There are various forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease’s but the key two you may hear are Crohn’s Disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC) which are chronic Autoimmune Diseases. They have a lot in common in terms of symptoms (which I’ll discuss in this post) as well as the fact that they affect the digestive system whereby 1.6 million people in the US are affected, over 500,000 people in the UK and a whopping 10 million people worldwide. That is a huge statistic for a disease that isn’t widely understood or known about.
What’s the difference? Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract from the mouth to the anus, however it is more common for it to affect the bowels (small intestine) which causes chronic inflammation and can affect the the entire thickness of the bowel wall. Compared to Ulcerative Colitis which only affects the colon (known as the large intestine) and rectum, which causes ulcers. People with Crohn’s Disease often have healthy areas in between inflamed spots. However, with Ulcerative Colitis, there are no healthy areas in between affected spots.
Part of the mission of All My Friends Are Eggs is to spread the awareness across the world by making the “invisible disease” visible.
Crohn’s and Colitis Share Similar Symptoms But What Are They?
- Stomach Pain and Cramps
- An urgent need to have a poo
- Feeling like your bowel movement wasn’t complete
- Rectal Bleeding
- Mucus in poo
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight loss
- Night Sweats
- Problems with your period – doesn’t apply to men (well I hope not)
The symptoms above are specific to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract BUT there are potential symptoms which are outside the gut:
- Red, Painful or Itchy Eyes
- Mouth Sores
- Joint Pain and Swelling
- Skin – Rashes, Redness, Tenderness, Acne
- Bones – Osteoporosis
- Kidney Stones
- Liver – Hepatitis and Cirrhosis which are rare
What symptoms and how many of these symptoms you suffer from will differ from person to person. For me personally, I used to suffer from stomach pain, diarrhoea, weight loss, skin rashes, loss of appetite and fatigued ALL THE TIME. Those days are long behind me.
Tell Me More, I’m Intrigued
While the exact cause of Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis is not entirely understood, it is known to involve an interaction between genes, the immune system, and environmental factors. The immune system usually attacks and kills foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. However, in people with IBD, the immune system attacks the “good bacteria” as well as the bad, in the GI tract, resulting in inflammation.. chronic inflammation.
In my own opinion, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are primarily caused by dietary and lifestyle choices, as well as environmental factors. You may have heard that IBD is hereditary but again in my own opinion, I disagree because family members, especially in the same household have the same or a similar diet and similar a lifestyle.
What Are The Potential Triggers?
There are three main categories and these are what we focus on during your coaching sessions:
Certain foods affect people in different ways and there is no one size fits all. Someone can flare up from cow’s milk but will be completely fine with gluten. Someone else can be completely fine with gluten. This example is based on me but reigns true with the people I’ve worked with. There are foods and drinks I’d whole-heartedly say avoid or minimise:
- Caffeine (so no more Coke! Cola that is)
- Red Meat
- Processed and Refined Food
- Fast Food
- Fried Food
- Raw Vegetables
- Fruit (except bananas and pineapple)
- Food with Skin (e.g Chicken with skin, Apples)
- Fizzy Drinks
- Fruit juices or Diluted Drinks (doesn’t apply to freshly squeezed juice)
- Cow’s Milk
- Sugar-rich foods (cakes, biscuits, buns etc)
Reading this list, you’re probably wondering, well what the f*ck can I eat. You can eat and drink all the greatness of plants, veg, fruit, herbs that provides fuel, healing, nourishment and mouth watering taste. We discuss all of this in depth as part of our health coaching sessions with meal planning, how they affect the body and mind, recipe ideas, diet diary, how to mentally reduce or stop foods that may be easier said than done.
Let me sum this up, if you eat shit, you will feel like shit.
Absolutely easier said than done but it can be done. Me and countless other people in our shoes have massively improved their lifestyle habits as they are integral to your healing and recovery.
Stress! No matter how stressed you are, you will trigger an immune response, it’s unavoidable however we can minimise your stress levels in a huge way as stress management is the cornerstone to your healing journey and an integral part of our health coaching sessions. Even if you tell yourself “oh, I’m not stressed. Everything is fine”. In your mind this is a positive thing but your gut is like “steady on cowboy, you can’t bullshit me” and your gut will manifest the stress whch will lead to a trigger or flare up.
Exercise: This comes in different shapes and forms. I’d recommend active workouts 3-5 times a week as it’s been proven that exercise increases serotonin (the feel good hormone) and is essential for your gut. Happy mind = Happy Gut but the truth is Happy Gut = Happy Mind as your gut is known as a second brain and has the same neurons and receptors that our brains too – crazy! If you are severely fatigued or very low energy then we will ease you into this, plus we tailor exercises to suit you. For example, if you prefer cycling or running or weightlifting, it’s all good because any form of active exercise if you going to help with your healing journey in a massive way. For me personally, I train intensely 5 days a week because I love it and it’s a bit part of my lifestyle but it keeps my stress levels very low, I feel great, I look great and most importantly my Crohn’s Disease is under control – can’t ask for anything more really.
Sleep: Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night? Mutliple factors can affect your sleep if you are sleep deprived which is specific to you because you may be stressed due to your illness or for other reasons, whereas someone else maybe in pain and then they are stuck in a cycle of poor sleep and pain which is why All My Friends Are Eggs is here, to break you out of this cycle. Sleep is vital for gut to rest.
Personal Beliefs: I’m going to keep this one short and we can discuss this during our coaching sessions but are you religious and/or spirtual as these have a profound positive effect on your healing journey.
If you smoke cigarettes or vape then this will need to stop. It serves no benefit to your health and reaks havoc on the gut. Smoking is known to cause flare ups, stomach pain, chronic inflammation. If you are a smoker and have an Autoimmune disease. Even though it’s your lungs that are working hard, its your gut that feels the brunt of the consequences. If you smoke the green stuff (without nictine) then that’s a different topic and does not apply to the latter.
Antibiotics may increase your risk of IBD and Autoimmune diseases. Think about this, antibiotics are designed to completely blitz your gut microbiome which means it can not distinguish between the gut and bad bacteria antibiotics kills ALL bacteria. For example, if you ate biscuits after your first dose of antibiotics, you’ve immediately introduced bad bacteria into your gut. Whereas, if you ate a bowl of fruit, you’re introducing the minerals and vitamins that are in those fruit, thus introducing good bacteria and having a happier gut.
Certain Over The Counter medication like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are gut killers. Infact, ibuprofen has a warning on the box to say do no consume if you have bowel issues. Trust me, I learned this hard way and it caused me bleeding from where the sun doesn’t shine.