I was diagnosed with Crohn’s when I was 22. I was studying at university, and was getting the worst stomach aches ever. They happened after I started eating, so I knew they were related to food, but what I was eating was relatively healthy, so I couldn’t see how my food could be affecting me. I hadn’t changed my diet all that much after all.
For 5 years I took steroids, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic medicine, and in the end, one day I asked my doctor what could be done to cure Crohn’s. He said that there was basically nothing that could be done, but to just learn to live with it, and possibly I might die from it. I made up my mind there and then that I didn’t accept that as my fate and decided to do something about it myself. I took responsibility for my own destiny and never went back to see a doctor about Crohn’s again or took another pill.
Eventually, in my mid-thirties, I developed the system I’m writing about here. I really hope that it can help you live a happy, healthy life. Now I’m 47 and I have one very mild Crohn’s bout about once a year and I eat and drink pretty much everything I want again – but I don’t eat meat very often any more, mainly because I don’t want to.
This is not the place do describe the symptoms of Crohn’s, it’s possible causes, auto-immune diseases or the prevalent trends in managing the disease. I just want to write about what has helped me so that other people might benefit too.
The first fundamental step is to completely accept what has happened to you. Do not fight your body, do not fight your disease. Your body is in a state of advanced stress, your disease is a symptom of that stress. Feel love and kindness to your body, your Crohn’s. That’s so important. If you think that you have to fight Crohn’s, you are in no way able to get yourself well because your fight mentality adds to the dis-ease you are currently experiencing.
Everything that you do to help yourself must be motivated by the desire to care, love and support your body. Every spoonful of food, sip of water, imagine they are pure love. When you get spasms, don’t hate your body, your stomach, the ulceration. Instead pour only love and care into your body. If someone you love cuts their finger, you don’t hate them, do you? When you see the blood and inflammation, you don’t hate the blood and inflammation, do you? No, you love them all the more. So love yourself all the more.
When you get a bout of Crohn’s stop eating or drinking everything.
This is a total nil-by-mouth policy. You will not die of dehydration or starvation. Your insides are ulcerated and putting anything into your body will get the digestive juices flowing. You do not want that! Not even water, nothing. If you curl up in bed in a warm place, sleep at least 9 hours out of 24 and minimise the talking or any effort, you will soon start to feel hungry again.
Do not allow anyone to pressurise you into eating anything. This is so important. Refuse food until you feel really hungry. People will want to get you to drink and eat all sorts of things, just say no. Be firm.
GB Shaw said that any fool could fast, but you have to know how to break the fast (paraphrasing wildly, here!) To break your fast, start with sips, and I mean SIPS of water. Progress tentatively on to:
One small cup of tepid chamomile tea, and if there is no pain, go on to a small bowl of tepid clear soup – no bits floating about! Some people will advise you to take laxatives – DO NOT DO THAT! Also please avoid mint tea. Just clear stock-like soup made with vegetables, optionally a bit of chicken or fish, some salt. Do not buy ready-made stock cubes as they are full of additives that will hurt you. Get someone else to make this soup. If you know how to cook Japanese food, make hon dashi with katsuo bushi, kombu and a little soy sauce in it. No veg!
Then, if no pain is happening, go on to:
- super-soft-cooked white rice in clear soup
- super-soft-cooked flour noodles in clear soup – Japanese UDON are the best.
- over-cooked instant porridge – the instant variety has been over-milled so none of the roughage remains. This is a crucial point.
If at any stage you start to feel pain, put the dish aside and go back to bed. Try again in 5 hours or more. Feeling hunger, like big tummy rumbles, that’s the cue that you can try again.
2. Give up the following:
In exacerbation bouts, avoid, avoid, avoid:
- All fruit and vegetables, even super-soft and over-cooked. Just don’t do it. No. Stop. Not raw either, not dried, nothing.
- Meat and fish.
- Pretty much everything.
- Especially spices.
Just focus on the super-soft rice or wheat noodles – Japanese UDON are the best. Don’t listen to people going on about gluten. You are suffering and you need emergency measures.
Also do not take supplements to boost your immunity or nutrition. You do not need it right now. Just concentrate on getting your stomach and intestines to a state of non-ulceration, then healed. You can take care of your over-all health later. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine for now. After 3 or 4 days, go on to the following:
In periods of exacerbation and also remission:
- STOP BLOODY SMOKING! JUST STOP! Yes that means ganja too. No-one is going to feel sorry for you if you have Crohn’s and you smoke. It’s just really stupid.
- Cocaine. It might seem like a good idea but it really isn’t.
- Alcohol. Anyone who tries to pressurise you into drinking is a dumbass and is really not working in your favour. Say no.
- For that matter all other drugs, legal and non-legal.
