Victory!

Since trying to eat a more vegan based diet, I must admit I haven’t had the greatest success making bake goods anyone would want to eat. That was until last night though! And to think just the day before I stated I was giving up trying to make vegan baked goods. I decided to give it one more shot and I’m glad I did. I bring to you my first successful vegan treat…. pumpkin bread!

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I got the recipe from a website called Hell Yeah It’s Vegan! Another lesson learned last night… never give up, you just don’t know what’s waiting around the next corner. It might be as good as my vegan pumpkin bread 😉

 

 

 

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Falling Off the Wagon

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I had been feeling so good the past month or so that I didn’t know what to write about in my blog. I even started questioning if I had ever felt sick to begin with. Maybe I had made it all up in my head. Or maybe the doctors got it wrong and it was all just a fluke. Then the stomach pain and blood in my stool returned and I was reminded – no, this isn’t something that is going to go away forever

I had to go back on Canasa last week. I picked up the prescription from CVS and just stared at the package. I felt so sick and bloated already that the thought of having to use this medicine again made me want to cry. I knew it could be so much worse, but in that moment I felt bad for myself. The first night Ryan tried to make light of the situation and joked around when I had to use my “butt medicine”. I didn’t find it funny. Still in self-pity mode I felt disgusting and not in the mood to joke. I’m over that feeling now though. Yes. I’m using the “butt medicine” again and I guess it’s just going to have to be funny.

Again, I think I am to blame for this new flair up. Feeling so good I started to let my diet slip. I was falling off the veganish wagon more and more often. My will power to resist the occasional hamburger was dwindling each passing week. I’ve been trying to cook more at home lately to help me stay on track with the diet. Thank goodness for Pinterest and all the recipes I have found there. Here’s my Vegan Cooking board on Pinterest. This week I made the Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew and the Crockpot Minestrone Soup. I really enjoyed the soup but Ryan really liked the stew, so you should make both and see which one you like best 🙂

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Remember when I said I could do anything for 21 days? Well that was a lie. I lasted a week with the online meditation challenge. I’ve realized I need more structure in the beginning if I am really going to get into meditation. So, I’ve signed up with a friend to take a six-week meditation class through Brookline Adult & Community Education. I’ve been once and truthfully I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. I have another class this Wednesday so hopefully I’ll be able to better judge what I will be getting out of this class then.

So here it goes. Another shot at this new lifestyle I’m trying to adapt into my life to stay healthy. I am sure there will be more slips in the future, but I’ll get there eventually.

21 Day Meditating Challenge

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Japanese Tea Garden in San Fran

Earlier this summer I took a vacation to California with my friend Kat. We had such an amazing, stress free, fun time driving from San Diego to San Francisco! Halfway through the trip I noticed my Crohns wasn’t giving me any problems. It was wonderful! After I got home and added the normal daily stress back into my life, my stomach started acting up again. In the past I had assumed stress was a trigger for me, but this made me 100% positive.

During my last month of graduate school I remember sitting on the couch, working on my final project and feeling my stress level walk up steps in my body. I knew right away that I had let stress win over my body and that it wasn’t going to be a pretty sight. Sure enough that night the blood in my stool had returned with a vengeance, as did my frequent bathroom runs. I knew I did it all to myself because I wasn’t able to control my stress level. I was talking to someone about these experiences and they suggested I try meditation to help me manage my stress levels.

Granted right now I have basically zero stress in my life but that doesn’t mean it won’t be helpful to start practicing. I’ve been reading a book called Mindfulness in Plain English and it stresses over and over again that meditating takes forever to master. A sign from the meditating gods invaded Facebook yesterday and lead me to my friend Alicia’s post that said she had signed up for a 21 Day Meditating Challenge from the Chopra Center. (Everyone should totally check out Alicia’s blog, Butterfly Wellness Coach, for amazing tips on eating healthy, living healthy and general health knowledge that we should all know and incorporate into our lives. It’s a great read, I promise!) It seemed perfect for me, so I signed up too! It’s all guided recordings that I can listen to anytime during the day in my own apartment. How perfect for a newbie like me!

Today was the first of the 21 days and went something like this for me… Ok I think I’m shutting off my mind. Yup I’m doing it. Focusing on my breathing. Hmm what am I going to have for dinner. Crap, no focus on your breathing. Focusing, focusing, focusing. I wonder if the guy in this recording is going to talk again. Oh my goodness I hope he talks again. Maybe I’ll just sneak a peak to see how much longer this is going on for. No, no, no I can’t do that. Resist the urge. Please resist the urge. Focus on your breathing. Focusing, focusing, focusing. Oh he’s talking! I think that means it’s over!

