IBD & Crohn’s: 4 Step Healing Plan

IBD & Crohn's

Recently a friend of mine with Crohn’s had another flare up and approached me for advice regarding how to lower inflammation naturally and prevent future flare ups. I’ve been meaning to read up more about Crohn’s and similar Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) and so took this opportunity to do just that. In the process, I’ve discovered and learnt so much and most of what is written in this plan can also be applied across the board for other autoimmune diseases. This post puts together what I’ve researched into a comprehensive 4 step plan for healing which I hope is easy enough for anyone to implement.

Important Disclaimer: I’m no doctor so please consider what you read on this blog as personal opinions from my research about these topics. I will try to substantiate with scientific evidence but even then, please consult a qualified physician for professional advice regarding such issues. This post also contains affiliate links. For more info please visit The Legal Page.

I did a fair bit of digging and research online to understand more about Crohn’s and its treatment options. Conventional medicine options range from antibiotics to NSAIDs, steroids, immunomodulators, biologics and even surgery. Not surprisingly, most of these have accompanying side effects which are not desirable in the long run.

For more about Crohn’s Disease: What is Crohn’s Disease?

Since I’m not a doctor and rather favor natural treatments over synthetic drugs, I decided to focus the bulk of my research on these. Besides, my friend is also seeking conventional medical advice at the same time – something which I encourage despite being more on the alternative medicine side. I’m not opposed to conventional medicine and feel it is sometimes necessary to pair it with other forms of treatment, like this treatment plan, to increase the probability and rate of healing and minimize side effects.

Naturally, pun intended 😉, most of this post focuses on diet, natural supplements and lifestyle choices. All of which definitely impact Crohn’s to varying degrees.

Truth be told, there are soooooo many diets out there claiming to treat Crohn’s and IBD and many are even contradictory. Additionally, when it comes to nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for everyone. However, there are certain principles which apply to most and it is these which I try to focus on in the post below. Even so, the wise individual should not take advice blindly but rather keep a detailed food log or diet journal and be cautious with trying anything new.

Self-experimentation can be tedious and confusing but with well-kept notes tracking every variable, you will gain invaluable insights to personalize the healing plan that works best for you.

Note: I strongly advise adopting an experimenter’s mindset and only changing as little variables as possible at a time – best if its just ONE thing. This means either removing or adding ONE food item or ONE supplement or changing ONE aspect of your lifestyle at a time to see if doing so eases your symptoms or makes them worse. Start with what you think will have the MOST impact first! I know how tough this can be as it’s almost impossible to eat the exact same foods everyday or do the exact same things each day except for one variable but this is the most accurate and reliable way of obtaining results. This may be a long and tedious process but will ultimately help you pinpoint and customize what works best for you.

In summary, the 4 steps that I have adapted from various sources are:

  1. Eat the Right Foods
  2. Take the Right Supplements
  3. Remove and Minimize Toxins
  4. Optimize your Lifestyle for Healing

STEP 1: EAT THE RIGHT FOODS

Foods to AVOID:

