diary of a crohn's disease flare-up
crohn's disease, Yoga

My Crohn’s Disease Flare-Up Diary and the Lessons Learned

This last Crohn’s Disease flare-up was a monster. A painful and frightening monster that crept into my life and tried to swallow me whole. Could I have stopped it? The simple answer is no. Could I have taken steps in hindsight to have made the monster less scary? Absolutely. Let’s take a journey together through a severe Crohn’s Disease flare-up.

My Crohn’s Disease Diary 

January through May 2018: The Perfect Storm

I am getting my Remicade infusions every 8 weeks. Feeling great mentally, so I’ve decided to taper off my anxiety medicine called Buspirone. Also feeling great physically, so I am going to slowly start to incorporate gluten and sugar back into my diet. I am starting a rigorous yoga teacher training schedule while still waking up at 3 a.m. every weekday for work at the news station. I just got strep throat and have to go on an antibiotic. I am overwhelmed, cheating on my strict diet, and lying to myself about the onset of some gut symptoms. I believe I can treat this myself and it will all go away. 

May 2018: The Pre-Flare-Up

diary of a crohn's disease flare-up
I look so happy, right? This is when I am starting to feel symptoms, but I am ignoring them.

Yoga teacher training is over and I start teaching right away without any break. I am still waking up at 3 a.m. every weekday for work, but I am not myself. I am angry, judgmental, and ungrateful. I am eating lots of sugar and gluten. I am having mild to moderate gut pain now. I can’t treat this myself anymore. My doctor puts me on 9mg of Uceris, a steroid commonly used for Ulcerative Colitis patients. It’s working, but only for a few weeks. I find out the Remicade is metabolizing in my body too quickly, so there’s no medicine left in my body after a few weeks post-infusion.

June 2018: The Monster Reveals Itself

diary of a crohn's disease flare-up
I am on bed rest, but still smiling!

I feel out of touch with myself. I’ve overworked myself for months now. I am not eating properly, and the Uceris has stopped working. I go to work every morning in severe pain. I am talking on-air during the morning show and I want to crouch down and cry. People are starting to notice. I am bleeding from the gut and I cry to myself at home. I let it get out of hand. Where have I been these past few months? Why did I let it get this bad? I am on bed rest and can’t keep any food down. I have to take 2 weeks off work. My doctor puts me on 40mg of Prednisone and increases my Remicade dosage.

July 2018: A Fresh Start

I am sure you are seeing some major red flags in my diary so far. Maybe there were times you wanted to scream, “Hilary, for goodness sake, help yourself!” I don’t blame you. Here’s the good news: It’s July and I am feeling almost back to normal. I am tapering off the prednisone which did its job. I have also received the higher dose of Remicade which also seems to be working. I’ve gone back on a strict no grain and no sugar diet and have added a pharmacy of supplements with my meals every day. I am slowing down with work and yoga teaching, taking lots of breaks and self-love days, and filling my days with gratitude. The monster is almost completely gone and I feel better than new. diary of a crohn's disease flare-up

Lessons Learned

  1. You have a chronic condition that requires special attention and specific lifestyle requirements. Medicine is life-saving, but it only extends so far. You are responsible for taking care of yourself every day.
  2. When you start to feel symptoms, call your doctor. Do not try to heal yourself. There is no turmeric pill, no special diet, and no yoga practice that will get you out of a Crohn’s Disease flare-up once it begins. The symptoms will only get worse over time unless there is immediate medical attention.
  3. This isn’t your fault and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You could be doing everything right from diet to mental health, but your disease could flare-up. Your medicine could stop working. Crohn’s Disease is manageable, but tricky, and you are only human.
  4. You will get through this flare-up, one way or another. There will be times when you feel like you won’t ever come out of it. I am here to tell you that you will. Just hold on and keep fighting.
  5. Push your doctor. Be your own advocate at all times. If you feel symptoms, but your blood work is normal, keep pushing them to help you. If you need more explanations about medicines or treatment plans, don’t stop asking until you get your answers.
  6. You are whole. You are enough. This disease doesn’t define you.
  7. Allow yourself to heal and don’t feel guilty about this. Give yourself plenty of grace.
  8. Eat fresh foods and take your supplements. There is more research out than ever before about the power of diet and Crohn’s Disease.
  9. Let the people in your life know what is going on. They want to help you and you should accept their help. No one fights alone.
  10. You don’t have to pretend like you’re feeling good when you’re in pain. You are not an actor.
  11. Relationships can become strained when we are sick. This is natural and sometimes unavoidable. Find comfort knowing that those who truly love and respect you will stick around. Everyone else isn’t worthy of being in your beautiful life.
  12. Every single human is going through his or her own battle. Never look at others as if they are more blessed than you are. Yes, you have a chronic disease, but it is not the end of the world. In fact, you are living your best life despite this disease.the diary of a crohn's disease flare-up

What lessons have you learned during a Crohn’s Disease flare-up?

xoxo

Hilary Zalla

You may also be interested in: “5 Positive Affirmations to Get You Through a Crohn’s Disease Flare-Up” and “8 Yoga Poses For Bloating, Cramping, and Gas.”

Yoga Poses for Digestive Discomfort
Uncategorized, Yoga

8 Yoga Poses for Bloating, Cramping, and Gas

Yoga is a natural and easy way to relieve common PMS symptoms and digestive discomfort. I have been adding these eight poses into my daily flow to give love to my lower abdomen, lower back, and side body. I am used to dealing with PMS-related bloating and cramping. It is never comfortable, but at least it is predictable. What’s not so predictable is bloating, cramping, and gas from Crohn’s Disease. I was diagnosed 13 years ago and the sensations in my gut still come as a surprise to me. Usually the symptoms come after eating a big meal or dairy, but sometimes I feel digestive discomfort without any warning.