So, errr, my first attempt didn’t go exactly as I had imagined. But at least I didn’t open my eyes! It’s only 15 minutes a day. I mean really, I can do anything for 15 minutes a day, right? I’m actually pretty excited to see how this whole challenge goes. I’ll be sure to keep you in the loop!

Here’s a few pictures from my Cali trip 🙂

Hiking to the Ocean View in Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Golden Gate Bridge

1,000 Steps Beach

Veganish

Since being diagnosed with Crohns I’ve started to change many aspects of my lifestyle. The most drastic change I’ve made has been adopting a plant-based diet. I know many people think this is a crazy diet to follow or that it can’t be helping me fight my symptoms. I agree it can be challenging in some situations to follow, but it’s not crazy. I totally disagree that it isn’t actually helping me fight Crohns. I have come across many people in all my research that are following the same type of diet in an effort to relieve their symptoms.

This is going to make me sound selfish and heartless, you might even gasp in horror, but here’s the truth… I’m not eating a plant-based diet to save the environment or because I feel bad for the little piggy’s and cows out there. I’m also not doing it to try to lose weight or be “hipster”. Point blank, I’m doing it because it seems to help my body not go to the bathroom so much! I’m having less stomach pains and I feel healthy. Now that being said, yes, it is nice that this lifestyle is helping the environment and saving those little chickens too. It’s a nice added bonus. We all win!

When Ryan and I first decided to go “vegan” we tried to be just like those die hard vegans. (Ry has adopted this new diet to support me, yeaaaa.. he’s pretty sweet huh) I give those people all the credit in the world. Living by a strict vegan diet is no easy task. They have the will power of a super hero. I on the other hand, do not. I think I would go insane if I didn’t give myself “cheat” moments. So, instead of driving ourselves crazy, we go by the 20% -80% rule. At least 80% of the time we eat a strict vegan diet. The other 20% of the time we allow ourselves to eat whatever it is we are craving, in moderation. Some weeks are better than others, but that’s ok as long as we stay within the 20% – 80% ratio.

I read a tweet today from Jorden and Steve, digestive disease specialists, that stated, “The diet that brings you true health won’t have a name… it’s custom to your body.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement. I’m not a vegan in the truest sense of the word, but I have modified this diet to make it work for me. Another example, fish doesn’t seem to cause me problems at all, so occasionally I incorporate it into my diet.

I also listened to a lady called Anupy Singla on an NPR podcast last week and absolutely loved her view on healthy eating. She calls herself veganish because she doesn’t like food labels or boxing oneself into one type of eating. Instead she loves spreading the word about different types of healthy foods and recipes people can make to feel better. She has a new book out and I can’t wait to read it.

There are still some foods I have to stay away from completely. Dairy is my archenemy and it breaks my heart that I can no longer gobble down pints of ice cream. If you know me at all, you know how devastating this is for me. I worked at the UNH Dairy Bar when I was in college, had ice cream every single day I was there, and NEVER got sick of it. I LOVE ice cream, but I love not running to the bathroom with painful bowl movements even more. So, farewell sweet sweet ice cream. It was nice while it lasted.

Ok, I’m being a little melodramatic. There are ice cream substitutes out there that are pretty good. There’s even a new dairy free ice cream shop that opened in Allston called FoMu! And truthfully, I don’t feel like I’m deprived of any food in my life. If anything, I’ve been introduced to a whole new array of wonderful foods that I normally wouldn’t have touched. I’ve even started liking tofu.

Looks like real scrambled eggs, doesn’t it?! It’s really scrambled tofu! Don’t start gagging! It’s actually super good and I swear you would barely be able to tell the difference. It’s also easy to make!

This past weekend was my birthday and I had a BBQ with my friends and family. The only meat product we had there were hamburgers for a few people. Besides that everything was vegan! And not a single person complained! We had fruit salad, chips and salsa and guacamole, Smart Dogs, veggie kebabs and these brownies I made from this wonderful blog called Chocolate Covered Katie.

It may take a little more effort, but eating a plant-based diet really is doable!

Action shot flipping the veggie burgers 😉

Perfect bday BBQ 🙂

Biking Love

I’ve been feeling pretty good lately. Probably the best I’ve felt in a long time. I’ve been keeping up on running, but not pushing myself past 4 miles yet. And really, it’s been great! My body seems to be happy with me and this new plan.

On Saturday I woke up at a decent hour (before 10am has become a decent hour for me on the weekends, all Ryan’s fault for turning me into a late weekend sleeper, actually I should probably be thanking him!) Anyways, I got up, ran 3.25 miles, which I was very proud of and then Ry and I spent the day biking.

If you haven’t met my bike than I must introduce you now. My goodness, she’s the prettiest bike you’ll ever lay eyes on. I’m a very proud owner 🙂 I soak up all the compliments I get from her while riding around the city.