- Chocolate, cakes, sweets, biscuits, doughnuts, the lot. You are going to end up feeling awful and you know it. It makes you feel great for about 2 minutes then you are going to feel like a big bucket of pooh for a long time. When the time comes that you feel free of Crohn’s, you can go back to it all.
- Spicy food – chilli, curry etc. Keep to plain foods for at least 6 months
- Fatty food, especially rancid (unfresh) fats. Anything in it that has a dessicant package must be avoided.
3. Do yoga
You might hate the idea, but this is the one sure-fire way to get your circulation going inside your gut in a gentle, non-invasive way.
It helps to heal the ulceration and get your energy back. Yoga will literally save your life. It saved me from a lifetime of Crohn’s misery.
- You do not have to be flexible or wear fashionable expensive yoga outfits.
- You start out being able to do basically nothing, and soon you can do quite a bit, then really a lot.
- Do yoga every day for as long as you can, an hour is good.
- If you can go to a daily class so much the better.
- If you can’t get to a class get DVDs.
- If you feel your motivation is going to flag, enrol on a course or get a yoga buddy to gee you along.
- Do not do yoga that hurts or causes pain or tiredness.
4. Eliminate stress
I read a fabulous book by preventive medicine guru Andrew Weil – it was so long ago I’ve forgotten the title, I think it was Natural Health, Natural Medicine – where he describes how to eliminate stress. Partly following his advice, I recommend you:
- Eliminate toxic people from your life. They are the ones that urge you to eat when you are not hungry, take unreasonable or uncomfortable risks, make you feel drained or uncomfortable. Ask yourself: how do I want to live my life? In pain, or out of pain? No matter what the commitment or responsibility you feel you owe to these people, if they truly want the best for you they should be able to cut you loose. If the stressful people in your life are your children, get help with childcare.
- Don’t read, listen to or watch the news. You don’t need to know exactly what is going on in the world because you know that there is conflict in the Middle East, the weather is going to be awful, politicians are doing bad things, probably they are also members of some conspiracy theory-become-reality. Don’t listen to stressful news, don’t take part in conversations about it. Feeling stressed and unhappy about news and world events is not going to help the people suffering at all.
- Don’t spend hours on Facebook / Twitter / Line reading awful stories about how cruel the world is and how rubbish politicians are.
- Don’t read fashion magazines, celeb gossip or lifestyle magazines because they make you feel inferior, inadequate, like a non-achiever.
- Avoid stressful movies, music and environments, anything that really gets your adrenaline going. Sorry! That means action / adventure / horror (especially!) movies, thrash / death metal, extreme sports… which leads me on to:
- Take time off work to get your body back to a state of relative normality, a few days, weeks, months, however long you need. If your job is the thing giving you stress, ask yourself where you will be in two years time if you carry on with it.
- Spend time in states and in places that enhance peace of mind. Your body needs this. Read Masaru Emoto’s book The Hidden Messages in Water, knowing that your body is 70% – 80% water. Send positive, loving messages to your body. You need this more than other people.
- Sleep at least 7 hours if not 8 hours per 24.
- Go outside. Spend as much time out-doors as you can. Get a garden.
- Do things that make you feel wonderful, such as watching videos of the kids when they were small and cute, playing with a kitten, watching a corny, life-affirming feel-good shmaltzy movie (I think I’ve made my point).
5. Find your own diet
When you feel you are doing well and you haven’t had pain for a good couple of weeks – yes! it can happen to you! – and you are eating kind of / relatively normally again, try to spend a month eliminating:
- milk products
Re-introduce them one by one and see how your body reacts. The important thing to remember is that if you have Crohn’s your body is not absorbing nutrients properly anyway, so in many ways it doesn’t matter what you eat or don’t eat. If you can get your gut to start behaving normally, and stay behaving normally, you can work around what your body can tolerate eventually.
Some people do really well drinking slippery elm. It might work for you.
See this blog post for details – even if you hate the whole idea of it.
7. Know that you are entitled to perfect health
My firm belief is that it’s our duty as human beings to live fulfilling, happy, love-filled and healthy lives. Ignore and distance yourself as much as possible from all the things that make you feel like crap. If you have emotional issues that prevent you from being happy, invest in yourself, get the work done. Not only are you worth the money and the time but the people around you need to see that too. That may mean:
- get the holidays you need
- time off work
- yoga retreats
- organic food
- massages / facials / pamper treats (is massage a paper treat? Is it a life necessity?)
- everything that you feel is important to keep you in tip-top health.
Love your body, love yourself, respect your body’s needs.
8. Let us all know what happened
If you read this blog post and found it interesting or have any other suggestions, please leave your comments. If you followed my advice, please PLEASE let us all know what happened!