Healthy Living

Living with any health condition requires finding a balance, particularly an autoimmune disease that is affected by stress.  When your disease starts flaring and aches and pains take over, finding balance can seem as tough as putting two feet in front of the other and making it out of bed.  Regardless of your limitations, there's always room for growth.  I've found over my 22 years with Crohn's Disease that supplementing a healthy Crohn's-friendly diet with lifestyle changes including minimizing stress; practicing yoga and exercising regularly; taking vitamin, mineral and probiotic supplements; and turning to my family, friends and faith helps me through difficult times.



Taking in What My Body Can't:  Vitamin, Mineral & Probiotic Supplements:

Over the past twenty+ years, I have taken numerous kinds of vitamins, minerals and probiotic supplements, and after much experimentation I've finally compiled a list of the "best of the best".  Each of the supplements below are specifically targeted because Crohn's/IBD'ers are *usually* deficient in them, or because they aid in the digestive process in our bodies.

Yes, it may take some getting used to popping upwards of 20-30 pills a day, but if you divide them out over the day (I have suggested times for this grouping), it's not so bad.  Here's to your health!

*As with any blog or research you do on your own, please first and foremost talk to your doctor before making any dietary or supplement changes.  And if your gastroenteroligst or regular practitioner frowns on supplements, please do yourself a favor and find a new doctor! 

Be sure to only buy from reputable stores, with my favorite being Swansons, Vitamin Shoppe, Rainbow Light, and Source Naturals.




  • B12 Sublingual - important for energy!  You may want to consider having your B levels tested by your doctor, especially if you are struggling with fatigue.  Note that it has to be Methylcobalamin sublingual version to ensure absorption



  • Vitamin C - Mineral Ascorbate form (*not ascorbic acid)
    For Crohn’s, you may want to take buffered/non-acidic forms.

  • Digestive Enzymes

  • Herbal blends for digestion can be helpful, specifically turmeric, aloe vera, licorice, slippery elm, etc…


    Drum Roll please....


    Probiotics!!  The #1 must-do for every Crohnie!!

    I am thrilled that the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation and leading researchers are finally owning up to the role probiotics play in IBD management.  Check out this video released in Summer 2014 that talks about the role probiotics will play in future recommendations!

    Watch this video:  http://youtu.be/xTtVxwt9Z5ghttp://youtu.be/xTtVxwt9Z5g


  • VSL#3 is a miracle probiotic blend, albeit expensive, especially formulated for Crohn's/IBD patients.
  • Swansons sells a blend of FemmeFlora specifically for women.


     

  • Kefir is also on my daily intake, found at Whole Foods and other health stores in the dairy section around the yogurt.  I buy only the one derived from coconut water, so as to avoid further dairy.



Sticking Your Head in the Ostrich Hole:  Minimizing Stress:

It's well known that stress is only healthy in very, very limited amounts in inciting us into action; however, in most cases we're all overly stressed.  Sometimes making it through the day is tough, and we all lament we don't have 10 more hours in the day to get everything done.  I myself am of the perfectionist mindset, which exacerbates any and all stress.  "Just good enough" is not part of my vocabulary - it has to be done well to be done right.  I've noticed that when my stress starts building at high levels over extended periods of time, more times than not it results in a major Crohn's flare.  Only on retrospect does it become clear that I should have taken a huge step back and found a way to re-center myself.  When stress with home/family, work, health, friends and everything kicks into high gear, please do yourself a favor and find ways to minimize the stress before it negatively impacts your health.

Exercise and yoga is one of the best outlets, as outlined below. However, any creative outlet where you can lose yourself in your work - whether art, writing/journaling, music, poetry, music, meditation - it's up to you to find a great way to unwind and re-gain perspective at the end of every day.  No one can do it for you, but no one will benefit more than you either!

When a flare does strike, it's easy to fall into the trap and vicious cycle of self pity.  I started keeping a gratitude journal to remind me to not take for granted the little things  that matter.  Loving acts of family and friends, the sound of birds chirping outside  - even when bed-bound for weeks, a gracious employer to allow me to work from home, and a caring set of doctors.

When all else fails, you may also want to consider taking GABA, a sublingual supplement that helps with stress.  You can find at Swansons - Source Naturals GABA Calm -120 sublingual tablets - $17.




I have also tried Rescue Remedy.  Check out this video by Dr. Oz talking about it!
                                                  


Keep on Keepin' On:  Yoga / Exercise & Health Benefits:

I highly recommend yoga!  Pilates is great too, but you can't beat the healing restoration and meditative power of regular yoga classes.  In fact, when life gets hectic, I've noticed that when I cut out my yoga class to make room for work or other responsibilities, a flare is never far around the corner.  I notice when I do one class a week, I am calmer, healthier and happier.  The effects can be so subtle that it's easy to underestimate how good it is for you.



If you're new to yoga, I recommend taking a class where a variety of levels will be taught, so you're not intimidated by any inability to keep up or hold poses as you grow your practice.  I've taken one-on-one yoga classes, and classes at my local Parks/Rec, YMCA, and private practice.

I know many of us Crohnie's suffer from joint problems, but don't let that stop you!!  I've found that although it may look silly, using three yoga mats on top of each other helps lessen the blow to your  joints, particularly if you are practicing on a tile or other hard floor.  Blocks and straps also help you get into positions that are otherwise more difficult.  Because the joints in my feet and knees are so sensitive, I can't do the traditional seated pose of Vajrasana, tucking my feet under and sitting on my heels.  It's just too painful; I hope one day I will build up flexibility though.  Instructors are typically happy to teach accommodations if this is too painful. If regular yoga is too intense, restorative yoga is particularly meditative and great for slow, gentle stretching that is ok for any skill level or health challenge.  

If you are interested in learning more, check out my blog on great books to read!  I highlight a book on yoga and meditation that helped me.


Have A Little Help from My Friends:  Family, Friends and Faith:


While Crohn's / IBD can be very isolating, it's important that you stay connected with family and friends, co-workers, and other social outlets.  I have found that going through such challenges only strengthens relationships when there is an underlying current of respect, love and support.  Sometimes it can be tough when you feel like you are not contributing equally to the relationship, whether being there for your friends or doing your share of household chores, but if you allow yourself to be supported during the tough times, you will find a smoother path to healing.  Let your body rest!  So many of us these days are always go-go-GO! it is hard to admit you need to take a break from the fast pace of day-to-day life.




My faith is the grounding point in my life.  Regardless of your religion or lack of religious beliefs, finding a spiritual center is critical in the healing process.  My relationship with God carries me through the good times and bad.  During the darkest hours, I find when I turn to my faith, I am filled with a sense of peace and even glimmers of hope.  I've highlighted some good books on an earlier blog that offer a sense of comfort.



Comments

  1. Thanks this was helpful to read! It is great to see you sharing what is helpful for you in order to assist others who are on a similar journey. The section on stress is particularly relevant, it is important to take a step back before the stress takes over, sometimes you do have to put yourself first and that can be difficult to do when you have lots of commitments and want to be involved in many aspects of life. It really is a balancing act!

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  2. A very helpful post to read! Thank you!
    Am glad you have shared what supplements are of help to you and also discussed keeping stress at bay. Keeping positive and having family, friends and faith have definitely helped me too!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I am glad to hear you found the post helpful and that you are doing well finding balance! :)

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