LOVE my new bike 🙂

The weather was so nice we were able to do lots of riding! Riding my bike as become a great alternative for exercise when I’m not feeling well enough to run or I don’t want to over do the running. I love riding along the bike paths in the city. As much as I love Cambridge I will here admit that Boston does a far better job up keeping their bike paths. While we were on the bike path I declared I wanted to make sangria that night, so we rode to Haymarket to buy lots of cheap fruit. As much as we ride, I’m still not 100% comfortable riding into the busiest areas of Boston. I end up with calluses on my hands from gripping my handlebars so tight. This trip was well worth the calluses though!

Overall it was a wonderful Crohns free weekend 🙂

I spy Ry!

Bike path by the Charles 🙂

Haymarket

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

I’ve been determined lately to find ways to get back into long distance running. I know it’s not something that will happen over night but I do want to at least try. In the process I vow to listen to my body and not push myself into sickness. I will be patient with myself because I do believe that running is still good for me.

In an article I read on LiveStrong they described the benefits of running for people with Crohns…

“A 2006 study in the “Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology” by N. Narula and colleague showed that exercise may decrease Crohn’s activity and reduce psychological stress.

Crohn’s patients are at increased risk for osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise like running can help build bone density and prevent osteoporosis.”

I’ve bulleted some tips I’m trying to stick to as I build myself back up to a long distance runner. This is just what I have learned from a little research and trial and error on my part. In no way am I saying it is what every runner who has Crohns should do. If anything, the thing I’ve learned the most about Crohns is how different each body is effected by the disease and how what works to tame it for one person can set someone else off into a furry of inflammation. So here is my list, for me, and you if you choose to give it a shot.

  • Have a solid basis of 3 to 4 mile runs then very slowly work mileage back up. I’m planning to do this for at least a month.
  • Don’t push your body past the point of no return. Listen to your body! If you feel things going south slow down or stop altogether. There’s no point in making yourself sick just to say you finished your goal time or mileage on that certain day. Some days are going to be better than others.
  • If you are going to try to go on a long run, make sure you know of places you can stop to go to the bathroom. The last thing you need is to be miles out, start to feel like you have to poo, and not have anywhere to go. The stress of that will make you have to go even worse!
  • Crohns already causes the body to sometimes suffer from dehydration. Going for runs speeds up dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of water before and while running.

I’ve been trying really hard to stay hydrated lately and I think it’s been working. I ran 3.25 miles with a friend a few days ago and felt amazing the entire time and even after! Yesterday I ran hills with my little bro and actually survived! I will admit that at the steepest parts of the hill I did feel like I was going to poop my pants (don’t worry I didn’t). Brandon wisely pointed out though that the hill was so steep that at some points we were in a squatting position, pushing as hard as we could to make it to the top. Also remarkably similar to the position you take on the toilet to go poo. This made me feel better 🙂

So yes, I think the key right now is hydrate, hydrate and hydrate! Today I took the day off to relax (also a key point I think) but tomorrow I will wake up with my crazy brother at 5:30am to do P90X yoga and hills again later. I must say it’s nice to have my little bro back from Colorado. It gives me someone who gets my butt up in the early morning to work out. And I just love his company 🙂 

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Best times with my brother 🙂

Am I Still a Runner?

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It seems in my body Crohns has declared a hatred for long distance running. I’m not on board with this discrimination against distance running one bit. In fact, I’m quite upset with Crohns for making this choice without my consent.

I’m a long distance runner. That is one of the ways I define myself. I’m one of those crazy people who enjoy lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement for 13 miles. I might complain before I head out for a run but once I’m in my zone there is nowhere I’d rather be. It’s my thing, it’s what I do, and I’m proud of all the training I have done over the years that enabled me to run two marathons and many half marathons.

In walks Crohns and it seems my long distance running days are over. I’m not exactly sure why but it seems my body can no longer keep up with my desire to run over four miles. My doctors advised that I keep the running to a minimum for a while to give my body a rest.

Anything fewer than four miles I seem to still rock. By keeping my distances low, I was even able to get my average pace time down! A few weekends ago I was signed up to run the Harpoon Brewery 5 Mile Race. (Awesome race by the way if you live in the Boston area. I highly recommend it!) I did a pre race 5 miles to make sure I could even still run that far. I killed it with a personal best! About an hour or so after running though my body seemed to shut down. My stomach was cramping and I couldn’t stop going to the bathroom… although sometimes I felt like I had to go but wasn’t able to, which was far worse in my opinion. I thought it was just a fluke and ran the race hard two days later. I had a great race time but again, a few hours after running, I was hitting the bathroom and on the couch with stomach pains and bathroom runs for the rest of the night.