  1. AVOID: Lactose
    • Most people don’t produce the enzymes needed to breakdown lactose. Thus it remains undigested and gets putrefied by bacteria in the colon, leading to digestive distress.
    • This includes all unfermented or non-cultured, fluid dairy products such as pasteurized milk, creams, ice cream, soft cheeses, etc
      • Goat or sheep milk and related products are much lower in lactose and many people find it more agreeable but still be very cautious and look out for symptoms of digestive distress
    • Cultured or fermented dairy products such as kefir (highly recommended), yogurt and many hard cheeses are recommended in their stead
    • Fermenting/culturing dairy allows enzymes produced by the good bacteria to breakdown lactose. Best if the source is raw dairy and not pasteurized.
  2. AVOID: Sucrose 
    • Like Lactose, sucrose is a disaccharide that causes digestive distress, particularly for people with IBD
    • This includes all kinds of table sugar, whole sugars (e.g. cane sugar juice), high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, etc
    • More on foods highest in sucrose – here and here
    • Generally, try to keep sugar consumption to a minimal – both natural and artificial. More info on natural sweeteners here.
  3. AVOID: Grains
    • Grains contain polysaccharide starches, phytates and gluten. These are all very taxing on the digestive system and in the case of phytates, rob your body of key minerals like calcium, iron and zinc. Not good for someone with Crohn’s who may already be malnourished due to compromised digestion
    • This includes all bread, pasta, rice, oats, breakfast cereals, wraps, etc. Here is a list of grain and grain-free foods.
  4. AVOID: Legumes and Beans, especially Soy
    • Contain high amounts of anti-nutrients (nutrient inhibitors like phytic acid) which add to digestive distress. List of legumes and beans here.
    • Unless you properly prepare them before eating by soaking or fermenting. Learn how here.
    • AVOID all soy products like tofu and soy milk. Some well-fermented ones like natto and miso are okay occasionally. Read more about the dangers of soy here.
  5. AVOID: Commercial Nuts & Seeds
    • The prepackaged, roasted and seasoned kinds. If not properly prepared, they can also have high anti-nutrient content and cause digestive issues.
    • Properly preparing them = soaking the RAW nuts in salt water and then dehydrating
  6. AVOID: Raw vegetables
    • Raw veggies are harder to digest and absorb. People with Crohn’s and IBD find it even harder due to the inflammation in their gastrointestinal system
    •  Try to cook all your vegetables in lots of healthy fats (see below) which help in the absorption of vitamins and minerals
  7. AVOID: Potatoes and corn–considered vegetables, Jerusalem artichoke.
    • High starch content
    • Sweet potatoes are okay as long as they are well-cooked
  8. AVOID: High-fibre, high-sugar fruits
    • Fruits with lots of seeds pass through the digestive system undigested and can increase inflammation in the digestive tract.
    • Fruit skins may contain irritants that can cause more damage to the gastrointestinal tract
    • Unripe fruits and highly acidic fruits like tomatoes have also been known to promote the formation of deep ulcers and worsen intestinal bleeding
    • Removing the skins to might help
    • You can also cook your fruits with your veggies or make a fruit stew
  9. AVOID: Commercial liquid vegetable oils (refined or hydrogenated)
    • Such as canola, corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed, peanut, etc.
    • Besides being extremely high in omega-6 (too much promotes inflammation), they are also high in trans fats and free radicals
    • Basically, the only oils I recommend for cooking is coconut oil (organic, unrefined, cold pressed) or animal fats like butter/lard/duck fat, etc. Don’t use olive oil to cook as it gets oxidized easily in high temperatures.
    • Olive oil is very nutritious and allowed but best eaten raw and cold, sprinkled over dishes. Choose organic, extra-virgin, cold-pressed ones that come in a dark, opaque bottle as sunlight also damages it.
    • Other safe vegetable oils include tropical oils like avocado and palm oils but the best are stated above.
  10. AVOID: Fried Foods
    • Highly inflammatory, rancid oils from the frying process with large amounts of free radicals and carcinogens are the perfect storm for igniting digestive problems and flare-ups
  11. AVOID: Spicy foods and Nightshades
    • There are countless spices out there and everyone reacts differently to them.
    • Its best to avoid them completely at first then slowly add them back and monitor which ones you are sensitive to.
    • Many people with autoimmune disorders are sensitive to the nightshade family and these can give problems, especially for people with compromised digestive systems.
    • These include all chillies, bell peppers (capsicum), eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes (not sweet potato, yam or tapioca), etc. Read more here.
  12. AVOID: Pre-packaged, highly processed foods
    • aka artificial “franken-foods”
    • Foods that don’t look like their natural states found in nature.
    • Beware of added preservatives
      • look out for ‘nitrates’, ‘sorbates’, ‘sulfites’, ‘benzene’ and ‘acetate’ in food labels
      • Read more about the dangers of additives and preservatives here.
    • Beware of too much Sugar
      • Too much sugar in general is inflammatory and will exacerbate any flare-up or autoimmune symptom. Most of the time, avoiding it totally can help with Crohn’s.
      • Sugar has also been linked to almost every imaginable modern health problem out there. Read more here.
      • Be especially careful of artificial sweeteners often found in sugary drinks. If it says “diet” or “light” or “sugar-free” it probably has a sugar substitute like Aspartame or some other harmful artificial sweetener
        • Read more about the dangers of artificial sweeteners here
      • Beware also of “natural sugars”
        • Sometimes “natural flavours” or “natural sugars” are really names used to disguise MSG or other dangerous chemicals like High Fructose Corn Syrup
    • Beware of other labels which make falsely mislead the consumer into thinking the product is healthy. Learn more about misleading food labels here
    • “Study Links Common Food Additives to Crohn’s Disease, Colitis”

