Lessoning stress in one’s life is key to maintaining a healthy balance including how stress affects one’s digestion. Adding probiotics daily as a supplement is an easy and helpful way to aid the homeostasis in the microbiome. Having Crohn’s disease is a tough diagnosis, but achieving gut-level homeostasis is key to keeping a balance of good and bad bacteria.
Many people don’t realize that taking antibiotics can sweep out the gut flora, causing the balance to shift. I watch my diet carefully: no wheat, no sugar, lots of vegetables and sustainably harvested fish and organic chicken, daily antioxidant tea, mediation, yoga, lots of sleep and daily 3-5 mile hikes.
About twenty years ago, I got severe food poisoning from a fast-food chicken sandwich and I didn’t realize the bacteria invaded my gut and created an inhospitable environment where good bacteria and “bad” bacteria normally thrive in a kind of symbiotic balance. I had an overgrowth of bad bacteria and it wasn’t until I developed full-blown Crohn’s disease and had a bowel resection that I started to really take care of my gut microbiome and my quality of life improved immediately.
When you read Dede’s latest medical assessment (in the photo), you will see that she has no symptoms…and then read down, and see the symptoms/possible side effects from the medication!
That was May, 2013. In her checkup this past October, the doctors said they are amazed at her condition and attribute it to her and Jessica Black, ND’s low-inflammation diet and lifestyle! They told her that no medication is needed at this time, but only if symptoms occur.
The diet, the exercise, the yoga/meditation, and working with her naturopathic physician as well are all doing their job!!!
High-potency turmeric (curcumin phytosome), a prescribed probiotic powder (Dede buys all her supplements from her naturopath’s office… Expensive, but worth it for the best quality), ultra potent C, Omega 3 fish oil, Phyto-multi vitamins, magnesium with calcium, D3 liquid drops, and a daily adrenal assist (herbal) pill provides key nutrients and botanicals to support adrenal response to stress and support the ability to adapt to stressors and restore balance.
As we move into the wonderful month of February, with longer days and a holiday/school vacations, now is the time to think about training for a walk or a run (Team Challenge, or a CCFA.org walk—http://www.ccfa.org/get-involved/team-challenge.html). Set a goal… Also, add a visit to a naturopathic physician, and try acupuncture (with a trained practitioner who is recommended… If you are nervous about needles, ask for Moxa).
These anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle changes are a big part of your wellness campaign. Take it one day at a time. Get out in nature (and snow) every day! And continue to heal, and restore balance in your life…
At the beginning of the new year, we checked in about following a 3-4 month plan for wellness.
The main thing to focus on is that it takes time to change habits, and sometimes having a tough diagnosis, like Crohn’s, IBD, colitis, celiac disease, diverticular disease, etc., can really scare us and throw us for a loop. Dede has found that taking control of your life and learning everything you can about your auto-immune diseasee, is a good first step. Ask questions of your doctors during interviews, and seek out local health practitioners that are recommended and certified—finding a naturopathic physician with a four-year degree and experience is an important step. Remember, naturopathic physicians can suggest a variety if options for your health plan, and augment what you are doing with the GI clinic.
A few years ago, when my GI was adamant that I start 6MP and Remicade, I was despondent and scared. My naturopath said to look at it another way, that if a patient has no choice (given their quality of life), there could be other supplements and a range of beneficial treatments to help alleviate symptoms from the drugs. Many of us have no choice! We are lonely and confused, to say the least.
After sobbing on the kitchen floor after my recurrence in November of 2012, I picked up the phone and called Portland, Oregon (where Jessica Black, ND, my co-author lives and practices naturopathic medicine), and asked for help. She recommended the curcumin-high-potency turmeric I now take daily (along with other supplements), and reassured me so I felt less overwhelmed. (I never did start the drug regimen, and remain in remission for the second year!)
Since we are embarking on the “new year plan of wellness,” let’s check in about some goals, and where we are now:
1. Continue previous points: a no-wheat, sugar-free diet that focuses on fruit and veggies and is organic; getting lots of restorative sleep (see photo of a how to make your bedroom a sanctuary!–this is from Hotel Vermont, but still!), daily yoga, meditation, and exercise, and a positive attitude….
