It seems obvious that food would play a huge role in a chronic digestive condition like Crohn’s disease. But that’s the only obvious thing about it. Figuring out the details— which foods are troublesome, why some foods cause issues and others don’t, when it’s fine to eat specific foods, how foods affect your body -- that’s the hard part. Crohn’s affects everyone differently. Finding the best diet and lifestyle to minimize Crohn’s symptoms takes trial and error. But after years of hard work, I feel like I’m on a pretty good track. I’m off all medications, which is truly amazing. And I’m actually thinking about experimenting with a new diet soon. Life with Crohn’s is a continuous learning experience. Here’s what I’ve learned so far: It Takes Lots of Time and Effort to Find the Best Plan for You I went to so many different doctors trying to find the best treatment for my Crohn’s. I saw the standard gastroenterologists and internists; an environmental medicine practitioner; a chiropractor; an acupuncturist; and a holistic medicine practitioner. The holistic medicine practitioner tested me for all kinds of food sensitivities, but the results didn’t show any specific trigger. Regardless, he did tell me, “I don’t care what the tests say-go off gluten.” I had been semi-gluten-free already, avoiding bread and pasta, but I decided to fully dedicate myself to a gluten-free lifestyle, carefully reading labels, saying goodbye to soy sauce (wheat is a major factor in its production), and seriously limiting my diet. And after a few months, my Crohn’s wasn’t that much better. However, the “brain fog” that I’d been feeling for the last few years disappeared. That taught me an important lesson—food affects your entire body, not just your digestive system. After trying all kinds of diets-a no-raw-food diet, an only-raw-food diet, a liquid diet, a yeast elimination diet, a fruitarian diet, a vegetarian diet—I found that picking and choosing different aspects from each helped me thrive. Things Might Not Work Perfectly the First Time - Keep Trying The holistic medicine practitioner emphasized the importance of taking probiotics regularly. Now, I had tried probiotics before, but my body had responded to the good bacteria as if it was an intruder. It caused an instant flare-up. During a flare-up, I can’t eat much of anything, so I don’t receive enough nutrients. But the practitioner urged me to push through the flare-up, giving the good bacteria in the probiotics time to battle the bad bacteria in my gut. After I introduced enough of the good bacteria, my digestive system calmed down and the good bacteria started working. It was a battle between me and my gut—but I won. I now take probiotics two times a day, and I credit much of my success to that good bacteria fighting hard for me. Apparently taking probiotics help some—but not all—Crohn’s patients. Your Emotional Health is Just as Important as Your Physical Health One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that, besides fried food, stress is the most disruptive thing for your body. When I was first tackling all these diets and trying to figure out what would work for me, I would stress so much about the food I was eating that my Crohn’s would flare up regardless of what I ate. The stress caused the flare-up, not the food. I had to learn to relax, to take care of myself emotionally as well as physically, and to find stress relief in order to feel good. Now, I practice yoga and meditation, I make sleep a priority every night, and I drink plenty of water. Sometimes we forget how important the basics are. Some Things Seem Impossible - Take Baby Steps A few years ago, I heard about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) as a successful treatment for Crohn’s. It’s incredibly restrictive. It bans grains, processed meats, most dairy, some legumes, potatoes, and added sugars. Once I saw that list, I decided it was too much-there was no way I could give up all that food! But as the years went by, I talked to more specialists, tried different diets, and started taking classes at an integrated nutrition school. I realized that the benefits of eating well outweigh the difficulties. I’m already gluten-free, and I generally avoid dairy; I choose only organic products; I eat very little sugar; and I’ve started cooking more, so I know what goes into my food and how each ingredient affects me. Figuring out the best diet for Crohn’s is a process. I’m considering the Specific Carbohydrate Diet-after everything else I’ve tried, it doesn’t seem so bad. I don’t have the magic cure for Crohn’s-I’m not sure it exists. What I do know is that I need to take care of my body, mind and spirit to feel my best. And I’m always discovering and trying new strategies. But I’m feeling good and in control of my Crohn’s, and I’m glad I’m on this healthy path. Robyn Diamond lives, loves and cooks in Hickory, N.C., with her husband and two children.