Does Diet Really Matter?
Along the lines of politics and religion, discussing if diet truly helps or hurts Crohn’s patients is just as controversial of a topic. There are the pro “eating a certain diet better manages Crohn’s symptoms” patients and those who firmly believe that whatever they put in their bodies has absolutely no effect on their disease, and don’t you dare suggest anything different.
Everyone is different when it comes to food and diet
The truth is, there really is not much evidence proving either side is right. And, to complicate things, everyone with Crohn’s tolerates foods differently so it is difficult to nail it down to “one diet fits all”.
While some patients can safely digest raw fruits and vegetables, others cannot come within six feet of an apple skin. Others have issues with dairy and gluten, but make fresh fruit and nuts a part of their daily diet. It makes one wonder when it comes to managing Crohn’s symptoms and dealing with the disease, does diet really matter?
Going gluten-free with Crohn's changed my life
In my own experience, diet does matter. I fit into the category of “give me all the fruits, veggies, nuts, and popcorn you want but do not come near me with a piece of bread”. I went gluten-free six years ago and it honestly changed my life.
I went from not being able to run more than 20 minutes on a treadmill due to having to go to the bathroom urgently to running a half marathon four months after completely removing gluten from my diet. I instantly gained the life back that one had prior to being diagnosed, and it was amazing.
No more running to the bathroom after every meal
Honestly, I did not at first believe that gluten was the culprit of many of my symptoms. Every flare was followed by a steady diet of pasta, bread, and plain crackers, so I felt that it was what helped me rather than hurt me. It wasn’t until I gave up gluten that I realized what “normal” was supposed to feel like. Gone were the days of running to the bathroom after every meal and planning my day around where the closest bathrooms were. I got my life back, and it felt great.
People with Crohn's or UC achieve remission in different ways
But, while my story has a happy ending, resulting in me being in remission, I know that is not the case with every patient who has tried the gluten-free diet. Some have found that a vegan lifestyle works best for them, while others choose to forgo any dietary restriction and rely on their medication to carry them to health and remission. The point is, whatever works for you is what you should do.
The end goal of everything we, as patients, do daily is create an environment that allows us to feel well. We are not out there purposely sabotaging our bodies so that our disease thrives. And, there is a good chance we have tried different methods and diets to help our disease go into remission.
Find what works best for your body
Perhaps diet does not matter for you and your disease. Perhaps you can eat whatever you want (lucky you!) and you have been in remission for decades. Bottom line—do what works for you and your body, not someone else.
However, as a Certified Health Coach, I cannot help but suggest that you at least look into different diets to see if there is something that you have not tried that may be the ticket to good health. Had it not been for me hiring my own Nutritionist years ago, I would not have dared to try a gluten-free diet and end up feeling the best I had in years.
If you try a new diet and there is no change to your health status, you can always go back to your old ways. But, best-case scenario, you find something that works well for you and your disease and makes you feel amazing.
So, does diet really matter when it comes to Crohn’s? I will let you all be the judge for your own body. For me, it absolutely does, but if it doesn’t for you, that is ok, as long as you are feeling and doing well. And if you’re not...maybe look into a change.
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