These eight poses have several benefits, but I am going to concentrate on how each eases bloating, cramping, and gas. I have labeled each of them with both the Sanskrit and English term.

The instruction for each pose is a rough explanation. I recommend taking a few yoga classes at a local studio to familiarize yourself with basic alignment and modifications. Also, most of the pictures shown illustrate a deep variation. Please know that your body may not be ready for some of these, so do not push yourself. These poses are not in any particular order and can be done within a vinyasa flow or as individual stretches. If you deal with any physical issues like lower back pain or knee pain, consult with a doctor before practicing. 

Bound Angle Pose

Yoga Poses for Digestive Discomfort

Instruction: Sit down. Bring soles of the feet together, knees open wide. Use your hands to open your feet out like a book. Elbows hug in towards lower belly. INHALE, prepare by straightening the spine. EXHALE, round forward encouraging head towards feet. Elbows can lightly massage abdominal organs.

Benefits: I love this pose! It stimulates the abdominal organs, improving the health of the ovaries, prostate gland, kidneys, and bladder. It’s my favorite pose for cramps. This pose also opens the lower back which can feel good if you get lower back cramps from PMS or Crohn’s Disease.

Supine Spinal Twist

pose 5

Instruction: Lay on back with feet planted. Hug knees into chest. INHALE, prepare. EXHALE, drop legs to one side, twisting the spine. Keep upper back and shoulders firmly planted. Hands can stretch out or come into a goal post position. Breath here for one minute on each side.

Benefits: I like to think of my digestive system as a wet towel in this pose. As I twist, it’s like I am wringing out my digestive system. This twist helps stimulate waste removal and gas. When you release the twist, fresh blood rushes back to your digestive organs which helps nourish them.

Wind-Relieving Pose

pose 9

Instruction: Lay on back with legs straight. INHALE, bend one knee toward chest and wrap hands around shin. EXHALE, prepare. INHALE, lift head towards knee. Hold for 5 breaths. EXHALE, release. Be sure to do both sides. You can also simple hug both knees into chest and just hang out while keeping head and shoulders down or rock forward and backward.

Benefits: Don’t be ashamed if you let out some gas. This pose massages the intestines and other organs in the abdomen. It really helps in digestion and the release of gas. I love this one!

Extended Triangle Pose

pose 2

Instruction: Stand with feet about 3 to 4 feet apart. Right foot comes to 90 degrees to front of mat. Left foot comes parallel to back of the mat and slightly turned in. INHALE, arms reach out wide, thumbs up, and gaze at left thumb. INHALE, reach towards right foot until you can’t reach anymore. EXHALE, bend from the hip. Right hand comes to thigh, shin, big toe, or block. Gaze up at left fingertips. Chest stays lifted. Hold for 5 breaths. REPEAT on left side.

Benefits: This is a powerful pose which stimulates the abdominal organs and improves digestion. I like it because it stretches my side body and strengthens my core which feels good when I am bloated or gassy.

Bow Pose

pose 1

Instruction: Lay flat on your belly with hands down by your sides. Bend your knees so that your feet are pointing towards the ceiling. INHALE, reach your hands back to grab ankles, big toes touching. EXHALE, prepare. INHALE, lift chest, knees, and thighs. Shoulders out of ears. Breath into your diaphragm and back of torso. Hold for 5 breaths.

Benefits: When you breathe here, you will encourage a gentle massaging of your internal organs. This can help digestion and move stuck wastes through the digestive system. I like to give my organs a nice massage here by rocking slightly forward and backward.

Upward-Facing Dog

pose 3Instruction: Lie prone on the floor, legs back, tops of feet on the floor. Bend your elbows so that palms of hands come beside floating ribs. INHALE, push hands into the floor (and slightly back as if you’re energetically pulling yourself forward), straighten arms (elbows facing forward) and simultaneously lift your torso, hips, and legs a few inches off the floor. Collar bone spreads and thighs engage. Hold for 5 breaths.

Benefits: This pose is a heart opener. The chest opens and collar bone spreads which can help with indigestion. This pose also stimulates the abdominal organs. You can feel a stretch right above your pubic bone which helps relieve cramping.

Bridge Pose

pose 6Instruction: Lay on your back with feet firmly planted. Arms come beside the body with hands reaching towards ankles. EXHALE, press feet and arms into the mat. INHALE, lift hips and slightly firm buttocks. Keep thighs and feet parallel. Clasp hands below pelvis as you stay on top of shoulders. No pressure in neck.

Benefits: This pose stimulates the abdominal organs which helps improve digestion and relieve PMS symptoms. It is really nice when you’re feeling bloated and gassy. This pose can also help relieve lower back cramping.

Seated Forward Fold

pose 7

Instruction: Come to a seated position with legs straight and feet flexed. Engage lower belly and keep spine straight with shoulders hugging down. INHALE, arms reach high. EXHALE, fold forward bringing peace fingers to big toes. I like to bend my knees here to encourage a flat back. Hold for 5 breaths.

Benefits: This pose is amazing for menstrual discomfort. The forward fold stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus. It also helps improve digestion and can relieve gas.

You may also be interested in: “How Yoga Changed My Life.”