Oh no, that long list of foods to avoid can be really daunting huh.. what to eat then? Fear not, there are still plenty of whole, natural, real foods out there!

Here are some suggestions to EAT MORE:

  1. EAT MORE: QUALITY Animal products
    • Quality =  wild-caught and organically pasture-raised (grass-fed, free-roaming) livestock
    • Most nutritious animal products: Seafood, eggs, butter and organ meats. Be sure to eat all the fats as there many important vitamins are fat soluble ones (like vitamin D, A, E and K)
    • Eat more Omega-3 rich foods like salmon and other wild-caught cold water fish, fish eggs, eggs from pastured chickens, walnuts, grass-fed butter and organ meats
    • Cultured dairy products like Kefir, yogurt, creme fraiche, pima cream, etc
  2. EAT MORE: Healthy Fats 
    • From plants: organic, unrefined, cold-pressed
      • Coconut oil
      • Olive oil
      • Avocado oil
    • From animals: again, source for quality animal products (see above)
      • Grass-fed butter
      • Organic grass-fed Ghee (amazon, iherb)
        • Ghee is simply clarified butter. Meaning it’s been heated and most traces of any protein like casein have been taken out.
      • Most fatty cuts of meats but make sure they are from good sources (see animal products above)
      • Organ meat again, from a quality source
        • They are high in fats and very nutrient dense
        • Liver is the best but others include heart, tongue, gizzard, kidney, sweetbreads, etc
    • Hard cheese that has been aged long enough to remove lactose
      • The harder and older the better. Best if they are made from raw grass-fed/organic milk sources.
      • Goat or sheep is also a good alternative as they have less lactose.
      • E.g. Swiss, Cheddar, Parmesan, Romano, etc.
      • Avoid soft cheese like Mozzarella and Ricotta.
      • Also, avoid all store-bought processed cheese with additives.
      • This is a handy guide
  3. EAT MORE: Cooked vegetables 
    • Try to eat the 3 main types of vegetables according to The Wahl’s Protocol:
      • Dark green leafy vegetables (kale, bok choy, collards, lettuces, spinach, etc)
      • Sulfur-rich vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic, etc)
      • Colourful veggies and fruits (beets, berries, carrots, etc)
      • Learn more about them here
    • Steaming is best but be careful as it is easy to overcook. Other recommended methods of cooking include adding them to soups and broths, light blanching or sautéing with plenty of healthy fats which help you absorb the nutrients from the vegetables.
    • Go for more non-starchy vegetables. Sweet potatoes or yam sometimes are okay.
  4. DRINK MORE: Bone Broth (soups and stocks traditionally made from bones)
    • Broths are a great source of easily digestible, absorbable nutrients because the long simmering process has broken down most proteins into their basic amino acids.
    • Broths are also rich in minerals extracted from the bones and are a great way for helping people with IBD and Crohn’s meet all their mineral requirements naturally without the need for supplements.
    • The rich gelatin content also helps lower inflammation and heal the gut.
    • Drinking a bowl with every meal or regularly cooking broth-based dishes will improve digestion and aid healing and prevent flare ups in the long run
    • Read more about the amazing healing benefits of broth here, here and here!
    • I recommend making a big stockpot each week and drinking a bowl with each meal (if possible). From experience, fish bones are the tastiest. It’s also the most nutritious (in terms of all the vitamins and minerals you get, especially iodine) if you use whole fish heads.
    • If you are travelling or are unable to batch cook in for various reason, there are pre-packaged options available but these are often not as nutritious as homemade ones. Some brands I recommend are:
      • Kettle & Fire (not AIP-friendly) (amazon, iherb)
      • Au Bon Broth (AIP-friendly) (amazon)
      • Bare Bones Bone Broth (AIP-friendly on some flavors) (amazon)
  5. EAT MORE: Lacto-Fermented products 
    • I call these “pre-digested raw superfoods” because the action of good bacteria like lactobacilli in the fermentation process enhances digestibility and increases vitamin levels
    • The resulting product is often much more nutritious and very easily absorbable
    • Most lacto-fermented products also have much more probiotics than a probiotic supplement
      • E.g. Sauerkraut has been compared to have 100X more probiotics than a bottle of high potency probiotic pills! [1, 2])
    • Lastly, the fermentation process also renders the product enzyme-rich which helps with digestion and catalysing many of the body’s important chemical reactions
    • Traditionally, artisan and homemade lacto-fermented products are always recommended over store-bought ones because of significantly higher nutritional values and less unwanted additives or packaging processes
      • Beware of pasteurized or canned ones!
      • Pickling in vinegar is not the same nor as healthy as traditional lacto-fermented pickles
      • Look out for additives and preservatives
    • Some examples:
      • Sauerkraut (highly recommended)
      • Milk Kefir – recommended more than yogurt!
      • Kombucha
      • Pickled vegetables
      • Beet kvass
      • Kim Chi
      • Yogurt
      • Hard cheese that has been aged long enough to remove lactose
    • If your whole meal is cooked (e.g. all your veggies), it is good to have some pickled vegetables to provide important enzymes and probiotics for your digestion. Try to start each meal with some enzyme rich foods like those mentioned above
    • Learn more about these ordinary foods turned superfoods here!

Finally, these foods should be eaten in MODERATION – meaning they should not form a large portion of your daily meals. Heck, set a once-a-week “Cheat Day” and enjoy your favourite traditional sourdough pastries or natural sweetener desserts!

  1. Fruits 
    • Best to go for low sugar/fructose fruits like berries (blue, black, rasp, straw, etc) and avocadoes (high in healthy fats)
    • Remove skin and avoid fruits with lots of seeds
    • Consume your fruits in small amounts after you’ve eaten your fill of vegetables and quality animal products
    • Consider cooking them with your veggies to improve digestibility or in a stew
  2. Properly prepared in small amounts. Avoid these during a flare.
    • Grains
    • Beans & legumes
    • Nuts & seeds
    • Learn how to properly prepare grains and beans here.
  3. Natural sweeteners
    • again, treat these as “occasional treats” and be careful not to overindulge
    • Some okay examples:
      • Raw honey
      • Stevia (natural leaf form or brown or green is better than the white, overly processed ones)
      • Molasses
      • Coconut sugar or nectar
    • Read more about natural sweeteners here
  4. Alcohol
    • Gastrointestinal symptoms may worsen with alcohol consumption [1]
    • “patients with inactive IBD who drink red wine daily may be at an increased long-term risk for disease relapse” [2]
    • Its safer to save alcohol consumption for special occasions too
  5. Coffee
    • It is recommended that people with IBD avoid caffeine and alcohol [1]
    • Caffeine has a diuretic and slight laxative effect so it is best avoided when having diarrhoea or a flare-up
    • The effects of caffeine are very individualized but generally people with Crohn’s reported that coffee adversely influences intestinal symptoms [2]
  6. Chocolate
    • Anecdotally most people with IBD and Crohn’s report problems with chocolate too [1]
    • Chocolate contains caffeine (see above)
    • Most chocolates have high amounts of sugar which is not desirable for someone with IBD
    • Milk and white chocolate often has dairy and lactose (see above under foods to avoid)

*A word on Cooking

  • For all cooking (not limited to vegetables), try to use low heat, more moisture and longer cooking times to preserve nutrients in foods.
  • I highly advice against charring, browning, blackening, frying, deep frying, microwaving, roasting, etc.

