I have Crohn’s disease. Approximately 500,000 people in America alone are afflicted with the disease. Most of you won’t know what exactly that means, because it is a socially taboo subject. It is not discussed in polite circles and certainly not mentioned in any blogs related to food. However, I got to touch some one’s life just for mentioning it here, so frankly I don’t give a toss about being politically correct.

Definition: Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and even malnutrition. Crohn’s disease can be both painful and debilitating and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications. While cause is still unknown, there are studies linking it to genetic predisposition. It is not contagious.

With my Mother & Father in March 2009
I consider myself very lucky. I have been in complete remission for almost nine years with no symptoms, and no drugs. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist…this is just my own experience. One thing I do know about Crohn’s for sure… is what works for one person may not work for another. You have to learn to listen to your own body, and respond accordingly. I’m not professing that what is right for me, is right for you or that I know more than your doctor. This is simply my journey with the disease, and if it helps someone suffering (even if it is just so they do not feel isolated anymore), I think it is worth sharing.

I spent nearly four years in the fetal position, in agonizing pain. I couldn’t leave my house much, because anything I ate or drank ran right through me. I was beginning to believe I would never have any quality of life again, so my will to live was waning. It didn’t matter what dietary adjustments I made, alternative treatments failed, and the hideously high doses of steroids were obviously not working. I knew there was a new drug out on the market, but trials had shown it didn’t work for everyone and there were serious side effects associated with it, so I refused to try it… that was until I was given a choice (after a week of hospitalization, internal bleeding, and blood transfusions) between trying Remicade or surgery. I chose the transfusion of Remicade. It miraculously worked for me.
Julie Anne & Tatjana Rhodes, Hello magazine
Now for a little history, I believe MY struggle with Crohn’s was a direct result of stress. When I got sick I was going through a series of major life changes. I was also newly sober. My only stress coping mechanism had been removed, and I believe all that stress somehow internalized and made me ill. I also strongly believe that I will remain in remission indefinitely, because I know how to manage my stress today. Getting into remission was only half the battle. This is how I stay there:
1). I have always eaten pretty healthy. Lots of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats over saturated ones, and lean meats, poultry, and fish. Now I consciously try to limit/exclude processed food from my diet.

2). I work at letting go of anger and resentment. There is a saying I strongly believe in… “holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other guy to die.” The only person feeling my resentment is me! I also disengage with anyone toxic in my life. You can’t manage other people’s behavior, but you do have the choice to stick around or not. Today I surround myself with people that inspire me to be my best.

3). I deliberately reprogram my brain to think positive…daily. We definitely attract the energy we put out there. Instead of focusing on what I don’t like, I try to focus on being grateful for everything in my life I do. The “glass half full” means life is full of possibilities and potential. Isn’t that already a better place to live?

4). Pampering is not a luxury, it is an investment in my well-being. If I can afford a beijing massage, I have one guilt free today. I make time for myself to relax and enjoy life. I literally stop to smell the roses, watch children play, or let my dog make me laugh.

Daisy the dumpster diver, and her “I’m innocent” look!

5). Those long walks every day with my dog, Daisy, keep me sane. Physical exercise boosts endorphins and keeps your body fit… win/win situation. Next goal: meditation and yoga. I know taking care of myself as a whole… mind, body, and soul… is key to my well-being.
Balsamic Marinated Mixed Vegetables

This recipe has been a staple in my household for over 20 years. This is one of my favorite combinations of vegetables, but you can substitute any you prefer or already have on hand. I also try to stick to locally grown organic produce whenever possible.

Servings: 8

  • 1 whole broccoli, rinsed and trimmed into florets
  • 1 whole cauliflower, rinsed and trimmed into florets
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1). Steam the vegetables until they are crisp-tender (do not over-cook), 3-4 minutes.

2). While vegetables are steaming, mix balsamic, garlic, pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil in a large bowl, whisking vigorously to incorporate ingredients.

3). Toss steamed vegetables in balsamic mixture while still hot. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally to marinate evenly, for at least one hour. Marinated vegetables will keep up a week, covered, in the refrigerator.

4). When ready to serve, allow to come to room temperature by removing from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. Stir well, drain, and serve cold or at room temperature.

Serving Suggestions: Balsamic marinated vegetables go with just about everything from grilled meat to spaghetti and meatballs. Because they keep so well in the refrigerator… I make a huge pot full at the beginning of the week, and snack on them all week long.
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