I used to suffer from indigestion on and off. Each time I had a bout of abdominal pain, constipation, or loose motions; it was treated by using antispasmodics, laxatives, and antidiarrheal drugs. But, I needed a permanent cure to my recurring problem. I knew, in my heart, that these symptoms were not because of food poisoning or eating unhygienic foods, but due to some deep-rooted problem in my digestive system. After undergoing some tests, this problem was confirmed to be Crohn’s disease. The diagnosis brought about a few changes in my life. Let me explain how my life has changed since I was diagnosed and I started living with Crohn’s disease.
Waking up in the morning
Each morning brings with itself a unique experience for me. On some days, I get up with a colicky pain in the lower abdomen followed by severe loose motions. On some days, I find it very difficult to pass stools because of which I feel a sense of discomfort for the entire day. If the day begins with the normal passage of stools, I call it my lucky day! That’s not all. Sometimes, I pass blood with stools and even feel nauseated. Depending upon whether I have loose motions or constipation in the morning, I decide what to eat and which medicines to take for the day.
Starting the day
I have become very weak over the past few years. I can no longer work out in the gym as it tires me out within just 10 to 15 minutes. This is probably because of the loss of blood in stools. I have become anemic and look very pale due to this. As far as my bowel habits are concerned, we luckily have 2 restrooms at our home. This is really a boon for us as one of them has to be reserved for myself and the second one is used by other family members. This is very embarrassing for me; but I have no choice because there's no cure available for Crohn's disease. It’s also quite inconvenient for me as I have to spend almost half an hour every morning for either straining for stools or frequenting due to loose motions.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
My life changed a lot and I have switched to a bland diet. I have been told that the diet of a person has no direct link to the development of Crohn’s disease. But, it can definitely help to control the symptoms. I choose my food keeping in mind my symptoms. I want to invite neither constipation nor loose motions and not even abdominal pain! So, I eat foods that are not too spicy or fried as they may trigger loose motions.
I also avoid foods with very high fiber content like papayas for the same reason. It’s believed that an apple a day keeps a doctor away. But, I think I am an exception to this rule because my constipation becomes worse after eating apples. I stick to a nutritious and balanced diet. I also make sure I eat plenty of green vegetables to prevent iron deficiency anemia. I also drink at least 2 liters of water every day to prevent dehydration following recurrent loose motions.
Going to work and taking medications
My office is quite far; it takes me at least 45 minutes to reach there. Just the thought of getting a bout of loose motions while on the way disturbs me. I drive myself to the office. I have mapped out a chart of restrooms I can use on the way. So, I know where exactly I need to park my car in case I have to rush. This suggestion came from a fellow sufferer in the group of people living with Crohn’s disease I have joined.
We meet once every month and discuss our problems. We also brainstorm to come up with practical solutions for our sympthoms. Joining this group has helped make appropriate changes to my routine to ease the challenges posed by this disease. I am told that though Crohn’s disease affects the digestive system, it is basically a disease caused due to a problem with the immune system. It occurs when the immune cells mistaken the cells in the colon as foreign and attack them resulting in inflammation and damage.
I have been prescribed a treatment composed from anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs to control these developments in my body. These medications prevent inflammation and protect the intestines. The treatment with immunosuppressive medicines suppress the reaction of the immune system and help to control the progress of Crohn’s disease.
Prevention of complications
Infections and smoking can worsen my symptoms and support the progression of Crohn’s disease. I take proper hygienic precautions to prevent infections. The basic hygienic habits like washing my hands well before eating, brushing my teeth well, and washing the fruits and vegetables before cooking or eating have helped to reduce the intensity of my symptoms to a great extent. I also quit smoking when the doctor told me this habit could trigger inflammation in my body and worsen the symptoms.
What are the daily limitations and what are the fears?
Living with Crohn disease could be embarasing sometimes. It is not easy to carry on with the routine activities when your thoughts are centered around your bowel activities and abdominal discomfort. Even a slightest rumbling or gurgling in my abdomen is enough to divert my mind during any important meeting. Plus, tiredness, fatigue, and a general feeling of being unwell have reduced my productivity to a great extent. I cannot be actively involved in the high-risk projects due to my health problem. I cannot stress myself more, physically as well as mentally. As a result, I have lost several opportunities to take my career a notch higher.
What would be my life with Crohn's disease in the future?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease. But, looking at a brighter side, one can keep this disease in check provided proper dietary, and hygienic precautions are followed and medications are regularly taken. I take all these precautions and I am hopeful this will help to delay the development of its complications. The most dangerous complication of Crohn’s disease is cancer. I undergo regular screening tests to evaluate my risk of developing cancer. So far, there have been no cancerous changes in my intestines or colon. But, the thought of developing it disturbs me a lot.
What are the risk factors?
There was nothing that could be called drastically wrong with my diet. So, I was sure this disease has affected me not due to a faulty diet. My way of living it was right. The doctor told me that Crohn’s disease occurs due to a faulty immune system. It tends to run in families.
This was when I remembered my father suffering from similar symptoms. But, during those days, the medical science was not progressed much because of which his condition was left undiagnosed and improperly treated.
The evolution of Crohn’s disease
I developed a minor complication due to Crohn’s disease. I used to get severe burning pain while passing stools. It was due to an anal fissure caused due to a tear in the lining of the anus following repeated loose motions. I had to undergo surgery to repair the tear. Besides this, I have also lost considerable weight since I've started living with this disease. I actually look like a seriously ill person.
Additionally, I am aware that the inflammation in my gut caused due to Crohn's disease can lead to many other complications. It can cause blockage in my intestine. It may also lead to severe malnutrition if I don’t eat well to replenish the nutrients lost through loose motions. That is why I am taking iron supplements to prevent iron deficiency.
What are the psychological effects when you have Crohn’s disease?
There are a variety of health conditions associated with Crohn’s disease such as mouth ulcers, blisters on the skin, damage to the eyes, and abnormal blood clotting. The fear of worsening of my condition and the development of these associated conditions doesn’t let me live in peace.
I have made sacrifices and adjustments to live as comfortably as possible with Crohn's disease. But, I know my life will never be normal and the sacrifices I have made are going to be for life-long! I have to adjust with these sacrifices and live a compromised life! It’s definitely not a good situation to be in! Isn’t it?