2. Add an additional supplement or herbal medicine—talk to your doctor or naturopath about Vitamin D, or Omega 3.
3. Begin the Tapping for Energy technique (in our book) or daily acupressure. Dede likes to massage her feet before bed, using a nice mix of moisturizer and sesame or apricot oil. It is amazing how much stress is in our feet and the acupressure points relate to organs in the body. It is a great routine to press gently on some of these points — the bowel area is at the bottom of your feet (on both sides), and mostly I just press in gently and firmly and relax into the pressure—especially before going to bed. Look for a recommended acupuncturist, and make appointments for once a week for 4-weeks… See if it helps (if you don’t like certain needles, ask for Moxa!)
4. Experiment with adding more anti-inflammatory foods and spices into your diet. Last night, I made a fish curry with garnishes of bananas, raisins, chopped apples . . . yum!
Message me if you want the recipe. It was mild, not too spicy, and used Haddock filet.
Good day to my fellow Crohnnie’s and UC-ers,
Holidays are fun—remember that!!! In the spirit of our favorite holiday when you have IBD, we are gearing up for a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, AND grain-free Thanksgiving!!! Yahoo! Can’t wait. Here is what we can eat: TURKEY!!! The best comfort food on earth (with lots of tryptophan in it that makes us feel good), sweet potatoes (yams) that are steamed and mashed with olive oil and a bit of melted canola butter on top, small sweet onions with canola butter, steamed carrots, cranberry sauce (unsweetened), as long as you can tolerate cranberries. Don’t try ANY new food over any holiday. If you go to a potluck, don’t eat, or bring your own food …. Remember to stay positive, get a lot of rest and exercise every day to clear your head. Start meditation, and volunteer at a local Thanksgiving Day dinner (I’ll be making some gluten-free dishes to bring to my town’s open dinner as a donation)….
Take care of yourself! Give back to others, and you will have a perfect holiday!
Here are some more of Dede’s “Living-with-Crohn’s & Colitis” TIPS—
Probiotic & Diet
For PROBIOTICS, look for a pure brand with a 50/50 blend of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus acidophilus. Perhaps you can find this brand: Metagenics, Ultra Flora “Synergy.” Take once a day, with or without food (depends on how you tolerate it). Keep that food journal, and note down any stress in your life, daily exercise, everything you eat. Don’t eat fried or spicy food—keep track, and eat small frequent meals. I have a really OCD technique: breakfast begins with tea and a dash of milk (the ONLY dairy I eat, and my ONE treat ;)), then add a bit of honey (again, buy in bulk and a pure brand). Cold cereal of almond milk mixed with bananas and cut-up melon (add nuts and raisins IF you can tolerate). Snack is peanut butter on carrots.
CHEW EVERYTHING really well!
Drink TONS of water with fresh lemon squeezed into it.
Drink TONS of herbal teas…I like peppermint
Lunch is tuna or chicken salad (use pure fresh, virgin, olive oil!), maybe chick pea humus and a handful of almonds on the side; snack is applesauce and peanut butter. Dinner is a grilled local beef/organic hamburger with steamed zucchini. No grain, no sugar, no dairy. I eat ALL the time and feel great on this diet. I don’t even crave sugar!
Good luck and stay positive. YOU CAN DO THIS!
Running my first half marathon, in 2010, for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America was one of the most awesome things I have ever done. I was very proud of myself, but I realized I was mostly proud of my fellow runners, my mentor and my coaches—an inspiring group! I felt secure and happy surrounded by fellow Crohnnies and uc-ers! We laughed a lot, and encouraged each other during the race (some were walkers, too). I remember at mile 11, one of my coaches, Kate Devlin, urged me on, and I thought I would totally give up at that point, but I wanted to RUN. The whole thing!
The funniest part of my first Half Marathon . . . I became friends with my CCFA-fellow team members in my hotel, and we nicknamed ourselves the “Wardrobe Malfunction Team,” because I only brought my daughter’s running shorts that were tiny and I could barely get them on, and my roommate, Kelly Jackson—a fellow Crohnnie–and I were in hysterics in the morning at 5:30 a.m. when we had to get ready for the race, as I was yanking Emma’s shorts on to try to get them over my hips! Well, I got the too-tight shorts on, and got ready to run.
