When I received my diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease in my 20’s, I wasn’t a stranger to it. My dad had been diagnosed when I was in 7th grade.
I’d watched my dad go through surgery to remove the diseased part of his gut, only to have new areas within a few months. I saw him take one medicine after another that created new problems instead of helping. I saw how little quality of life he had. So when my diagnosis came, I thought, “I’m doing this differently.”
I prayed for a healer, not just a doctor.
One day, while at my chiropractic appointment, my Chiropractor said, “There’s someone I want you to see. Her business card is on the front counter.” I grabbed the card, went home and called the woman. We set up an appointment. Then she said, “Oh, I don’t work out of my office on that day, I work out of my home. The address is….”. She lived across the street from me.
At that time, I was wiped out! I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I’d work all day, come home and crash on the couch all evening and all weekend. Just so I could muster up enough oomph to do it again the next week. I was desperate to feel good.
That’s what started my journey of getting to know my body, trusting the wisdom of my body, and learning how to be successful in managing my health. My background is in fitness and wellness. I learned a lot about the body in my text books, but what I was taught was how to create a machine, how to make a body “fit”. I wasn’t taught true HEALTH.
Over time, I’ve learned a few things. Here I share what helped me in the hope that it may help you too.
Low-fat/no-fat and the Food Pyramid were the guides at the time of my diagnosis. Fats are at the top of the Food Pyramid, meaning they are to be consumed sparingly, while carbohydrates are at the bottom and make up the majority of the diet.
The problem is that fat holds flavor so it was replaced by sugar. Foods with grains also tend to be highly processed and highly inflammatory. So the first thing I had to do was cut out all flour and sugar from my diet. This was when gluten-free wasn’t yet readily available.
What helped was focusing on quality fats, quality proteins, vegetables, and fruits. In other words, I switched to eating whole food rather than pre-packaged items. Finding Paleo focused cookbooks helped me along with a few books: The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Ruben, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, Eat Fat Lose Fat by Sally Fallon, and The Gut Flush Plan by Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph,. D, CNS.
My body was addicted to stress. I didn’t know how to relax or how to stop my monkey mind from churning.
Studying Pilates and Yoga helped me learn to deep breathe and to meditate.
They SOUND easy enough, but it’s a challenging practice that takes time, discipline, and practice to master.
Here are a few things for you to try.
Breathwork & Meditation
- Breathe in for 4 counts. Hold your breath for 4 counts. Exhale for 4 counts. Hold for 4 counts. Try 10 rounds of this.
- Breathe in for 4 counts. Exhale for 8 counts. Try 10 rounds of this.
- Use this Guided Meditation
Movement vs. Fitness
I came from the Fitness world and started teaching Group Exercise, then Personal Training while an undergrad. I was accustomed to “hit it hard” and “push it” kind of workouts. The problem was that my recovery from my workouts became harder and harder.
I discovered mind/body approaches and started noticing a change in how my body felt and recovered from workouts.
What I’ve since learned is that for those of us with autoimmune diseases, our cells don’t convert ATP (energy) production like others do. Therefore, we also don’t release lactic acid like others. I’ve included links here if you want to read more.
When my approach switched from trying to achieve a look, which in my case was having a six-pack, to helping my body feel good, I started getting different results.
No more hard core kickboxing or cycle classes. No more hard hitting hip-hop classes. Instead, I focused on walking, yoga, and pilates. When it was possible, I’d hike.
It doesn’t matter WHAT you do. It simply matters that you find something that you enjoy that helps your body stay mobile.
Removing Toxic Chemicals
Did you know that on average, we’re exposed to at least 80,000 toxins a day from personal care products alone? Our total daily exposure to toxic chemicals is estimated to be more than 700,000 toxic chemicals daily. I had no idea when I first started on this holistic approach to my health.
I learned that many of the ingredients in my makeup, nail polish, deodorants, hair spray, perfumes, household cleaners, and the food I was eating were disruptive to my gut microbiome and to my hormones.
I started making my own cleaners with essential oils. I ditched lipstick and nail polish. I started looking for natural products for my daily beauty regimen and for my home. It sounds extreme, but it was necessary to switch products across the board. From the fabric used for my bed sheets, to toilet cleaner, to replacing candles, to toothpaste.
Now, there are apps such as EWG (Environmental Working Group) and Think Dirty that tell you how toxic products are. They can also help you find non-toxic products. Learning to make your own household cleaners and beauty products can also be helpful and help you to save money.
Self-Care and Setting Boundaries
I was an overachiever in my high school and college days. My goals were ambitious and I thought I had to do it all. Not only did I have to do it all, but do it all exceptionally well.
Eventually, I crashed and burned from a nervous breakdown. I literally had shot my nervous system. And if you know anything about the nervous system, the brain and gut are directly linked. It made sense that my gut was affected too.
I had to start to learn how to let myself simply “be”. The key was to “be” without guilt or judgment, which was easier said than done.
When I decided that my actual job was to get well and stay well, things changed. It became important for me to tune in to my body and learn its subtle cues so that I could do what my body was asking me to do. The big thing was honoring my energy and giving myself permission to be flexible. If I needed to opt out of something, I needed to opt out.
Once I was clear on what was important to me, it became easier to say, “no” to other people, activities, or obligations. By saying, “no” to them, I was saying, “yes” to my own self-care.
Self-care looks a lot of different ways. It can be a massage or a chiropractic appointment. Maybe it’s curling up with a moving or good book. Maybe it’s soul food with friends. Maybe it’s doing something creative or crafty. Maybe it’s doing nothing. The important thing is that it restores you physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
None of us is meant to be the Energizer Bunny. We’re human. Our energy levels differ from day to day. Honoring what you need at any particular time IS the truest form of Self-Care.
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, I’ve learned that each of these activities (nutrition, moving my body, stress management, removing toxic chemicals, self-care/setting boundaries) contributes to an alkaline body. When we’re alkaline, inflammation goes down. When we’re acidic, inflammation goes up, and harmful things like viruses, bacteria and yeast, can start to take over.
By making all of these things a part of my lifestyle, I no longer live on the couch. I get to engage with life in a way that’s satisfying for me. Crohn’s Disease possibly saved my life because it taught me to connect to my body and to treat it better.
Realizing that you are the one living in your body and that your daily choices impact how you get to feel can be quite empowering.
If you would like help in setting up your own Self-Care Plan, you can book a free consultation with me here.