As I was typing up a blog post recently, I realized that I really couldn’t continue blogging like I do without explaining some things about my life, first and foremost my medical condition. In late 2014, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which is a condition where a bacterial imbalance in the gut triggers an immune response. Long story short, my immune system wants to destroy my digestive system, and for a while it was doing a pretty good job. Luckily, it was caught in time that I didn’t need surgery, just lots and lots of steroids. I’ve been on lots of different meds, most of which worked for a short time and then stopped, though I seem to be on one that’s doing the job right now.
Are you, like, okay?
Though I’m currently pretty healthy, I still have some issues: eating can hurt, especially if I eat a lot at a time or at weird times. I’m still having trouble building muscle and endurance at the gym because I can’t process my food quite as efficiently as I should be able to. Most of all, it’s tiring. Though it’s a serious enough condition that I actually had to make some requests when applying for housing at NU, I can usually function as a normal human being, albeit one that sleeps a lot and needs to eat roughly every 3 hours.
So what can you even eat?
Most things! I know a lot of people believe you can control your autoimmune stuff with just diet, but I am currently on my parents’ insurance and it allows me to keep my condition mostly under control with medication. I still do need to watch what I eat, however. I can’t eat large quantities of whole nuts, raw veggies or refined sugar, and I stay away from processed food as well. Fun fact: lots of “healthy” bread on the grocery store shelves is pumped full of extra insoluble fiber, making it nearly impossible for someone like me to digest. If I do eat bread, I get sourdough. Oh, and I don’t drink coffee.
Can it be cured?
Not yet. I say not yet, because there’s so much research into inflammatory diseases going on right now that by the time I’m old, there might be some sort of way that I won’t be on maintenance medicine for the rest of my life. On one hand, it’s something I’ve learned to live with in the past almost three years. On the other hand, it’s so frustrating to think that no matter how well I eat and how much I exercise, there will always be something inherently “unhealthy” about me. As a former athlete and consumer of 9 servings of fruits and veggies a day (as a swimmer I ate a lot), that’s something I’m still getting used to. Chronic illness isn’t fun, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
What, other than medication, has helped?
Cooking all my vegetables, lowering my refined sugar intake and eating high quality, high calorie food has been very helpful on a day-to-day basis. I get about half my calories from vegetables and the other half from things like yogurt, eggs, avocados, fruit and the occasional high quality meat or cheese. And sometimes desserts, too. Exercise has also helped, especially weightlifting and yoga. I actually wouldn’t recommend too much cardio for someone with digestive problems because it can really hurt.
If you made it this far into the post, thank you so much for hearing my story. Having a chronic illness as a student isn’t easy, but things like cooking, working out and blogging help distract me and give me a little bit more purpose in life. Thanks for your support, and feel free to comment or email me with any further questions.