I did it (in something like 2–1/2 hours, but who cares—I finished and I did run the entire way). I met tons of people (there were over 5,000 runners!) who had serious cases of Crohn’s and UC. I will never forget how close we became and how they inspired me. I am thinking of doing it again…. DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!
My article was published this morning….
Kind of excited. Hope my fellow Crohnnie/uc-ers like it! I got some help from ccfa.org, too! I worked with editor, Travis Saunders, a PhD student researching the relationship between sedentary time and chronic disease risk in children and youth. He is also a Certified Exercise Physiologist and competitive distance runner.
I had a hard time finding studies that were recent, dealing with the impact of exercise on Crohn’s and Colitis. Research that I found shows that it does help, and I would love to hear from readers who have some things to add, or if there are problems associated with exercise and IBD.
Obesity Panacea is an awesome blog, and I am trying to help promote it. Thanks!
Photo © 2012 “Mike” Michael L. Baird
Often, I write about the benefits of yoga in my ongoing daily practice as a way to alleviate stress, promote healing, and feel in harmony with the world around me. The words of my teacher, Pema Chödrön echo in my mind as I slowly let go and attempt to empty my mind and achieve a state of truly being present, she says:
…”feeling your heart, and greeting the next moment with an open mind can be done at any time: when you wake up in the morning, before a difficult conversation, whenever fear or discomfort arises.”
I am a Crohn’s disease patient.
In 2006, I had a partial bowel resection and I have been in remission for the past 5 years. I was very sick and weighed only 119 lbs on my 5 foot 8 frame (now I am up to 139-142 lbs.). One of my goals, in writing the book with naturopath Jessica Black, was to try to help people BEFORE they get full blown Inflammatory Bowel Disease, by educating them about diet and lifestyle changes that are vital to maintaining health, especially in today’s world where we are exposed to chemicals and stress. An anti-inflammation diet is key; drinking lots of water, sleep, exercise, yoga and meditation, are all ways to cope with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and other auto-immune diseases—AND having a positive attitude.
After my terminal ileum, ileo-secal valve, and a big part of my Sigmoid colon (that’s part of the large intestine that had been damaged by a fistula that had spread across my abdomen and formed a tumor, that was thankfully benign) were removed, it took me weeks to get back on my feet, and I took baby steps —like walking to the mailbox each day was a big deal!
Yoga and meditation have helped me find a much-needed balance in my life. I work for a publisher called Shambhala, in Boston, and I asked my (then) boss, Steve Dyer, what I should read now that I was home from the hospital and wanting to follow a Buddhist path. He suggested books by Pema Chödrön, and the first three books I read had titles that attracted me: When Things Fall Apart, Start Where You Are, and The Places that Scare You—I loved her voice, her compassionate way with writing in a style that made me feel like she was writing just to me. Her newest is called Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. I highly recommend her, and also Saki Santorelli’s book, Heal Thyself.
But what about exercise?
The Olympics are inspiring, no doubt about that. It would take the harshest cynic not to like some of the back stories, too. When I was a kid growing up in Providence, I always watched with my father. We both loved the “Up Close and Personal” shorts about the athletes—they came alive in your living room, as if they were sharing their stories just for you.
After I had recovered from surgery, I kept looking for activities that would help me stay in remission, and exercise topped my list: hiking, walking, running, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, swimming, kayaking….all became priorities, especially hiking. I began to get physically stronger and fit, gaining muscle and stamina (I had been a smoker with a twenty-year habit!). In fact, I got in better shape as I worked out all the time, and increased bone density (especially important due to my heavy usage of Prednisone over the course of the three years leading up to my surgery…not a good drug to take for that long!)
Running my first half marathon for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America was one of the most awesome things I have ever done. First of all, I can’t believe I ran THIRTEEN MILES !!! Woohoo. I signed up to fundraise, too, and raised something like 2,500!!! I was very proud of myself, but I realized I was mostly proud of my fellow runners, my mentor (Bethanne Ford Packard), and my coaches—an inspiring group! I felt secure and happy surrounded by fellow Crohnnies and uc-ers! We laughed a lot, and encouraged each other during the race (some were walkers, too). I remember at mile 11, one of my coaches, Kate Devlin, urged me on, and I thought I would totally give up at that point, but I wanted to RUN. The whole thing!
