Better for you, better for your gut.
“Ugh,” was my reaction upon hearing my GI telling me to make exercise a part of my healing process. Just walking upstairs to my bedroom was hard enough after an inflammation attack. Why on earth would I purposely want to move?
Because it de-stresses the body. And anyone who has ever had inflammation knows that stress is one of the worst things for your condition.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to say you have to run a triathlon or anything like that – you just need to get moving. According to Peters and Vries (2001), though “acute strenuous exercise may provoke gastrointestinal symptoms,” exercise can be completed in reps “…at a relatively low intensity [which] may have protective effects on the gastrointestinal tract” (pp. 435-439). So, really, hitting the gym hard and fast won’t help but low-impact can do a lot of benefit.
Before I go any further, I just want to state that no exercise in existence will cure your inflammation. What it will do is lower your stress level. Those of us who have had inflammation issues for a long time know that stress is one of the worst triggers in the world. Getting rid of it is extremely important, and exercising provides a safe outlet to lower your blood pressure and strengthen your nervous system’s receptors. (McNamera, 2011). Yay for better heart health and fewer pain sensitivities!
Interestingly, there has even been a lot of preliminary research in the medical community over the benefits of exercising for digestive health, especially for patients with IBD and Crohn’s. Since many people who have IBD have other inflammatory-related issues, there has been an expressed interest in to study the impact exercise has on specific digestive disorders (Narula & Fedorak, 2008) The problem is that every patient is different, so developing the “ideal” workout routine will not be around for quite some time. Meanwhile, individual routines can be made with a doctor’s supervision since he or she will know how to “…minimize physical risks while addressing medical limitations, disease status, medications, appliance usage and age (Ibid)” for their patient – you.
In short, starting an exercise program begins with a discussion with your doctor. Ask him or her what kind of exercise would work to ease your particular ailments. Then, if you can afford one, I’d highly suggest that you seek a certified personal trainer who is (or has connections with) a certified nutritionist. That way, you will have professionals helping you with diet and exercise as recommended by your doctor.
But if you’re like me and can’t afford one, ask your doctor to recommend workouts to improve your inflammation. He or she will be able to give you parameters so that you don’t overdo it, and may even be able to help you find free resources so you can develop a routine. Another solution is to take your recommendations to your local gym, or look into your community outreach programs for discount workout sessions. Sometimes you can find seasonal deals hosted by a local community college or the YMCA.
I would like to mention, though, that when I first got pushed into, er, started exercising, I had to first learn proper breathing techniques. It’s still the best thing that I learned how to do in order to handle inflammation and workout-related pain. Yoga, Qi-Gong, and Tai-Chi have excellent breathing techniques that helps you to relax your body and manage the high stress environment that comes with a pain flare. Oh, and if you choose look into these programs, be sure to find one that fits your needs. For example, yoga falls under a varied spectrum, where some studios will focus on the physical improvement of the body and others on the spiritual. You’ll have to do your research to find a studio that works for you. However, I do not recommend that you do Yoga, Qi-Gong, or Tai-Chi exercises without an instructor due to the fact that you can seriously hurt yourself if you do a pose incorrectly.
Also, you don’t have to settle for just one type of exercise. I get bored with my workouts if they’re too repetitive, so I do a combination of yoga, cardio, and muscle-strengthening routines throughout the week that are modified for my needs. It helps me to push my body properly while keeping my overactive mind happy. Again, this comes from my GI’s recommendations to help with my particular inflammation, so I can’t give you the specifics of my program.
Don’t get me wrong – exercising when you feel terrible is not fun. There days that I don’t want to move even one iota of muscle for fear that Pesky may interrupt a session. But in the end it’s worth it. Your body will get stronger, and you will have another pain-related coping tool under your belt.
So go get your recommendations and get started!
- TL;DR: Under a doctor’s supervision, engaging in exercise will help you manage your inflammation issue’s bodily stress and pain sensitivities.
- PS – I am not a medical professional.
McNamara, M. (2011, May 26). Livestrong.com. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/391533-will-exercises-help-stomach-inflammation-bloating/
Narula, N., & Fedorak, R. (2008). Exercise and inflammatory bowel disease: Review. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2660805/
Peters, HPF & Vries, B. B. (2001). Potential benefits and hazards of physical activity and exercise on the gastrointestinal tract. GUT: An International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 48, 435-439. doi: 10.1136/gut.48.3.435