Muscling Up Despite Living With Crohn’s Disease
As we continuously connect with others, we find that everyone has an awesome story. I am so glad that we have a platform to share those experiences. Today we hear from Spencer who has a blog called, “Muscle Up: Gluten and Dairy Free“. He is your normal 17-year-old boy who loves sports, hanging out with friends, and doing normal teenage things. There is one thing Spencer has that most teens don’t, and that is Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an Irritable Bowel Disease that affects the digestive system and does not allow the body to process food in a normal manner. Spencer through diet, fitness and wellbeing has reclaimed his life, and this is his story of determination and will.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 5, I am currently 17. I have lived with it for as long as I can remember. The worst part of dealing with my situation was the fact that it is so immensely difficult to determine what works and what doesn’t in dealing with my Crohn’s disease. Every time it flared up I would have to go on new medications, and only time would tell if these would temporarily fix the problem. The problem that this presented is that I would have to endure the flare up until the medications kicked in, and if they didn’t I would have to continue experimenting with different medications. Each medication more severe than the last. Two years ago, no medication seemed to work, and I was forced to have surgery to have 17 inches of my small intestine removed. Although this fixed the problem for a short time, within a year my Crohn’s began to flare up once again. Even surgery was not enough to put my Crohn’s into remission for long. I was then put on Humira, which did manage to prevent me from needing another surgery. This medication had been keeping me out of the hospital, but my Crohn’s would still flare up, and was definitely not “in check”. There is also no guarantee that the medication that is “working” today will be effective tomorrow. In other words, the biggest problem I face is that I was only treating the symptoms once they occurred, not trying to address the underlying issue that was causing the problems in the first place.
Since my diagnosis, I have been seeking ways to get a handle on my Crohn’s disease. I believe that I have finally found something that works in a gluten and dairy free diet. Gluten is a mixture of proteins which are not water-soluble that are present in wheat and most other cereal grains. Gluten is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. The problem that gluten presents is that it does not get fully digested. This means that some of it is left over in your intestines, which presents a huge problem for a person with Crohn’s, whose intestines are already narrowed. Since cutting gluten and dairy out of my diet almost 2 months ago, I have seen huge improvements in my health. It was not uncommon for me to not have a bowel movement for days at a time. This caused painful inflammation and swelling, and I was often bloated and distended as a result. Since going gluten and dairy free, I have moved my bowels every single day, and I am no longer bloated. I choose to eliminate dairy from my diet because it is difficult to digest. It also causes congestion; since going gluten and dairy free my nose has cleared up, and I am saving a fortune on tissues. Following a gluten and dairy free diet is difficult to begin with, but I also need to have a diet filled with protein and calories, since I am an athlete. Without certain supplements that I will address later, I would not be able to get sufficient nutrition while on a gluten and dairy free diet.
I am very restricted on the foods I can eat due to my Crohn’s. I am further restricted by my gluten and dairy free diet. To compensate for this, I drink 3 meals a day. Having Crohn’s, I am not able to digest solid vegetables. I make up for this by mixing vegetables in my protein shakes twice a day in a Vitamix blender, and having a vegetable powder in a shake once a day. These shakes are where I use supplements to get the nutrients I need to put on muscle. These supplements are not your average supplements, and are not available in stores. I have a whey protein concentrate shake 3 times a day. This shake goes beyond what your typical whey protein shake does. It is formulated with the ideal ratio of protein, calories, and carbohydrates. This makes it not only a protein shake, but a valid meal replacement by itself. In two of my shakes I also add a tablespoon of Chianex Oil. This chia oil is much more potent than your run of the mill chia oil. Chianex oil is a great source of Omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids. The final supplement I view as a key to my success is Ornexia, which I have in two of my shakes, which is a powder that is a rich natural source of Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, antioxidants, phytosterols, branched chain amino acids, and more. In addition to these shakes I also eat 2 full meals a day and snack on other foods throughout the day. In the last week I have started 4 new supplements. The reason that I started them at this time is so that I could establish my gluten and dairy free diet before I added more supplements into the mix. These products are all sprays that are sprayed under your tongue; a HGH alternative, a male hormone balancer, a plant sterol, and a clinical B12 spray. In the first week, I noticed gains in strength and energy at the gym. For more information on these supplements and my full diet please visit my blog at http://muscleupglutenanddairyfree.com/supplements.
I played football from the 7th grade until my junior year in high school. My freshman year was cut tragically short when I was required to have surgery. Despite this, I came back my sophomore year, which was ended at the very start of the season by another flare up. After two seasons plagued by Crohn’s, I stopped playing on the football team. One reason I stopped is because it is extremely difficult to gain weight with Crohn’s. Right now I am 5’10” 157lbs. Despite this, I still strive to not let Crohn’s dictate my life. I am now on my school’s wrestling team, and am an avid weight lifter. It is possible to thrive athletically with Crohn’s disease. I use quarterback David Garrard as an example of this. He was the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL, despite having Crohn’s disease. He is an inspiration to me, he even sent me a hand-written letter and autographed card while I was in the hospital recovering from my surgery. If I can motivate even one person in the same way he motivated me, I will have accomplished something amazing.
While it is fairly easy for me to talk about my Crohn’s, there was once a time when I kept it a secret. I never let anyone besides my teachers and coaches know that I had Crohn’s until I told my football team in the 8th grade. Looking back, I realize how foolish I was to hide it. I was greeted with nothing but kindness and understanding by my teammates. Since then, I have gradually become more open about my Crohn’s. I suppose I kept it a secret because I figured that people would look at me differently because of it. I am very glad that I have brought my Crohn’s out into the open, it has made dealing with it so much easier, and people now at least know a little about what I am dealing with. I have finally realized that Crohn’s is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of.
I do not find it difficult to explain what Crohn’s disease is to others. Through personal experience, I have discovered that the most effective method in explaining Crohn’s to the average person is to not go into too much detail. My preferred method of informing people about Crohn’s disease is to simply tell them something along the lines of “Crohn’s is a disease that can affect any are in the digestive tract. It causes inflammation and swelling, which causes pain and can cause the intestine to become blocked, which can stop food from passing through, causing pain and presenting a plethora of other, more serious problems.” I then go on to tell them that due to the narrowing in my intestines, I can not eat certain foods. I am not allergic to them, they just do not break down well enough to pass through my narrowed intestines, which can cause my Crohn’s to flare up. People who I tell this to are usually very receptive, and have a new understanding of what Crohn’s disease is.
I am extremely fortunate to have a family that is very receptive and compassionate about my Crohn’s. I do not have trouble communicating with them about my Crohn’s at all, and I feel that this should be the case for everyone living with not just Crohn’s, but any disease. Having people who you can confide in and share your thoughts with can be very beneficial in dealing with it. It helps me feel that I am not alone, that there are people who care. I do not talk about it much with my friends, but that is ok with me. I feel that communication is vital when dealing with any disease or problem.
I see myself, hopefully, helping thousands of people living with Crohn’s and Colits to live normal lives. I hope that my website and my story will be beneficial in improving the quality of life for everyone living with an Irritable Bowl Disease (Crohn’s and Colitis) or Celiac (gluten intolerance). I feel that I will have accomplished something remarkable if I am able to help people who are living with these diseases live normal lives, much in the same way that I am. I also see myself helping anyone who has a desire to live a healthier life, and wishes to get better, bigger, and stronger.