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.
Based on my experience with having an autoimmune disease, I have created the following list. Think of it as a kind of spring cleaning. Remember everyone is different, so some of my tips may not work as well for you but it’s worth a try (and as most of my readers know, I recommend keeping a daily log of your diet and activities and stress level). Here are “Dede’s daily tips” as follows:
- You should eliminate all sugar from your diet.
- They say no alcohol or coffee, but maybe a tiny bit of black tea, or half a cup of coffee with boiling water a day. I also have one or two drinks over the weekend. Vodka tonic or gin and tonic; sometimes I have a light beer.
- No dairy. That said, I do allow myself 1 tablespoon of half-and-half in my tea or coffee per day. That’s my only luxury!
- No grains at all! Focus on big salads (with avocado and organic vegetables and a hard boiled egg in the mix—make your own dressing with pure olive oil and a little bit of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar)), and chicken, fish and eggs (all organic and the fish should be cold water/wild caught), and chopped nuts and dried fruit.
- Start drinking green, organic Moroccan mint tea in the afternoon for a little pick me up, and snack on carrots and hummus. At night, always drink a cup of chamomile tea with a little honey. This will help you de-stress your body. And mind.
- Try to get out and exercise, usually walking (or slow jog), 3 miles per day. When you come back, do gentle Rodney Yee yoga for about 20 minutes, and then do guided meditation for about 1 to 5 minutes. When you do guided meditation try to focus on healing and forgiveness and bring the breath from the top of the head down the spina. Focus on the breath. I always do a cleansing mantra that goes like this: white light healing inflammation gone.
- Try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night
- Take a hot bath or shower and use lavender in the bath before you go to bed. Try to read a book before you go to bed to take your mind off social media, etc.
- Get acupuncture once a month. Get a massage once a month (I know this is expensive, but it’s worth it!)
- Take a really good quality probiotic every night before bed. I usually take the Jarrow brand with the highest count of lactobacillus and acidophilus.
- Take omega-3, a multivitamin, vitamin C, hi high-potency turmeric/curcumin, and some liquid vitamin D drops every day.
- When you feel a tiny bit of a scratchy throat or rundown, add an immune booster homeopathic liquid (usually it’s about 30 drops in water) once a day before going to bed. Note: when I’m really feeling sick, with actual symptoms like cough or fever, I take goldenseal and echinacea in liquid drops.
- Carry a small spray canister of Bach Flower Remedy in your knapsack or purse. When you really feel rundown or stressed, just spray twice in your mouth. It really helps!
- As far as this list goes just try it for three months and see if it helps, then continue for three years (!). But really do it carefully! You can make things using almond flour and coconut flour (homemade tortillas, yum—black beans are okay in moderation and I mix them with roasted veggies/roasted potatoes).
- I forgot to mention that I love coconut milk—unsweetened—that you can use for breakfast. I usually mix bananas and nuts with dried fruit and cut up melon or strawberries in a bowl and add coconut milk to make a kind of morning cereal.
- Drink tons of water every day as well! I think that’s it… but I hope it helps.
Try to plan some kind of trip, and remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive or involve air travel which can add to the stress. Just a trip to the beach or a hike with a friend or loved one is a great way to relax. Going out in the woods every day is amazing.
Happy Spring! I would love it if readers shared their own tips in the comment area.
Dede’s friend, nutritionist Chris Ellis, is so knowledgeable and I’ve been bugging her to do a book with, too…. Here is a good overview of the Paleo diet.
Since I reported in my last article that I was a vegetarian some people may wonder why I would write about the other side of the diet spectrum, the currently popular Paleolithic Diet, which contains a significant amount of animal protein. I would respond by saying that every individual has specific dietary needs and not everyone biochemically or mentally feels at their optimal health being a vegetarian. I think everyone just needs to be aware of the choices and to do what feels best for their body physically, as well as what feels right for them philosophically. I would encourage individuals to be mindful of the impact their choices have on the environment and the earth too. In this article I am providing a little more insight into the Paleolithic Diet and hopefully that might help in exploring what type of eating plan works best for you or your family.
The Paleolithic Diet is a modern version of the diet that was followed by our ancestors many thousands of years ago. The diet was different wherever humans lived, depending on what animals also lived in the area for hunting and the availability of plants and seafood. The Paleolithic Diet was practiced prior to modern day agriculture and the domestication of animals. The diet consists of grass-fed animals such as beef and chicken, seafood, eggs, wild plants including vegetables (lots of root vegetables except potatoes), fruit, nuts (no peanuts), and seeds. The diet contained an ample supply of omega-3 fats mainly from the seafood, nuts, seeds, and the grass-fed animals since we had no surplus of corn and soybeans to feed our wild animals. Cereal grains are not a part of the diet and these include wheat, corn, millet, rice, barley, oats, sorghum, and rye. These grains were not available back then and they all need to be cooked in order to be consumed. The proponents of this diet believe that what humans ate back then is better suited genetically and biologically to our nutritional needs. Our human makeup is not coping well with the many changes in our present diet according to those who advocate for this diet and our bodies are not adapting well to the modern way of eating, specifically all the high calorie, highly processed foods. The root of many chronic health problems we face now, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s, are related to the diet most people follow in this country.
