Smile, honey! You don’t have to take any medication. What a wonderful treat! Except is it all it’s cracked up to be? Are we all hoping to reach the day where we no longer rely on surgery, tablets, biologics (etc etc etc) and instead can manage our symptoms more holistically – or is the lack of control a whole other compilation of its own?
I was so impressed with myself when I managed to control my IBD without medication. Having been on a course of Azathioprine (immunosuppressants), I decided that taking the tablets no longer ‘felt right’ to me, and I went cold turkey a few weeks after changing to a vegan diet. Whilst there are many positive things to be said in relation to a plant-based diet and bowel disease, I’m not kidding myself that vegetables fixed me. Quite the opposite. Anyone who preaches the immediate ‘curing’ effect of diet in relation to Crohn’s Disease clearly hasn’t tried to eat an apple during a flare up. Having said that, nearly two years after taking my last Azathioprine tablet and I am still (relatively) symptom free.
But what is this miracle? And how do I feel about it?
Nervous. Constantly nervous. Unlike the safety blanket of effective medication (which, trust me, can be hard to find) I find myself often wondering if I am doing the right thing for my body. I find myself constantly over-thinking a bad ‘bowel movement’ and genuinely craving a blood-test to study my inflammation levels. In some strange, hypercondriac, hospital-obsessing way, a part of me craves the stability of regular check ups. Part of me wishes that I had a senior consultant looking over my results, and a pharmacist recommending the next steps for me.
Crohn’s Disease without medication is like going to the toilet in the dark – it feels like the right thing at the time, and often you are proud of yourself for doing it. But get it wrong, and what a mess.
So how do I deal with it? I take supplements. I balance my diet between plant-based and indulgent. I listen to my body. I try not to sweat the small stuff. I make time for exercise (not my favourite hobby, let’s be honest). I basically have just realised my mortality and have tried to adjust my lifestyle accordingly – she says, large glass of red wine in hand. But isn’t life about balance? Shouldn’t I be conscious of what goes in and what comes out of my body – albeit often obsessively?
People always ask: how are you medication free? The truth is, I don’t know. I tried it – and by some unbeknown miracle, I was successful. But I am aware that everything can be temporary. With my first hospital appointment in 9 months due next week – it all feels to play for. Let’s see what my gut is saying…