I weighed 85 pounds with clothes on. I had to lift my legs with my hands to get into a car. When I walked across my office, I would scout out surfaces I could lean on to rest. And then there was the persistent, near-debilitating pain in my side.
I have Crohn’s disease. It’s an unfun condition that, along with ulcerative colitis, is also known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Crohn’s is chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, most often in the small intestine and the first part of the large. An abnormal immune response causes ulcers to form intermittently along that tract. These ulcers can permeate all layers of the digestive tissue and become deep enough to form abscesses or fistulas and cause narrowing of the intestines. Read: serious motherfucking pain.
It’s a finicky little disease. No one person’s experience of it is quite like anyone else’s. Chickpeas can trigger a flare-up for me; a lack of sleep may bring on pain for someone else. Diarrhea and constipation; fever, fatigue and malnutrition. The widely varying and sometimes vague symptoms can make diagnosing Crohn’s difficult. And finding the right combination of drugs and therapies that enable a person to live without pain can be difficult, too.
There’s no known cause of Crohn’s. Researchers feel strongly that a combination of genetics and environment are to blame. When you consider that Crohn’s is most often diagnosed in developing countries and urban areas, it’s hard not to make the connection between the increasing popularity of a processed Western diet and the increasing diagnosis of digestive disorders like Crohn’s.
For years I listened to the recommendations of my doctors. Daily milkshakes, frozen vegan fake chicken, Goldfish crackers, Sprite, ramen—these were the nutritionally void foods they suggested, and I was nothing but sick. How can a person heal and be healthy when eating sugary, processed foods?
The pain I described above led to surgery (my second). I’m not going to squander this clean slate, which is why I started to follow a Paleo diet. Eating clean, whole foods helped me discover my inherent health. And it gave me the energy to try this crazy thing we call CrossFit. It’s amazing how your body can perform when you’re feeding it exactly what it needs.
And now I can deadlift more than 1.5 times of my former self.
Read more about my experience with Crohn’s and nutrition at mynutritionintuition.wordpress.com.