I did it (in something like 2-1/2 hours, but who cares—I finished and I did run the entire way). I met tons of people (there were over 5,000 runners!) who had serious cases of Crohn’s and UC. I will never forget how close we became and how they inspired me. I am thinking of doing it again….
I can’t wait to watch U.S. paddler Carrie Johnson, who will compete in the sprint events in the second half of the Games. Carrie is a personal hero of mine — she has Crohn’s disease, like I do — and it has not made her quit; in fact I think it has given her more resolve and focus.
I will post some photos… Me, with my Team Challenge pals (that’s us jumping up for the camera at the start of the race outisde Boston, in Canton, Mass.)…. And a video of Carrie Johnson that is so beautiful! and one more photo of me on one of my training runs (with one of my dogs, Topher) in the ‘hood.
Good luck to all the aspiring athletes out there! It really does help to exercise daily, for 45 minutes!
Expert guidance for the many who suffer with IBD
Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States alone are afflicted with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a category of illnesses that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and that number is steadily growing.
In our new book Living with Crohn’s & Colitis (Hatherleigh Press, 2010) we offer patient-focused, expert guidance on everything from the latest medical treatments, to how to cope with a diagnosis, along with tips for balancing diet with a busy lifestyle so you can form a personalized wellness plan. The authors, Dr. Jessica Black and Dede Cummings, collaborated to offer a hopeful and authoritative resource for digestive disorder sufferers from both the doctor’s and patient’s pespective.
The authors offer these tips for better digestive health and wellness:
Improve your diet. The very first change that should occur in patients wanting to improve their health is a dietary change. Even minor dietary changes can affect health significantly and usually larger dietary changes can bring even better results. Diet is extremely important to health. Try avoiding processed foods and foods with additives, colors, and preservatives. Avoid sugars, especially items sweetened with refined sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup.
Make lifestyle changes. Changing your lifestyle can be liberating and engaging. It allows one to become more aware of their body and changes that are occurring, as opposed to merely taking a drug and waiting for the symptom to disappear. Integrating whole-body treatment and lifestyle changes can help to improve overall health rather than focusing on one issue or one specific problem. One important lifestyle change to make is creating a routine and rhythm for yourself. Go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time and eat meals at the same time. Routines promote better breathing and better, more relaxed, breathing creates better health and better resistance to illness.
Begin an exercise routine. Exercise is one of the most important lifestyle practices to adopt when considering treatment options. No matter what your physical state is, there is always something you can do for exercise. Following a daily plan is essential to maintaining good health. Try walking at first if you currently don’t have an exercise program. Thirty minutes to one hour walking outside can help improve mood and energy.
Maintain a holistic approach to your health. Taking supplements, getting a stool sample analysis, and going to a psychotherapist, massage therapist, or naturopathic physician are all effective starting points to building an overall, holistic, treatment plan that achieves results for patients suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
Increase laughter in your life. Laughter is extremely important for emotional and physical health. In fact, researchers in Japan found laughter very effective in reducing inflammatory cytokines in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Laughter, along with socializing with friends and joining a support group through your local hospital or naturopathic health clinic, can really be beneficial. You may try joining a social networking site on the internet, like CaringBridge.com. Renting funny movies is also an easy and quick way to promote laughter.
Increase body awareness. For an entire week, try writing in a journal all the symptoms your body has and everything you are doing and eating. Be sure to record all symptoms, from the most minor crick in the neck to low back pain, to headaches, to diarrhea. By doing this, you can learn how your body is trying to communicate with you, how you can listen to your body, and then change if you need to.
Try yoga or meditation. Meditation is an extremely important, yet very simple, relaxation tool. Yoga is a great way to relax and is most effective by adopting a regular routine. Try a DVD at home or you can join a class with a trained yoga teacher.
There is an excellent yoga DvD from Rodney Yee that I do almost every morning—and following this yoga practice helps eliminate stress in my life and keep me in remission.
AM Yoga for Beginners with Rodney Yee and it retails at GAIAM.com