Monday, October 31, 2011

Food for thought

For a Crohn's blog, I haven't really talked about Crohn's much in the last few months. Mostly because there was nothing to say. Until yesterday, when the shit hit the fan. My thoughts are a little all over the place due to fatigue and pain associated with a partial blockage so I may divert on a few tangents before arriving at my point, if I arrive there at all. Bear with me.

I've spent a lifetime trying to make sense of the intricate relationship between diet, food, body image, self-esteem, exercise, health and illness. Reconciling what you want (cake, being 'skinny', lounging around) with what you need (balanced diet, healthy body, exercise) knowing that they're almost never complimentary. It's a complex balancing act even before you throw in complications like health conditions, allergies or intolerance's and preconditioned ideas. I'll probably spend the rest of my life trying, in vain, to wrap my head around it.

As a kid I had Asthma. I learnt very early on to associate physical exercise with pain, discomfort and fear since every time I exerted myself I wound up struggling to breathe for hours. Despite the Asthma now long gone, those early lessons are so well ingrained that as an adult I have to consciously and deliberately work at reprogramming my thinking. I almost always choose the path of least exertion.

The party line in the medical world consists of sentiments to the tune of: The cause of IBD is unknown and there is no evidence that dietary factors play a role. No role at all, although "What have you eaten?" is among the first questions medical staff ask in Emergency after a blockage or extreme flare-up and they always wind up referring to a dietician.

Everything you think you know about a healthy lifestyle doesn't apply when you have Crohn's Disease. Fresh fruit, green leafy vegetables, high fibre cereals, three squares a day, these things will kill you or at least make life pretty intolerable. Walking stimulates the bowel and is something you really want to avoid during a flare-up. It's a topsy turvy world where the right thing is all wrong and the wrong thing is ok.

Now that she has started solids, I have to somehow teach Lil' Edges about healthy eating and I am the least qualified person to do this. Aware that she's more likely to take in what she see's rather than what she's told, I've been attempting to role model a more healthy style of eating. Consuming fresh fruit with her in the morning seemed ok for a week or so until the tell tale stomach pain arrived Saturday night.

Sometimes you eat something and you know all about it before you've even put down the fork. It's that way for me with full fat milk. Other times the offending food is a lot more cunning. Fruit for example, eat a peeled apple once, even twice and I'll probably get away with it. Everyday for a week and I find myself here in doubled over town. Then there is food that will be fine this time and completely kick my arse the next time, like eggs or cheese. Other things, which by all rights, should be completely off limits like chocolate and coffe I have no issues with.

There's other stuff that comes from not getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Multiple bowel resections have left me perpetually low in iron and B12. No amount of eating red meat or oily fish will ever replenish the stores and it leaves me with regular headaches and tiredness and difficulty with concentration.

Because none of the normal rules apply and 'diet plays no role' there's no guide to managing Crohn's Disease. Sure, there are books about it and there are individuals stories about their experience but at the end of the day we each have to figure out our own disease management ourselves mostly by trial an error. I learnt most of my lessons the hard way. This week I was reminded that I am not normal and my system will never be normal no matter how much I think I am in remission.

I am (mostly) ok with that.

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  1. *hug* I can't imagine how tough that must be.. I don't have any food intolerance's and I think they must be so difficult to deal with! That said, we all have our own issues, and I don't know how healthy my relationship with food is. It's improving slowly. But I'll never be happy to be a fat person. And soon I won't be!

  2. I too have a little miss, miss 2 in December. I also have crohns and I had the exact same fear as you. Low and hold she actually eats pretty well considering I can't eat much. The only things she won't eat is lettuce and beet root. As long as you stick it in front of them they really won't notice it shouldnt be there.
    I have to admit though I am very similar to you. I'm not good at all with cordial or even tap water. Yet I can down 2 litres of coke a cola and a bar of chocolate and be fine. What's with that?
    My all time favourite was the last time I was referred to a dietician and she told me I HAVE to eat grainy bread. I ended up in the biggest fight the lady didn't even charge Medicare for seeing me :)

  3. Hi, just found your blog on the "Blog Hop". My Mum, and her Mum, suffered from colitis for years. Forced her to take early retirement, effected her socially, emotionally and physically. Fortunately, although it still worries her greatly, none of her children have suffered with IBD.(she still hates it when I drink cow's milk). All I can say is I empathise with how difficult it can be... and from a daughter's point of view, she was always honest with us, talked a lot about it and therefore we we aware, prepared and understood. It helped.

  4. Hi my names Rob I have got crohns too. I also found if I eat junk food to a limit I'm not too bad but if I eat health food with anti oxidents and all that other good crap that's great for your immune system. Then my immune system through crohns kicks my ass.