May is Crohns and colitis awareness month
The month of May is Crohn’s and Colitis awareness month. So what better time to share part of my personal story, to help us explore the impact that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can have on physical and emotional wellbeing.
10 days after my 20th birthday I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I’d never heard of this disease before and to be honest, I thought that Crohn’s was an “old person’s” disease. But I was wrong – Crohn’s Disease & ulcerative colitis are lifelong, and affect many lives, starting from young children, right through to adulthood. Australia has one of the highest incidence in the world with more than 80,000 Australians living with these conditions, and numbers expected to increase to more than 100,000 by 2022.
For those that don’t know
IBD is an autoimmune disorder – this occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their own body tissues. In many ways IBD has more in common with other autoimmune disorders – such as rheumatoid arthritis (which affects the joints), psoriasis (which affects the skin) and lupus (which affects the connective tissue) – than irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Unlike IBD, IBS does not cause inflammation, ulcers or other damage to the bowel. The digestive system looks normal but doesn’t work as it should. Irritations include stress, infection and some foods can aggravate the condition.
A small percentage of people with IBD may also experience problems outside the gastrointestinal tract including joint pain, skin conditions, eye inflammation, liver disorders, and thinning of the bones (osteoporosis).
Crohn’s disease may not have a cure, and there is no replacement for regular consultations with your Doctor, dietician, or other medical professionals (physiotherapy). But with the right advice and management, you can ensure a happy & healthy life is possible!
Being diagnosed with a lifelong disease has not stopped me or slowed me down. This has been largely in thanks to the support of my Dad. He has showed me that a good life is possible despite suffering from ankylosing spondylitis (a bad form of Rheumatoid Arthritis) by combining a few different therapies over the years. To this day we are both living our lives to the fullest!
Massage has saved me many times through the tough days of fatigue, muscle pain, body aches, depression and stress. Though it may seem to be a somewhat unconventional remedy, massage actually has many benefits. Massage therapy can help relieve stress. And by lowering stress levels, you can help reduce inflammation and other symptoms.
General strengthening of muscles surrounding peripheral joints provides additional joint stability, reducing stress placed on the joint itself.
Postural and stretching exercises are beneficial for improving symptoms of axial arthritis.
This is where a physiotherapist can complete a thorough assessment and provide individual exercises tailored to suit your symptoms and requirements.
Whilst making dietary changes will not cure Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, it can significantly help with symptom management and ensure overall good nutrition is achieved and maintained.
Each and every person with IBD, has an individual experience with nutrition. Foods that cause problems for one person, may not impact another at all.
For example, some people find that a bland, low-fibre diet is easier to tolerate than one that contains high-fibre or spicy foods when experiencing a flare-up. Others have found that adopting a low FODMAP diet helps manage their symptoms.
As well as managing symptoms, attaining adequate nutrition can also be challenging for individuals with IBD due to symptoms, disease complications and medications. Adjusting the diet with guidance to avoid nutritional deficiencies is often necessary.
One of the best ways to understand how diet affects your condition is to start recording a food and symptom diary and to see an Accredited Practising Dietitian for tailored management and a diet plan. Consultation with an experienced dietitian is strongly recommended and the therapists at RPSM are ready to help guide you through this journey.
I hope this has helped you find a few answers, especially if you have been newly diagnosed or never had someone in the family go through the emotions and hidden pain you deal with on a daily basis. As lucky as I have been over the last 17years managing Crohns disease, there are definitely some days that are better than others. So be smart in your management and seek the right advice. Try understand your body and listen to what it needs or doesn’t want. But also know with a positive attitude & good support, the good days will outweigh the bad.
Now get out there and enjoy every possible adventure!
by Hayley Rawson – Massage Therapist at Redfern Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine