For today’s Spotlight, we’re sharing an interview with Laura Ristock – a professional in Business Development, residing in Langley, BC. She also lives with Crohn’s disease. Laura is very open about her Crohn’s and is very wise when it comes to slowing down and listening to her body.
The Gut Gazette (TGG): When were you diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease?
Laura Ristock (LR): I was diagnosed six years ago when I was 22 years old.
TGG: How were you diagnosed?
LR: I had so many digestive issues for as long as I could remember but I kept putting off seeing a doctor to find out what was wrong. As we all do, I started googling my symptoms and thought it could be a case of IBS. I knew it was time to find out exactly what was wrong and I ended up being referred to a gastroenterologist. They booked me in for a colonoscopy quite quickly and I remember getting the results like it was yesterday. They never sat me down, they just handed me a piece of paper and when I got to my moms car (still very groggy) I saw the words ‘Crohn’s Disease’. Right away, I started to panic and cry my eyes out. My aunt suffers from Crohn’s as well and I remember her struggling through it all my life. I had no idea what I was going to do.
TGG: What types of symptoms were you presenting that made you seek a diagnosis?
LR: A few years before being diagnosed, I started to have horrible digestive issues. I had terrible acid reflux, insanely painful stomach cramps and of course, going to the bathroom was never a good time!
TGG: Do you avoid any foods to help manage your symptoms?
LR: One of the hardest things I find is that I need to avoid the foods I love! Dairy and gluten are killers for me. I try to stay away from them as much as possible but I’m only human. You will never see me turn away from a good charcuterie board – I just may pay for it later.
TGG: Are you currently on medication for your Crohn’s?
LR: I have been on quite a few different medications! Currently, I am on Stelara injections.
TGG: How do you cope day-to-day to reduce your Crohn’s symptoms?
LR: A lifesaver for me has been exercise. I work out 4-5 days a week and I find if I skip a few days, my symptoms are much more intense. Then I make sure to watch what I’m eating or drinking and do my best to try and manage any stress. Easier said than done of course!
TGG: How often do you have flare-ups?
LR: It’s always been very up and down for me. Sometimes I am fine for a couple weeks, other times I am having them more frequently. Lately, I would say one or two a week.
TGG: How do you heal yourself during a flare-up?
LR: Baths! My boyfriend used to make fun of me for how often I took a bath, but man does it ever help! It forces me to relax, take some time for myself, and de-stress. I also drink lots and lots of water.
TGG: What is your pro-tip for living with Crohn’s?
LR: Take your supplements! I can be super lazy with this, but I feel so much better when I take multi vitamins, pro-biotics, vitamin D, vitamin B-12 and omega 3’s daily.
TGG: What has been the hardest challenge in living with Crohn’s?
LR: The hardest part about living with Crohn’s is making those big dietary changes and the pain that comes along if I decide to indulge. I do my best to find ways to take things I once loved (ex. mac and cheese) and change it to fit my diet. I love when I create something and serve it to my family and they are shocked to find out it’s actually healthy and gluten and dairy free!
TGG: What advice can you offer to someone who has just been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease?
LR: The main piece of advice I could offer would be not to just rely on medication. Finding the right diet, exercising and taking supplements has definitely helped over the years. Additionally, remember to take time for yourself! It’s important to listen to your body and know when it’s time to slow down.
TGG: What’s one of your go-to self-care tips for living with Crohn’s to help reduce your stress.
LR: Baths and books! I love reading but do not always make the time for it. Draw a bath, maybe throw some Epsom salts in, find a good book and relax!
TGG: Anything else you’d like to share?
LR: Over the years, the one thing that has helped me the most is my supportive family. My mother always looks for ways to help and will pick up any natural remedy she hears about to aid my flare ups. As I mentioned before, my aunt also suffers with Crohn’s so I’m lucky that I have someone who truly understands what I am going through. If I ever just need someone to complain to, she is my go to and she is always willing to listen!
Lastly, my boyfriend has been an absolute angel. He is always reading labels and making sure to avoid purchasing foods that will cause inflammation. If I have a flare up, no matter what time it is, he will get up and fill a hot water bottle to put on my stomach. I truly don’t know how I would get through all of this without them.
Spotlight Series is a series highlighting various individuals with digestive health issues and their personal experiences.
*A reminder that everyone’s experiences are their own. What might work for one person may not work for someone else. Everyone is on their own journey but it’s always comforting to learn about someone else who is living a similar one.