*A note on the low FODMAP diet:

  • some of the above foods may be contraindicated (high FODMAP) like berries and avocados. However, you may not react to them. Its best you test them out yourself and keep a food diary and record down how you feel after eating these foods.
  • “Low FODMAP has been proven very effective for people with IBS, IBD and SIBO but the low carbohydrate/fiber intake can be stressful on the thyroid, cause dysregulated cortisol (and both of those are bad!) and lead to bacterial undergrowth in the digestive tract. The two diet factors that have been shown in the scientific literature to have the most dramatic corrective impact on gut microorganisms is high omega-3 fatty acid intake (lots of fish!) and high fiber intake (from vegetables and fruit), both soluble and insoluble. If you do have confirmed SIBO or strong gastrointestinal symptoms, you may want to combine the autoimmune protocol with a low FODMAP approach as a short-term intervention or you may wish to save low FODMAP for troubleshooting a month or two down the road.”

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STEP 2: TAKE THE RIGHT SUPPLEMENTS

I generally don’t recommend taking supplements as I believe we can get everything we need from a nutrient dense, traditional diet but I admit in our modern times, it might be hard to get some nutrients and sometimes supplements they may be helpful or even necessary to speed up healing (such as natural ‘painkillers’ which are always better but may not be as effective as the NSAIDs from doctors).

A few words on supplements:

  • it is prudent to build up to the recommended dosage to avoid unwanted side effects.
    • For example, if the recommended is 5 pills a day, start with 1 and increase by 1 each day until you reach the recommended dose. You should do this for any new foods you introduce to your diet too. Always be cautious.
  • Start with supplements that you think you need most first and start with one supplement at a time to see if it’s really helping or you’d be wasting your money.
  • Again, adopt an experimenter’s mindset and introduce (or take out) one supplement at a time.

Where possible I added links (mostly amazon) but you can search other websites like iherb.com (use my code “SCM575” for 5% off!) for your convenience and delivery.

Natural supplements that may help:

1. For reducing inflammation with without side effects, unlike conventional medicine:

  •  Serrapeptase (amazon, iherb)
    • an enzyme that doubles as a painkiller
    • “Serrrapeptase is a good alternative to salicylates (such as aspirin), ibuprofen, and other NSAIDS as well as steroids- providing relief for those suffering with a wide array of autoimmune diseases that affect the inflammatory response, including ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, uveitis, allergies, and some forms of cancer.” (read more here)
  • Garden of Life FYI (amazon, iherb)
    • Anti-inflammatory digestive enzymes and joint support supplement with collagen
    • Also for controlling and preventing inflammation
    • Includes a range of enzymes that help you digest and absorb your food
    • Read more here.
  • Whole Leaf Aloe Juice Concentrate
    • another supplement that lowers inflammation, modulates and balances your immune system and aids in your absorption of nutrients.
    • It is also anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-viral supplement.
    • Read more here
    • Recommended Brand: Lily of the Dessert (amazon, iherb)
      • I’ve looked at many brands and this is the only reliable one that doesn’t have preservatives, and uses the Whole Leaf which is important as many just use the inner gel
      • The outer leaf has a lot more nutrients.
      • “Take 1oz. (2 Tbsp) per day. Can be taken any time of day, with or without food, alone or mixed with a favorite juice. For those with more severe digestive issues, we would recommend you take the aloe 15-30 minutes before each meal.” – from their website

2. For calming Crohn’s Flare Up – Slippery Elm Bark 

3. My no.1 recommended nutritional supplement – Fermented Cod Liver Oil 

  • Cod liver oil is most important for Vitamins A and D, two of the most important fat soluble vitamins required.
  • Most people have unhealthy (low) levels of these unless they eat lots of organ meats.
  • It is also rich in omega 3 which helps lower inflammation too.
  • Traditionally, people fermented their liver oils and this retains/increases the vitamin levels. These days all the store-bought cod liver/fish oils are usually processed in high heat which denatures the oil. There is no more vitamin left and often, synthetic vitamins must be added back.
  • I highly recommend the brand Green Pastures (amazon)
    • Cod liver oil when combined with the high vitamin grass-fed butter oil is even more powerful hence I recommend the above product which has a 2:1 ratio of cod liver oil to butter oil.

