The IBD Merry-go-round

by Brian Greenberg Patient Advocate

Recently, I was walking my dog around a park and saw a group of kids running around a merry-go-round. I watched as they played on it. Sometimes everything was going smoothly, the kids were running properly, and the merry-go-round was spinning fast. Then, there were a few times when the merry-go-round came to a stop, and it was incredibly difficult for the children to get everything going again.

This made me think about how I’ve lived with Crohn’s disease since I was 11, and how much the experience has been like living on a merry-go-round. It always seems like once I get my body moving and keep a healthy routine, everything feels better. But when a flare hits or when I get lazy, everything seems to come to a stop. There are times when people ask me how I keep moving and doing so much with Crohn’s disease; well, it’s all about keeping my body moving, and when it comes to that stop, getting back up and moving again.

It’s like that for so many of us. Many times a flare can cause our lives to be turned upside down. We don’t know what to do and we try everything we can to get things back to normal. This is usually an uphill battle and one that almost feels impossible to catch up on. Same thing happens when we don’t take proper care of ourselves: our bodies hurt more, arthritis kicks in, fatigue keeps us from going out, and our quality of life is generally low.

This is why I have always told people to do everything they can to live a healthy lifestyle, to give their bodies the best chance possible in the fight against IBD. When you do this, you can gain momentum and increase the possibility of improving. It’s true that this approach can take a lot of work, but isn’t our health worth it?

I’ve managed my inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with a routine that focuses on three factors: my diet, my physical health, and mental health. When you maintain a routine and your body has a level of stability, your health is fully supported. This helps the momentum work in your favor, demonstrating how living with IBD can be like riding a merry-go-round. Once you put in a large amount of work to get things moving in the right direction, it can take less energy to keep things going. And once everything is working in our favor, all we have to do is get off and run a little bit with minimal pushing to keep things running smoothly.

Here are the three factors I incorporate into my daily routine for improved quality of life: diet, physical health, and mental health.

DietNow, I’m not saying that diet is a cure for IBD. It’s far from it But if we eat healthy foods, we’ll naturally have a better chance at living healthy as well. Eating the proper amount of calories with the right nutrition can’t hurt, right? Staying hydrated with low sugar beverages can’t hurt, right? Eating well overall can’t hurt, right? So why not give it a try? We all have to find our own diets, and sometimes that might require a combination of all the diets out there that help with inflammation. But when we find something that might work, it can’t hurt to stick with it.

Physical health

In order to keep my merry-go-round moving, I have to keep my body moving. Now there are mornings when I wake up and my body doesn’t move. The arthritis causes too much pain and just getting out of bed hurts. But on mornings when I feel a little energy, mornings that my body doesn’t hurt quite as much as it can, I have to workout and give my body its best shot at staying healthy. This normally includes a morning workout with swimming, cycling, running, or weights, followed by stretching and foam rolling. Then, at the end of the day, I stretch and foam roll again while hydrating my body for the next day. This takes work, but it’s my health on the line! In my mind, it’s worth the effort and time.

Mental health

Recently, I stopped neglecting an area of my life that I normally didn’t pay much attention too — my mental health. Now I make sure I have time to work on it. This includes breaks during the day while I’m working, meditating before bed or even during the day sometimes, and allowing myself time to reflect and recognize the good and bad things that might be happening in my life. This has allowed me to have a better understanding of how to manage an overactive body and brain, which many patients with IBD have.

Now I didn’t say this was easy. It’s not. It takes time, effort, and relentless work ethic. But it’s your life; isn’t it worth it? If things can be better than they are right now with your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, wouldn’t you want to give it a try? It will take time to get the merry-go-round moving in the right direction. There are going to be times when you think you have it going and, boom, it stops. But we have to get back up and keep trying to get the merry-go-round moving again. Once we can get into a routine and keep our lives going with less effort, that’s when we will begin to see the benefits.

To read more about creating a routine of little changes that can potentially help manage your IBD, check out the Compound Effect.

Brian Greenberg
Meet Our Writer
Brian Greenberg

Diagnosed at 11 which makes his Crohn’s career 24 years. After countless surgeries of various levels, Brian decided for ostomy surgery. Now he's lived with an ostomy 7 years and made it permanent 4 years ago. Doing everything he can to overcome his disease and live a normal life. Brian is also a Social Ambassador for the IBD HealthCentral Facebook page.