I have found this “small smile” technique that is practiced by Amit Soud, MD, the head of the Eastern Medicine Section of the Mayo Clinic to be essential as a way to lessen internal stress.
TAI CHI AND CHI GONG: These ancient exercises are easy and relaxing, often available in small towns across the United States. For example:
We breathe with about 40% of our lungs. If we can learn to take slow diaphragmatic breaths, we can effortlessly lesson our stress levels. These exercises are the foundation and essential for relaxed breathing.
A simple exercise I learned at the Mayo Clinic:
Take in a slow deep breath,
and fill your lungs so even your belly sticks out;
hold for a couple of seconds;
pretend you have a lit candle and exhale
so that the candle flickers.
Note to reader: it might take 8 weeks or so to start seeing results.