4. For healing the gut

  • Licorice (DGL) – (amazoniherb)
  • L-glutamine – helps restore gut barrier function (amazon , iherb)
  • Gelatin (amazon, iherb)
    • for travelling and if you don’t have bone broth on hand
  • Bone Broth Supplements
    • Au Bon Broth Bone Broth Pills (amazon)
    • Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein/Collagen powders or capsules (amazon, iherb)

5. Digestive Enzymes to aid with digestive support

6. Spore-based probiotics and prebiotics

  • My recommended Sport-based probiotic brand: Just Thrive probiotics. These are true probiotics which survive the harsh acidic environment of the stomach and arrive alive in the GI tract. Learn more here.
  • You can try the following brands recommended from this website but I don’t have much experience in this area. I’d rather eat more traditionally fermented/cultured foods like sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, kefir, etc to get my deal of probiotics.
    • Perfect Pass probiotics (amazon)
    • Perfect Pass Prebiotics (amazon)
    • Ohhira’s Probiotics professional formula (amazon)
    • Garden of Life Primal Defence Ultra Probiotic (amazon)
    • VSL 3 Probiotics (amazon)
    • Prescript Assist (amazon) (Requires no refrigeration)
  • Note that some quality probiotics need to be refrigerated or shipped in containers that have some kind of ice pack to keep the good bacteria alive
  • Sometimes prebiotics may be more beneficial than probiotics as prebiotics are what feed the good bacteria but that also depends on the state of biodiversity of your gut microbiome and whether there is dysbiosis. It is helpful to get a test done to find out more.

7. Greens Supplement

  • Good to have if you are travelling and can’t get your vegetables/vitamins in
  • But I would still recommend getting your greens from whole foods
  • Some greens powder may have too many vegetables/ingredients and one or two might exacerbate your symptoms. It can be very difficult to pinpoint which one may cause problems. I have had experience buying whole tubs like this and only taking one serving and having had to throw away the whole tub because of this
  • Garden of Life Green Superfood Powder (amazon, iHerb)

8. Detoxifying clay

  • Beneficial for people with IBD for internal cleansing and healing of gut. Can also use as a facial mask (read more here)
  • These clays (when taken internally), also provide all the necessary minerals you may be lacking and help trap pathogenic bacteria, yeast and unwanted toxins inside you.
  • Recommendation: 1 to 2 tbsp with water, 2x a day (avoid contact of clay with metal)
  • Azomite Mineral Powder (amazon) – recommended in Nourishing Traditions by WAPF
  • Bentonite Clay (amazon)

9. For malnourishment – Multivitamins

  • If you suspect you aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet because of digestive and absorption issues
  • Garden of Life (amazon, iHerb)

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STEP 3: REMOVE AND MINIMIZE TOXINS

Try to minimize these as much as possible to speed up your healing

1. Contaminated air

  • Avoid smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke
  • Avoid high traffic/construction areas. Wear a mask with filter or nose-filters (these are new and pretty cool but I haven’t tried them) if you can’t avoid it (e.g. you cycle to work)
  • Indoor air purifiers to purify indoor air

2. Water

  • Drink only purified water – I recommend getting a water filter that removes chlorine and fluoride

3. Skin care / cosmetics

  • Learn to read ingredient labels
  • Avoid ingredients that you wouldn’t want to eat – our skin absorbs them into our bodies too.
  • Skin = “second mouth”

4. Detox 

  • Practice some form of gentle detox daily:
    • Exercising/sweating a lot – sweating is a great way our bodies remove toxins. A 20 minute sauna session after exercising is a double win!
    • Dry brushing. Learn more here.
    • Clay masks once a week or ingesting clay (refer above)
    • Take an Epsom salt or Clay bath
    • More detox methods here: 13 GENTLE DETOX METHODS TO PROMOTE HEALING

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STEP 4: OPTIMIZE YOUR LIFESTYLE FOR HEALING

You are in control of a lot of these factors and they can make a huge difference.

