One year ago this July, I was formally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I had been troubled with worsening digestive problems for several years, but that last episode was so severe it landed me in the hospital. I was so horrified by the entire experience, that I became determined to do whatever it took to ensure I’d never go through this ever again!
I was fully aware that if I didn’t make some drastic changes to my diet and lifestyle, I’d never get better. Moreover, the idea of being on medication for the rest of my life was wholly unacceptable to me. Learning all I could on Crohn’s and natural healing, I committed to a Paleo diet and lifestyle plan uniquely designed to treat autoimmune disease and heal my gut.
With a nerd-like zeal, I immersed myself in all things paleo! For me, the elimination diet was fairly straightforward, helped by the fact that I really loved the food! I delighted in finding new, exciting recipes and cooking with unusual ingredients, and relished in the paleo lifestyle, with its emphasis on movement, sleep, and relaxation.
As the months went by, I started to see some dramatic improvements in my health. Pre-paleo, I was so fatigued that I’d actually lay on my office floor between clients. Yet with paleo, I soon felt the best I’d felt in numerous years, with increased energy and a greater sense of happiness and hope.
With the gastrointestinal symptoms are greatly improved, I rarely have the urgent and frequent trips to the bathroom, and only minimal pain and bloating. Though crohn’s caused me to lose almost 20 pounds, I am back to a healthy weight. The hair loss has been totally reversed, with new hair growing in all the time!
My paleo lifestyle today
I make it a priority to consume foods that are nutrient dense, such as pastured or grass fed meats, organic fruits and vegetables, fish, bone broth, liver and fermented foods. After several successful (and some not so successful) food reintroductions, my diet more resembles a regular paleo diet, with only a few autoimmune modifications:
I’ve been able to eat eggs from early on and was glad to include this wholesome, nutrient dense food back into my diet.
Nuts and seeds have made a come back without any reactions, and has been key for me regaining the last few pounds needed to get back to my pre-crohn’s weight. Still, I am careful to not make a habit of eating nuts, except for a daily small serving of chia seeds to help with bowel regularity.
Much to my delight, chocolate made it back on the list, though only small amounts of dairy-free, soy-free dark chocolate as a treat.
I continue to avoid these foods:
I remain grain free, and strictly gluten free, though in the last month or so, I’ve tried eating a small portion of white rice. No adverse effects, and a possible answer to my sushi cravings, but I don't plan to make rice a regular part of my diet.
I am dairy free since a failed food reintroduction attempt. Hoping for the best, I tried a very small serving of raw goat milk yogurt, homemade with the milk of local pastured goats. Initially, it looked good, but alas, I broke out in a crazy case of hives!
For me, nightshade vegetables are the devil! After an accidental exposure, I experienced such horrendous joint pain, I felt like I was a hundred years old! As a consequence, I have sworn off all nightshades for the unforeseeable future.
I still avoid all legumes, including peanuts and all forms of soy, all processed foods, refined sugar, coffee and alcohol.
Lifestyle is just as an important factor in any paleo plan as what you eat. Though I have practiced yoga on and off for years, I truly appreciate it’s benefits for managing pain and relieving stress like never before! Yoga has also helped rebuilt muscle that I’d lost, giving me long, lean muscles. Whenever I get a chance, I enjoy walks outdoors, topping up my vitamin D levels at the same time. Sleep is a major priority and I have learned to love cat naps!
Current health concerns
By adopting a real food diet and positive, life-renewing habits, I have made huge strides in recovery from disease, yet my health is far from perfect. My gastrointestinal symptoms are greatly relieved, but I still experience some minor ups and downs with my bowel habits, though nothing like it was a year ago! For several months now, I have some mild, Crohn’s-related joint pain, which I managed with supplements. Stress is still my biggest trigger, as I strive to keep stress levels down. Easier said than done, right?
An eye on the future
As I look forward to the year ahead, my desire is to listen to my body, and to refine my lifestyle as I meet my goals or come up upon dead ends. This has been a journey of self-discovery and growth, with times of both joy and frustration. Considering my complex medical history, I know there will be many bumps along the road to wellness, but I endeavor to stay hopeful for continued healing, thankful in all things, and live one moment to the next!
One last thing...
Just the other day, I made a yummy, autoimmune paleo-friendly dessert, to which my non-paleo husband exlaimed, "I'm so glad you got Crohn's... I get to reap the benefits!" Immediately, he felt bad and apologized, but I laughed, fully understanding what he meant. Having a confirmed case of Crohn's was a turning point that allowed me a renewed freedom to slow down and make informed choices about what foods I eat and how I live. My husband loves eating the delicious meals I serve him, and I love that he's being nourished in the process!