Before being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease I suffered with bowel and digestive issues for many years. I got fobbed off by the Dr’s with IBS as my symptoms didn’t really get severe until the second half of 2018. It’s the all too true story where you have to literally be on the verge of surgery before anybody listens. In the years leading up to my diagnosis I tried every diet in the book to try and fix my gut health. I often get messages on social media asking whether I have tried this diet or tried this supplement and in all honestly I have tried 90% of them.
Plant based diets and the vegan lifestyle are huge at the moment. I completely understand the difference between being vegan and having a plant based diet. I tried the plant based diet twice in the last 2 years, the first was right after my second laparoscopy to remove my ovary in 2016. I absolutely loved it and stuck to it for nearly a year, my digestion was great, I had loads of energy and my skin was glowing. I stuck to the 80/20 rule with 80% of what I ate being whole plant based foods and 20% being more processed and treat type foods. I eventually ended up coming off the diet as my energy dipped and I started having looser bowel movements. This did resolve temporarily when I came off it but the symptoms of course returned later on. I tried going plant based again for 10 weeks in 2018 but it actually made me worse this time, in fairness I was really unwell anyway by this point and I think my body just could not handle that much fruit and vegetables. It’s a diet I would love to try again once I get myself into remission and I actually feel quite passionately about the vegan lifestyle as well. Unfortunately as my stomach can’t even handle carrots right now never mind any other veg I have to put my health first over my morals and love of plant based foods.
On almost the opposite end of the spectrum is Paleo. I tried Paleo for about 3 months in 2017 going with a more flexible version where I did allow white potatoes. Paleo is essentially cutting out all legumes, wheat, dairy, grains and processed foods with a focus on grass fed organic meat, vegetables, eggs and non dairy fats. Similar to plant based but on a shorter timeline all started well and within a month I felt like a new woman. I was full of energy and working out regularly at the time, I was hitting personal bests on weights and felt really strong. Body wise I felt really toned and had a lot of self confidence, more than I have had before. After about 8 weeks the carb monster in me was agitated and I felt quite drained, I go through periods of really bad fatigue and I had this for a few weeks. Having to make all food from scratch when you have fatigue is so tough and I think that is what made me give it up in the end. I also found the meat side of it being grass fed really expensive!
Ah the old gluten free.. it is the go to recommendation whenever I speak to someone about Crohn’s. Gluten free is removing everything that contains gluten from your diet including breads, pasta, cakes and even things you wouldn’t expect like sauces and ice cream. I actually first went gluten free in 2015 before I was even diagnosed with endometriosis. I was suffering with unpleasant bowel issues, I was going to the toilet a lot and was getting a lot of stomach pain. I stuck to it religiously for 6 months and even watched for cross contamination buying new kitchen products to ensure there were no microscopic pieces of gluten in my old ones. My stomach troubles only worsened to the point I wasn’t really eating at all so I added gluten back into my diet. Since then I have tried it again with other diets and had tests for celiac, I don’t have any issues when I eat gluten and can eat white bread without any problems.
This one I only lasted a week. The low FODMAP diet is recommended for IBS and essentially removes products that are hard to digest such as wheat, dairy and certain fruits and vegetables. The food you remove is essentially food that causes a lot of gas and irritation in your digestive tract so by removing them your reducing the irritation. I hated this diet as I love pretty much all of the food it restricts. I only tried it for a week so I’m not sure if that’s long enough to determine if it did help but in that time I didn’t feel any different symptom wise.
As a baby I was lactose intolerant and would throw up any cows milk given to me. Because of this I was given soya milk until I started eating solid foods. I didn’t have dairy products until I was about 7 or 8 and even then it was only ice cream and cheddar cheese. I first took the step to cut out dairy when I went plant based and even when I stopped being plant based still carried it on. It didn’t do anything to improve my symptoms but I do have a huge love for almond milk now. Since I have been diagnosed I was heavily recommended by my dietician to include dairy in my diet to gain weight and it doesn’t affect me when I do eat it.
Overall my favourite diet I have tried is definitely plant based, I was so disappointed when I tried it again in 2018 and it felt like it made my symptoms worse. Perhaps by this point I was too deep into my Crohn’s flare for any diet change to help. I loved how the plant based diet made me feel less full after eating and gave me lots of energy. I also really liked the moral side of not eating animal based products and the environmental benefits of going plant based. The choice and variety both in the supermarkets and eating out is amazing now and I really miss trying out new plant based dishes. It’s the one I’d recommend people try to improve your health and generally feel better living the busy lives we all do. I’m not a medical expert and have no formal training so do speak to someone before restricting food from your diet. I can’t offer any diet advice just my own experiences and I definitely felt the best on plant based before I was in a full on Crohn’s flare up.
I’m currently on a low fibre and low residue diet whilst I wait for my colonoscopy and go onto long term medication to get me into remission. This diet is mainly meat, dairy and refined carbs. You can find out more about this diet here and my update on it after 6 weeks here.
Thanks for reading!