1. Stress

  • One of the causes of autoimmune disorders [1]
  • This includes both physical and psychological/emotional stress
  • There are good stress (eustress) and bad stress. Sometimes too much good stress can become bad ones. Try to be more aware of your stress levels and practice stress-reduction strategies like:
    • Making time for yourself and for relaxing
      • I typically stop all work/study before dinner and have the whole night off to relax
      • I schedule one day a week, usually sundays, to completely relax and do whatever I want or have been putting off
    • Meditation
      • I meditate at least 10 mins every morning and try to get some sunlight and grounding (barefoot on the grass) at the same time
    • Deep nasal breathing, particularly in times of stress/emotion
    • Spirituality/religious practices can also be meditating
    • Exercise/pursuing your favourite hobbies or side projects can be stress-relieving

“This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often.”- Holstee Manifesto

2. Exercise

  • Our bodies were built to move.
  • Thus, to keep our muscles, bones, joints and connective tissues healthy, we need to incorporate some physical activity every day.
  • Exercise is also stress-relieving and anti-inflammatory (if you don’t overdo it or get injured)
  • All kinds of exercise are important but probably the most important is mobility, strength training and high intensity exercise
    • Start your morning with some ‘daily movement’ like simple stretches and mobilization exercises on your bed.
    • Just take time to ‘feel’ your body for areas of tension or ache or stiffness and move!
    • You’ll know by instinct what to do J.
    • 5 mins each morning is enough but once you start, you’ll feel so good you will think 5 mins is too little! More on mobility here: 5 minute flow
  • Strength training for increasing muscle and bone mass which affect all aspects of health positively and gets more important as you age.
    • You don’t have to go to the gym to build stronger muscles and bones
    • Start with your own bodyweight as resistance
    • A complete full-body routine can be as simple as these 4 exercises
      • Pushups
      • Pullups (or horizontal body rows)
      • Squats or Lunges
      • Some core work like planks and bridges
  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Steady State Cardio
    • HIIT has similar benefits (sometimes better) as traditional continuous cardio [1]
    • Might be more time efficient
    • Good to have a mix of both in your training plan
      • Example HIIT program – after a good warmup (e.g. 5 mins of easy jogging), start your watch and sprint as long and as fast as you can. Stop the watch when you stop. Rest as long as needed and repeat until your total sprint time = 10 mins.
  • I recommend at least 2 strength training sessions (can be bodyweight resistance or weightlifting resistance training) and 2 cardio sessions a week (1 HIIT at least!). Other days can be rest days but stay active by going for walks, hikes, etc.

3. Sleep

  • Everyone is different and need different amounts of sleep (also depends on the quality of sleep you are getting).
  • I recommend finding out how much sleep you need by not setting any alarm clocks for at least 2 weeks (to let your body normalize to a natural circadian rhythm again)
    1. Go to bed as early as possible (~9pm is good)
    2. Don’t set an alarm for the next morning
    3. Wake up naturally – when you feel well-rested. You will know after a few days.
    4. Note how many hours you sleep
    5. Eventually it will become a natural routine and you will feel tired and sleepy by 8+pm and wake naturally every morning at the same time
    6. I did this experiment and now wake up naturally without alarm by 6am, feel sleepy by 8+pm and feel well-rested throughout the day. No need for naps in the day too!
  • Optimize your bedroom to be a “sleep sanctuary”
    • No electronics after the sun goes down. If you must, use a program that makes the screen amber colour and cuts out the blue light (search “night light” for windows computers)
    • Have your last meal at least 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Make the room as dark and as silent as possible.
    • If impossible, you can use an eye mask and ear plugs (or a shirt over your eyes and ears)

4. Social Connection

  • Choosing to spend more time with people that make you happy, that make you feel important and loved
  • Good relationships with family and friends (don’t hold or bear grudges for long)

5. Personal Purpose/Mission/Passion and Life Fulfilment

  • I don’t know when I came to this realization but I find that without a personal mission in life, one can never truly feel alive.
  • This mission or purpose of yours must not just benefit yourself, but more importantly, you have to believe that it makes a positive difference in the world
    • i.e. it makes the world a better place, even if it’s just for one other person.
  • One way to tell or find out your passion is that feeling where you lose track of time and don’t realize how much time has passed when you do that thing that makes you feel most alive. For me its writing out these blog posts and helping other people or reading up about all these health-related topics, etc.
  • It’s different from something hedonic like playing a computer game (which you will eventually get bored of and move on to something else). It’s something that truly inspires you and makes you feel life is worth living!
  • It brings out the best in you.