The changes in the modern diet include an increase of refined carbohydrates and cereal grains, a decrease in animal protein, a decrease in omega-3 fats, and an overabundance of sugary and salty foods such as candy, pretzels, chips, soda, etc. The modern American diet is comprised of approximately 50-60 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein, and 25 to 30 percent fat calories. The Paleolithic Diet, however, is comprised of approximately 25 to 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates, and 30 to 35 percent fat calories. The introduction of processed foods in the late 1800s definitely had an impact on the quality of our diet, and as our food supply became more industrialized the variety of crops and foods grown declined. But that is making a turnaround now, especially in Vermont, fortunately!
Humans are meant to eat a diversity of foods for optimal health but our diet today offers not only a wide variety of foods and ingredients but excess calories (sugar, unhealthy fats, corn products, etc.) far different from the hunters and gatherers regimen. We do not have to go far to get food, so very few calories are burned to “hunt or gather” our food. It is available on every corner depending on where you live, so long as you have the economic means to gather it.
So should we all eat the Paleolithic Diet? There are benefits to “eating Paleo” but our modern Paleolithic diet cannot duplicate the one followed by our ancestors. We are aware that there are benefits to a minimally processed diet and no matter what diet we choose we should strive to follow that. There are many good eating plans available (vegetarian, Mediterranean, Asian, etc.) and some may or may not contain meat and/or animal protein. It is best to consume animal protein from grass-fed animals (ideally with as little pesticides from their food as possible) with little or no use of drugs or hormones, safe wild seafood (not all fish is safe, as we know), and eggs, along with plentiful amounts of vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruit—the basic Paleolithic Diet modified based on the dietary sources we have now that meet the guidelines. Choose an eating plan that you can follow that is optimum for your health and don’t forget to include an exercise component since that was an essential part of the Paleolithic lifestyle. We will all enjoy a longer healthier life if we follow some or all of the Paleolithic dietary guidelines!
Questions? We’d love to hear from our readers and their own experiences with the Paleo Diet and IBD.
In the photo, from Living With Crohn’s & Colitis Book co-author, Dede Cummings, you can see the yummy roasted veggies that are perfect for the Paleo diet! The recipe is in my new cookbook, too!
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.
When I was having flare-ups more frequently, before my surgery and before I started following Jessica’s naturopathic plan of care, I didn’t really connect the dots of my IBD flaring up during travel.
I remember one trip in particular, and as I reflect some ten years later, I see how my Crohn’s would flare, and my vacation would end up being a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, I “always” put up a good front—for my kids’ sake, mostly. I wanted them to have a good time, and I “had to be strong,” etc.
…memory lane, trip from hell…
Ten years ago, in early summer, we left our home in Vermont and drove to Philly. The next day we drove straight through to North Carolina. I did a lot of the driving, and chewed endless quantities of sugarless gum — you know, the kind you get at the gas station that has aspartane in it, and even though you never chew gum at home, you are desperate to stay alert to alleviate the driving. The kids were all happily reading in the back seat, chatting with my husband, and feeling excited the closer we got….
As we got closer to our destination—Ashville—I began to feel bloated and crampy. I wasn’t drinking water, and was eating fast food… Fast forward: Day 3 of our vacation, and I’m still in our beautiful little cabin, lying in bed with severe cramps, low-grade fever…. Friends would stop in and say hi, but I was mostly alone, hearing the voices of the families going off on canoeing day trips, or such.
…hindsight is easy, reality isn’t…
It’s easy to look back now, and say, “I should have packed my own food for the trip, avoided fast food and chemical-laden gum, gotten tons of sleep, taken the train (!), or flown….”
Let me tell you about my trip to the writers’ retreat in Florida:
I splurged on van carpool ride to the airport, flew down after my usual breakfast I call Paelo Stew (chopped nuts and fruit with fresh almond milk), drank tons of water (using my stainless steel water jug to not use so much plastic or paper), drank black tea with just a smidgen of organic half and half cream—my ONE allowable treat/no coffee, packed organic fresh-ground peanut butter for the trip (under 3 ounces for carry on), some wheat-gluten-free crackers, an apple and a ziplock bag of nut-raisin mix.
When I got there, I got settled and had a late snack: boiled egg, iced tea, carrots and hummus; I went for a walk, did some yoga, met with the writers, etc, and got to bed early. Note: that night, Suzanne, our writing guru 😉 made a beautiful black bean soup. Nope. As much as I craved it with grated cheese, fresh cilantro, and topped with sour cream, I did not eat it. I had packed some really good turkey from my food coop at home, and I just ate that.
When some of the writers asked me why I wasn’t eating the main course, I sipped my unsweetened organic cranberry juice mixed with soda water, and told them I had a serious case of a Crohn’s disease, and they were all so respectful and talked openly about it with me. I talked about being on the Paleo since last June, and that got a lot of response… Many people supported that diet. No sugar is not that hard anymore!
For dessert, I had one square of dark unsweetened chocolate one day. I ate oranges from the farmer’s market, and had grilled mahi-mahi one night. When we went out for dinner in St. Augustine, I had three delicious chicken tacos with no cheese and no rice or beans, but they gave me guacamole instead!
I walked 2-3 miles a day (natch, being on the beach was nice), did yoga, had some downtime by myself one afternoon reading on the beach, and all in all, it was a huge success—I’ll even post a video link that was made by photographer, Jeff Woodward, of our group to show you how beautiful it was there! I didn’t get to have one of the shiatsu massages because I was one of the staff, but I took her card, and plan to go when I save some money.
Don’t be discouraged by travel this summer, be in control!