Currently, and for the past few years, my Crohn’s symptoms are different than most other people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). I have several sections of strictures in my small intestine (ileum) where the section of small bowel has been damaged by inflammation so many times that it has become hard, rubbery scar tissue. Healthy intestines expand elastically as food passes through. My intestine has been damaged and repaired so frequently there is no more elasticity; it is essentially a fixed diameter. When the stricture gets inflamed it causes bowel obstructions. This happens when I eat something that is not fully broken down, as it passes through the damaged small bowel.
I have to be extremely careful with my diet. As with most who suffer from IBD, being cautious of what you eat becomes a major part of your life. Everyone is different, but for me there is not a lot I can eat causing a serious lack of variety in my diet.
I can get into trouble really quickly if I eat something that is out of my usual diet. Sometimes I have no issues and other times I will have a serious obstruction. The last time I was hospitalized for 5 days, I had a bowel obstruction from eating one grape. The skin of the grape did not break down enough to pass through the inflamed and damaged section. (see my firsthand account in Blog Update #1) I cannot stress enough how important diet can be for someone with Crohn’s or Colitis.
Normally when I am feeling good, my diet consists 6-8 small high protein meals depending on my fitness related goals. Protein sources include eggs, chicken, turkey, salmon, Greek yogurt, and whey. I cannot eat any beef/red meat or anything with gristle or excessive fat. I do not eat a lot of fats other than using olive oil for cooking. I cannot eat nuts as they are difficult for the digestive system to break down. For carbs, I eat a lot of bananas, rice, thoroughly cooked oatmeal, and steamed skinless yams or potatoes. There are few vegetables that do not give me problems. Peeled cucumbers, yams and tomatoes are about the only form of vegetables that I can eat. I do my best to take green supplements to cover my dietary deficiencies.
During a flare up or after being released from hospital, I will try and go on a liquid diet. If I can eat, I will drink pasteurized egg whites, protein shakes, yogurt or anything that is easily digestible such as bananas or white bread. Depending on how I feel, I will start to introduce solid foods 1-2 days after the flare up. For the next few weeks I will eat extremely carefully, not allowing anything that will be difficult to digest.
The disease presents differently for each person. The best advice I can offer for anyone suffering from Crohn’s/Colitis is to start with your diet. This is what has helped me the most. I could end up in the hospital by making the mistake of eating one grape, so I constantly monitor what I eat and see how certain foods react. Closely evaluate what is going in your body and how you feel. Starting a food diary is a great way to keep track. Record how you’re feeling that day and how you feel before and after eating certain foods. Find out what works for you and try to eliminate anything that gives discomfort.
Stay tuned for my full meal plan and macro breakdown coming soon!