6. Stay Positive

  • Your mind can be your most powerful weapon
  • Believing that you will get better, having faith and staying positive and optimistic can be the difference between long-term incurability (self-sabotage) and true, lasting healing.

PARTING WORDS

As with any chronic autoimmune disease, the symptoms can be debilitating and many factors play a part in modifying symptoms, for better or worse. Most of these can be controlled such as diet and lifestyle. All it takes is an indomitable will and experimental mindset to find out what works for you best.

All these recommendations can be daunting and confusing so just focus on changing one thing at a time, starting with what you suspect could have the most impact.

Do you have Crohn’s or IBD? Please comment below on what has worked for you! Any additional advice will be warmly appreciated! 

Further reading on other diets for Crohn’s and IBD

  1. Specific Carbohydrates Diet (SCD) – this diet is kinda already included in the diet that I mentioned above as most of the foods to eliminate are eliminated above too.
  2. SIBO Foodguide (SCD + FODMAP diets)
    • “The SIBO diet focuses on eliminating certain fermentable carbohydrates that provide a substrate for bacterial production of hydrogen and methane gas in the intestines. Removing this substrate helps reduce abdominal symptoms in the host by decreasing gas production. The SIBO Foodguide is a combination of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and the low FODMAP diet.”
    • Read more here
    • SIBO Specific Diet: Food guide
  3. Gut And Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Protocol
    • The GAPS protocol by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride was originally derived from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) created by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas to naturally treat chronic inflammatory conditions in the digestive tract as a result of a damaged gut lining.  You might think of GAPS as an upgraded SCD diet.
    • “The GAPS protocol was designed for patients suffering from learning disabilities, psychiatric and psychological disorders, immune system problems and digestive problems
    • The purpose of the treatment is to detoxify the person, to lift the toxic fog off the brain to allow it to develop and function properly. In order to achieve that we need to clean up and heal the digestive tract, so it stops being the major source of toxicity in the body and becomes the source of nourishment, as it is supposed to be. As more than 90% of everything toxic floating in our blood (and getting into the brain) comes from the gut, healing it will drop the level of toxicity in the body dramatically.
    • This target is achieved by means of The Nutritional Programme. This programme has evolved through the personal experience of Dr. Campbell-McBride’s family and clinical experience with thousands of GAPS children and adults around the world.”
    • Read more here
  4. Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP)
    • This is a more tedious and comprehensive elimination diet which I am still on.
    • It works for all autoimmune diseases by eliminating all foods that may be potentially harmful for your disease for 30-60 days then slowly re-introducing the foods one at a time to see how your body reacts.
    • If your body reacts negatively, the food is avoided (but not forever as sometimes you can tolerate certain foods once you heal up)
    • This is the best resource – Dr. Sarah Ballantyne practically came up with the AIP

References, Research and Further Reading 

  1. How To Restore Digestive Health
  2. Study Links Common Food Additives to Crohn’s Disease, Colitis
  3. Crohn’s Disease: Successful Treatment Using a Dietary Intervention
  4. https://www.crohns.net/page/C/CTGY/Crohns
    • this protocol might be a little over reliant on supplements. However, if diet and lifestyle changes are not giving you progress, then supplements might help!
  5. Role of diet in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  6. How I Cured My Crohn’s Disease by Jamin Thompson
  7. Diet therapy for inflammatory bowel diseases: The established and the new
  8. Review article: evidence-based dietary advice for patients with inflammatory bowel disease
  9. Existing dietary guidelines for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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