Three Things I Wish I Knew when Diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease

About the Author: Eugenia Fernández García

I came into this world making an impressive debut! At three months old I was in the operating room for clubfoot surgery, and thus, received a lot of medication as an infant. During my childhood and teen years, I suffered from belly aches, vomiting, dermatitis, and eye infections whenever I had a special occasion like a trip or an exam. Unfortunately, my doctors did not find my ill reactions especially remarkable…and I continued living with my conditions untreated. Luckily, I remained a pretty happy kid despite these health challenges.   

However, as I continued growing older and finalized my Engineering Degree in 2006, my usual belly pain weight loss, continuous diarrhea, and bleeding led me to the hospital, and finally, to a diagnosis of severe Crohn’s Disease. Thereafter, I started a treatment with immunosuppressants and mesalazines to treat the disease.

Unfortunately, my quality of life only continued to suffer, and I still felt as though I could not put a name on the issues going on within my body. 

During the seven years I lived in remission from Crohn’s, I suffered with other symptoms like extreme fatigue, dermatitis, frequent diarrhea, and a continuous belly pain. These symptoms were so frequent, I eventually accepted them as my “normal”. Then, three years ago, medication side effects began to kick in…and things changed… For nearly a year I suffered from several continuous infections due to the use of immunosuppressants. One such infection was HPV, which led me to receive surgery on my cervix. After this major complication in my treatment plan, my doctors decided to stop my immunosuppressants. 

Fearing my Crohn’s could appear again due to the lack of immunosuppressants, I started researching other ways to control my Crohn’s, and eventually stumbled upon information regarding diet and lifestyle strategies (up until this moment each of my doctors told me I could eat whatever I wanted…) Thanks to the information I found, I decided to start paying attention to my gut flora and made an appointment with a specialist who had me implement a gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free diet. I also got really into supplements like probiotics and prebiotics, omegas, vitamin C, etc.

Upon making these changes, my life made a 180º turn and I finally realized the meaning of “feeling good”

Overall, after two weeks of implementing my new diet, I noticed I no longer woke up feeling tired or experienced pain after my meals.
After six months I noticed I no longer visited the bathroom with urgency and had developed an understanding of which meals were convenient for me, and which were not. I also noticed increased energy levels—enough for work, the gym, and for chores!
After nine months, my dermatitis disappeared, and today, after over 30 years, I am excited to share I’m living with a high quality of life; I have really never felt better!
Unfortunately, during the past year I did suffer from a severe allergic reaction to a new medication, but on the bright side, this experience led my doctors to stop all traditional medical treatment, leaving me to focus my time and resources on daily probiotics and prebiotics, as well as eating a clean diet with the help of my specialist. 

I am proud to say, my life is 100% normal now and I am able to do everything I wish. My Crohn’s is in remission without the help of medications, and I am much more conscious about what helps and hinders my healthboth emotionally and physically. Overall, I feel I have a ton of control over my disease and my body, and I have no doubt I will continue to control my Crohn’s through holistic nutrition and self-care. 


Three Pieces of Advice

When you first hear the word, “CROHN’S” coming from your doctor’s mouth, you die of fear.
In my case, I was absolutely convinced I was already dying, so the diagnosis of a chronic illness was kind of relieving… It felt like I finally had an answer to my health challenges. And, from that moment on, doctors, family, friends, and friends of friends started giving me advice to help me feel better.

Honestly, the amount of information I received at the beginning of my healing journey was overwhelming. I also had the marvelous idea of Googling my condition…only to realize later that most of the information I received and/or found online was trivial. However, through my personal experience living with and eventually recovering from Crohn’s, there are three important things I learned which played crucial roles in my recovery. Today, I want to share these things with you, because no one ever shared them with me, and had they, I believe I would have felt a lot better a lot sooner.  

ONE: “There is 1 kilo of bacteria in our guts”

The first time I read about “gut flora” and its effect on human health was two years ago. Had I read about my microbiome upon receiving my diagnosis, I believe I would have realized sooner that this kilo of bacteria living in my intestines was influencing my health and quality of life tremendously. I also believe I would have tried implementing natural approaches to control my Crohn’s much sooner—for example, taking much more care with choosing my diet. 
However, I didn’t learn about the importance of maintaining a strong microflora until much later in life. Instead, I was told by doctors, “you can eat whatever you want; you will see what feels bad for you.” Unfortunately, I never succeeded in discovering what made me feel sick, because everything I ate made me feel sick (many troubling ingredients are covert). For me, it became vital to complete a blood test in order to discover exactly which foods were making me sick, and then avoiding them at all costs. 

TWO: “Emotions play with Crohn’s”

I always heard stress is not good…however, I did not realize until recently how many other emotions also cause a loss of control over Crohn’s. I suppose everyone feels the effects of emotions, but I feel them so strongly in my belly…and when my Crohn’s is flaring, the experience is not pleasant…
Once I learned to recognize these different emotions and their effects, however, controlling my emotional reactions to life became a habit, and as a result, my Crohn’s is much more stable today.
For me, the professional help I received upon going “natural” with my treatment plan was crucial to figuring this out.

THREE: “Look for balance in life”

Upon receiving my diagnosis of Crohn’s, I was told, “you must put yourself ahead of everything”, as I’m sure many other patients have been told as well. However, for me, this command never made sense. I mean…what exactly was I putting myself ahead of? My other self? The self who wants to party with friends tonight? The self who wants to work hard and commit herself to a great career within her company? The self who wants to go on a date with the cute guy?
Putting my “sick” self ahead of my “true” self didn’t make sense to me. I quickly realized many of the facets of my personhood failed to match up with the reality of my disease, but I never wanted to let a disease set the pace of my life. Therefore, I chose to never put one version of myself (in this case, my “sick” self) ahead of another.
Over the years I have realized that the real good advice patients should really be receiving from their doctors actually is, “find the balance between your sick self and your healthy self.” What I mean is, maybe you cannot travel for a whole month, but perhaps you can enjoy a week away… Likewise, maybe you cannot party a whole night, but can dance until midnight. Or, maybe spending millions of hours in the office will not be your path to career success, but working creatively within your limits will…
Achieving the kind of balance which allows for living the life you desire, while at the same time, controlling your health conditions, is not easy. However, it is possible. Just remember, only one person is responsible for completing this process, and this one person is you.

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