I was diagnosed with Crohns 18 years ago. I had resection surgery 13 years ago.
Surgery was the catalyst for getting back into cycling after several years off. The initial days and weeks after surgery reminded me that the human body is amazing, and able to recover from so much. Seeing physical progress on a day by day basis was uplifting and empowering, and returning to cycling was my way of seeing that progress continue.
A few years after surgery I was in the shape of my life, but then things started going backwards. I struggled with low iron levels for about 4 years, which made cycling difficult, and resulted in a lot of frustration. I later figured out that this was due to Crohns being active again. The medical profession weren’t exactly helpful. As you guys will know, the treatment can be as bad as the condition! I started searching for my own solutions out of desperation. I didn’t want to lose the health and fitness that I’d worked so hard for.
It took a while, but I found an answer. For me, changing my diet to ‘whole food, plant based’ was quite literally a life changer. Eating fruit and veg is somewhat counter intuitive for those of us with compromised digestive tracts. I have to be quite careful of veg in particular. My diet is now largely based around starches (rice, potatoes) beans/legumes and fruit. Frustratingly, there is clear science supporting this approach, but the doctors treating me were unaware or dismissive of it.
After 40 years of eating a standard western diet, it was quite a challenge to change, but one that was well worth the effort. I started noticing improvements immediately (which helped convince me that I was on the right track) but it was probably 6 months or so before the healing was far enough advanced to relieve all symptoms. Since then, the last 4 years have been awesome. No meds, no problems, and (at almost 45) I am now the fittest I’ve ever been (FTP over 4.3 W/Kg).
Throughout my journey, the number one thing I’ve learned is that being healthy is more important than being fit. If you are struggling on the bike, then taking time off to get yourself right again is more important than any workout you can do. The bike will be ready and waiting for you when you are ready. I’ve had several long lay offs over the years. It’s not easy to keep coming back from them, but it’s definitely worth it.