If you live with a chronic illness, I have a question for you. Are you doing everything you can in order to make the most of what you’ve been given? Even at my sickest, when I had all the symptoms Crohn’s can throw at a patient, I was still thankful for my life and for others around me.
Recently I have taken my positive approach to another level. If I have downtime in my car, I turn on a podcast. I don’t turn on the TV before bedtime — I meditate. When I’m at the gym on a bike or elliptical machine, I’m reading something that will inspire me.
This has led to a wide range of ideas on how to better a person’s life. So I’d like to ask you another question: What might be M.I.S.S.I.N.G from your life?
I know, you’re probably asking: What’s with the spelling of M.I.S.S.I.N.G.? Well, here’s your answer:
If our body doesn’t have the right balance of minerals, it doesn’t function properly. With a bad digestive system, it’s even harder to get the minerals we need. The proper amount of minerals will allow you to have more energy, feel healthier, and allow you to stay hydrated. Take a multivitamin, use Himalayan salt instead of normal table salt, and/or drink a smoothie to make it easier for your body to digest fruits and vegetables. Little changes like this can add up to a big change.
We need to do everything we can to fight the inflammation in our bodies. Watching what you eat is a good place to start. Junk food and unhealthy snacks are just going to add to the inflammation. Shop around the grocery store and minimize the amount of preservatives you put in your system. Also, you can try a proteolytic enzyme which is shown to limit the body’s inflammatory response. This helps break down proteins that might be causing inflammation.
We all know that a flare can be brought on by stress. But what are you doing to minimize or lower your stress level? Yoga, stretching, walking — basically anything that keeps the body moving can reduce stress. Don’t think you can do any of those? Just try a breathing technique or meditation. Apps like Headspace can help, and Youtube has endless endless teaching options. Lower your stress and you might see a big difference in your IBD.
This can be a tough one for many of us. After spending time on steroids, other medications and having to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom our sleep patterns can be heavily disrupted due to IBD. But your body needs sleep. Sleep allows your body to repair, restore, recover and rejuvenate from a long day of battling your disease — or just life in general. Suggestions for better sleep include not having a clock in the bedroom to reduce anxiety and distraction from watching the time, not having a TV in the bedroom, not sleeping with your phone by your bed, and the list goes on. Try one or all of these, and you might be surprised at the improvement in your sleep.
Every breath you take is important. Take a few moments every day to get some extra deep breaths in. If you are sitting at a red light, on the train, at your desk, or on your couch, take five-10 deep breaths through your nose, then blow them entirely out through your mouth. Do this on a regular basis or take it to another level and do it while you’re meditating. Your body might just become addicted to a drug we take for granted: oxygen.
Along with not taking in the necessary minerals, we might not be getting the right amount of nutrients our bodies need. You can get 500 calories from a sugary can of soda, or you can get the same amount of calories from an all-natural smoothie with yogurt. Do what you can to live a healthy life. Craving fats? Eat an avocado or guacamole. Feel like a protein and carbs? Don’t run to a fast food restaurant: make a balanced meal with diced up chicken and a side of rice. The choices you make over the course a week will add up to amazing results over a year. Imagine what all of those choices will add up to over a lifetime
As IBD patients, we all know that gut health is a big part of what allows the body to function properly — or not. It is suggested more than 70 percent of our immune system lives in our gut, and in order to be as healthy as possible, we need to treat our gut right.
Because living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis is different for everyone, I will leave this one to each patient to figure out. Do probiotics work for you? Will one of the many gut-healthy diets work for you? Keep a journal of what you eat, and when, and figure out what works for you. Then go from there.
Imagine what your life would be like if you improved all of these areas at once. Go ahead: Challenge yourself to be better and do everything in your power to live a healthier and more impactful life.
Brian Greenberg is founder of the Intense Intestines Foundation. He primarily works as an advocate to help patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and ostomies. You can reach Brian on Twitter at @BrianIIF or email at Brian@IntenseIntestines.org. If you would like to connect with the IIF more please visit www.Facebook.com/IntenseIntestines, or www.Twitter.com/NtenseNtestines. And you can join Brian in the conversation about all things IBD on the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page.
Brian Greenberg was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 11. His freshman year of college, he began a roller coaster ride of flares, hospitals stays, major surgeries, and more, with brief breaks of good health. After having an ostomy surgery 6 years ago, making it permanent 3 years ago, he is happy with his quality of life and enjoys helping others with their health journeys. When his health cooperates, he enjoys triathlons, hiking, climbing, skiing, and more.