I’m on the hunt for more information regarding Crohns disease and running and if there is any link between the two. I’ve realized I also need to come to terms with although I might not be able to run another marathon; I am still a runner. I can still lace up my shoes and hit the pavement every week. I can focus instead on running faster shorter distances to feel accomplished. I might not be the same type of runner I was in the past, but I’m still a runner.

And there are a ton of 5k races out in the Boston area that are a lot of fun. Some are even free, like the Startups Stay Fit! Free monthly 5k run/walks in the Innovation District.  {Cambridge} 5k has a couple of great races coming up too. A SASQUATCH Trail Race on July 15th (I’ve never done a trail race so I’m excited about this one!) and their 5k Oktoberfest. I did their Yulefest race this past winter which was a lot of fun so I’m sure these will be just as great! See… still many options and ways to have fun and stay a runner!

PS – Why does Word always red scribble underline Crohns? It makes me second guess that I’m spelling it correctly every time!

Almost at the finish line of the Harpoon 5k 🙂

Discovering Crohns

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For years I knew something was up with my intestines. I’d have periods of time where I couldn’t stop going to the bathroom. I figured it was stress and probably some type of IBS problem. Around October 2010, blood started to appear in my stool and I was going so often that I stopped eating because I couldn’t handle going to the bathroom one more time throughout the day. I used to often joke with a friend of mine about our frequent bathroom issues, but this time the problem seemed to large to joke about. I decided I finally needed to put my pride at bay and head to the doctors, even if they asked me to go number two in a cup.

And number two in a cup I did. The doctors determined I had some type of rare bacteria and put me on a heavy dose of antibiotics for a month. What they didn’t tell me was that the symptoms would also take at least a month to clear up. Great…. I was scheduled to go on vacation with my then fairly new boyfriend’s family, all sharing a hotel room. There would be no hiding of my GI problems.

I survived the trip and eventually my symptoms cleared up. Throughout the next year I struggled with periods of uncontrollable bathroom urges. I figured it was just all the stress I was under. I was a full time graduate student at Emerson College, working full time as a marketing director at a Boys & Girls Club and training for the Boston Marathon. I mean, it seemed typical that the amount of activities I was forcing my body to endure would cause a little IBS to rare it’s evil head and besides the symptoms always seemed to eventually clear up on their own.

By January 2012 I had become accustomed to living a life never knowing when my next bathroom urge would hit. The symptoms had seemed to progress though and were really interfering with my Disney Marathon training. The amount of blood I had in my stool was unnerving and the stomach cramps were intense. I had also developed pain on my tailbone that made sitting for long periods of time impossible. I couldn’t recall falling on it and long gone were my college nights of forgetful drinking. I was puzzled and after awhile convinced I had a tumor in my tailbone (dramatic, yes I know…). So again I went back to the doctor and this time they were concerned I had runner’s colitis, ulcerative colitis or worst case Crohns disease.

I was scheduled for a colonoscopy, which my boyfriend took me too. The procedure revealed I had ulcers in both my small and large intestines. Ry was lucky enough to see the picture of these ulcers and quickly told me after the procedure that he had seen the inside of my colon…awesome…

I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis but after some more blood work and doctors appointments the diagnosis turned to Crohns. I was put on Canasa which Ry wonderfully named “your butt medicine.” I almost died when I picked up the prescription at CVS and read “insert 1 suppository into rectum every night.” I was so embarrassed about having to have a suppository medication, but as always Ry reminded me if you can’t laugh about whatever situation life has thrown at you than what’s the point. I had a few more unpleasant scares with weird rashes and an outburst of canker sores/ulcers in my mouth (which I handled equally as dramatic as my self diagnosis tailbone cancer), but eventually I believe I have beaten this first flare-up!

I decided I wasn’t going to be embarrassed about my disease and the uncomfortable symptoms it causes.  During my first diagnosed flare-up I chose to stop covering up when I had to go to the bathroom all the time and instead simply call it out as it was…. Yes I have to use the bathroom again! Yes my stomach is cramping so bad and I just want to lay down forever! Yes my stomach is making extremely loud noises because I have intense gas cramps… and right now there is nothing I can do about it but be honest.  I realized the more open I was about my condition the easier it made it for me to live with each day. I also realized people seemed relieved to find someone who was so open to talk about their daily bathroom battles and would confide in me about their own bathroom worries.

I also realize I’m lucky compared to most who have Crohns because I do believe I have a mild case of it. As mild as it is, it is still altering my life, in both good and bad ways. I’ve decided I wanted to share my new journey as a person living with Crohns but also a new found vegan, runner, marketing enthusiast and writer. I have wanted to start a blog for a long time but could never seem to stick with it. I felt I didn’t have a topic that I could consistently write about. So, thank you Crohns, for finally giving me the push to start blogging.

I found this comic at a site called The Crohns Awareness Project. They had a few other ones that were pretty funny 🙂