The constant link between Diet and IBD is unavoidable. Whilst I have been advised that there really is no evidence of direct correlation between what you eat and developing Crohn’s Disease, there are a lot of people who believe that an autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s can be aided by a change in the food you consume.
If you follow my personal Instagram account, you will be well aware that I am an absolute foodie. Not the new-age kind of foodie who loves green juices and vegan recipes, but the kind of food obsessive who devours burgers, pies and pizza’s on a daily basis. What can I say, I enjoy eating. I am the embodiment of gluttony.
Having spoken with hospital doctors and nutritionists, I am well aware that Inflammatory Bowel Diseases are super personal and therefore there is not a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to dietary recommendations. In fact, it is almost impossible to advise a patient with Crohn’s Disease on what they should and should not eat. One day, a salad will send you into a horrible flare up whilst another you can be happy sailing with a full on fry up. And vice versa! There is no rhyme or reason as to what is or isn’t suitable. There are, of course, obvious things to be avoided – processed foods, fried good, high oil content, etc. However, these things should be avoided in general, as they are just as bad for you as they are for someone without an IBD. Personally though, I have always noticed and been aware of the fact that overly processed, highly sugared, oily and generally ridiculously unhealthy meals are the worst. It’s common sense, a normal digestive system wouldn’t be a fan of these types of food being shoved into your body, so your gut is most certainly not going to be having an easy time with them. What can be frustrating though, is finding that eating a healthier diet that includes more fibre, vegetables and fruits can also seriously aggravate your digestive system, as it struggles to digest the roughage of raw plants and skins.
It seems you cannot win, and I have so often been at breaking point with my diet. To know that your body is struggling to absorb any nutrients from anything you eat has visible consequences (my hair falls out in clumps, my nails are weak and my skin is a mess) and that can often send you in a state of despair. Unless you want to live a life of ‘nutritional’ milkshakes that you can be prescribed from your consultant, every meal can feel like a risk.
However – New Year, New Me and all that blah blah shit has decided to not give up hope. A friend very recently put me in touch with someone who shared with me some insightful YouTube videos that discuss the link between Diet and Crohn’s Disease. I’ve watched and read what I thought was every imaginable post on these sorts of things, so was sceptical; but I also have recently come to the conclusion that I am not happy to constantly fill my body with countless medical drugs. I’m not really into natural hippie healing, but I also have decided that chemical treatment is not the way forward and not something that I would like to continue putting my body through (especially when I have read up on the side effects of the Immunosuppressive Therapy ‘Azathioprine‘ which I am scheduled to start in April).
Watch the video and let me know what you think – I won’t go into too much detail about it here as otherwise you’ll be bored of the information by the time you get 2 minutes in, but the long and short of it is there has been a lot of credible research that suggests that ‘diets rich in animal protein and animal fat cause a decrease in beneficial bacteria in the intestine’. There was then a 2-year study in Japan that concluded that those subjects to had a Semi-Vegetarian Diet (less than one portion of meat or fish a week) showed 100% remission in Year 1 and 92% of people stayed in remission in Year 2. Those results compared against those who kept their normal, carnivorous diets are remarkable.
So that is what I am going to try and do for the next few months or so and see how I feel. Fundamentally I will class myself as a vegetarian but if there is an opportunity when I am out for dinner with friends, I am allowed a meat option if the vegetarian alternative sounds gross (technically you will be allowed meat 3-times a month). I would also like to try harder to cut out processed foods and excess sugar; sometimes these are unavoidable and I also don’t believe in ‘cold turkey’ diets, so we will see how we go with those. I also live in London on a modest salary, so don’t have the funds to become a vegan, whole-foods, organic buying, superhuman. Just no.
I guess I’m going to see if the well known phrase ‘you are what you eat’ really has any credibility here…
Image via Pinch Of Yum