You Can Have Crohn’s and Still Be “Healthy”
After going through my list of medications, medical history, and past procedures regarding my Crohn’s disease, the nurse or doctor whom I was seeing would say, "Otherwise you are healthy." I would always pause, laugh, and say, "Yeah, I guess," but think to myself, "Healthy?? I am in my 20s and have already been on a number of medications, had several procedures, surgery, and missed countless social events due to being sick and you are calling me 'healthy'?!"
But, they were right.
It is extremely easy to lose sight of the good our bodies are doing when living with a chronic illness, and it is even easier to just assign ourselves as "unhealthy" on a daily basis. However, living with Crohn’s does not mean that we have to be "unhealthy." There are a few ways you can still be healthy while living with Crohn's disease which will help keep the other moving parts of your body – metabolism, immune system, mental health – in check which is critical when battling this life-long illness.
Healthy and safe foods for Crohn's disease
Quality vs. quantity
Despite possibly having a restricted diet, you can still fuel your body with high-quality foods. Before you think, "But I can’t tolerate any fruits or vegetables!" let me explain. Just because you cannot digest lettuce does not mean you should eat Doritos and Twinkies as your main diet.
"Safe foods" often include bananas, brown rice, potatoes (no skins!), or cooked carrots in addition to healthy proteins like fish, chicken, or eggs. These are non-processed foods that can be enjoyed even during the worst flares. And, if you are having difficulty eating anything, drinking a smoothie or protein shake once a day will provide your body with proper nutrients, despite not eating 3 square meals.
Stay active for physical and mental health
Keeping active is also important to staying healthy. While some days you may barely have enough energy to get out of bed (I have been there many times!) it is good to get as little as 20-30 minutes of movement which can include going for a walk, stretching, or slowly riding a stationary bike. Not only is movement beneficial to your entire body thanks to keeping your metabolism burning, oxygen flowing, and ensuring you don’t get muscle atrophy, staying active is good for your mental health, as well.
Don't neglect mental health
Lastly, keeping your mental health in check is just as important to your overall health as is your physical condition. Those with Crohn’s suffer from emotional stress, as well as depression and anxiety, so make sure to pay attention to how you are feeling mentally on a daily basis. I have suffered from clinical depression due to my illness and I sought the professional help I needed. Additionally, I have gotten into the habit of practicing meditation and stress relief techniques such as acupuncture and restorative yoga to help keep my mind just as healthy as my body.
As you can see, there are several ways you can keep your mind and body healthy despite living with a chronic illness which will improve the way you manage your daily Crohn’s symptoms. While it may not seem like much, whatever you can do to benefit your body while living with Crohn’s is a huge win, regardless of how small of an act it is.
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