There are so many different opinions going around about the impact diet has on a person’s inflammatory bowel disease. I am not sure if I am in the minority, but I get the feeling based on my interactions with fellow IBDers that I might be.
I love talking about these types of things because I know we are all adults and able to listen to one another’s opinions without judgement. Agreeing to disagree is fine. We have all gone through such different experiences as a Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis patient so it would only be natural for us to have varying opinions about such a sensitive topic.
Food: Does it really play a role in the health of an inflammatory bowel disease patient?
The following is ONLY my opinion. I assume you know by now I am not a doctor and I do respect other opinions as well.
Based on my personal experiences and the experiences of others who I am close with, I honestly don’t think diet makes a huge difference. I am not advocating eating junk all day long. I think like any person, eating as balanced as possible is the best way to go. If you are lacking in certain nutrients, I believe it is crucial to stay on top of that as well. Patients should eat what makes them feel well. And as long as they aren’t clinically malnourished, then there is no reason to have IBD specific diets and all the other things out there about diet in relationship to IBD. All that does is make the public think that there IS a diet that all Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients should follow and if they don’t and they are still suffering, it is somehow their fault for not making the necessary “lifestyle choices.”
Btw, I always love all the books and articles that say “Nutrition Guide for IBD, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Celiacs, Leaky Gut Syndrome and IBS”…. ah okay. I had no idea we all followed the same nutritional guidelines as others with completely different disorders/diseases. I am overflowing with confidence now about this diet! Ha.
Anyway, back to a more serious note.
I wish to God that I truly believed that diet played a role. All I wanted the first two years following my diagnosis was to be able to treat my ulcerative colitis with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, probiotics, fish oil and some other things including aloe vera juice. It tasted disgusting but if it was able to heal my intestines without medication or surgery then who cares about the taste or how many natural supplements/diet alterations I had to go through. If I was feeling well and was able to keep my chronic illness at bay without doing anything drastic (and while probably improving my overall health at the same time), then my family and I would have been the happiest people in the world.
But I probably wouldn’t have a blog if that was the case. Or at least, not this type of blog
I wanted so badly to believe that I had some control over my disease. I wanted my flare ups or surgery complications to be the result of something I did or did not do because then at least there would be a reason. Things happening randomly to my body is something that has always been very difficult for me to handle. If I was able to manage my ulcerative colitis with diet, lifestyle changes, supplements, etc then I would feel even more empowered. Even more in control of my life and my body.
But to my dismay, nothing I ate or didn’t eat made any difference whatsoever. Nothing I did or didn’t do mattered. When I had my colon, I had “safe foods” that I was mentally okay with (when things weren’t too too bad) but if I was in a bad flare up then water was going to cause me to be in extreme agony. And then my years with a Jpouch, kock pouch and ostomy were filled with me thinking (because I was told) that I was “just like everyone else” and should just be out and enjoying things other people do. “Don’t worry about this stuff so much” a doctor said to me.
However, worry sets in when you eat a small salad while you are out to dinner with a friend and because the lettuce doesn’t digest, it causes the bag to leak all over the place. Worry sets in when you have a few bites of something you love while out and within a few hours, are in absolute agony and know the ER is inevitable. (I could go on and on here as I am sure you know…) But point being. HOW CAN WE NOT WORRY ABOUT THESE THINGS? Especially if they have caused so much physical pain, hospitalizations (thus feeling violated) along with the mental anguish in all of this.
The way I see it, after all I have been through, I would be a fool to risk eating anything that has been negative for me in the past, or that makes living with an ostomy more difficult. I do sometimes make exceptions with the latter and eat things that I know will make the output thick (aka more annoying) but nothing that I know is a serious problem. For other patients who haven’t had the same experiences I have, I fully understand wanting to enjoy certain foods.
I would love to be able to eat a healthier diet. Read this post to learn a little more about me in the food/health department:
I don’t think my brain would allow a fork full of vegetables in my mouth, let alone make them a staple in my diet.
I think making sure you aren’t deficient in any nutrient, trying to get enough protein which fosters healing, and maybe taking some supplements/vitamins is really all you can do when you have a severe case of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Mild is a different story. I do, unfortunately, believe that diet, while always a good thing to keep in mind, doesn’t truly help an IBD patient in any significant way.