Healing The Gut: How Yoga helps calm Crohn’s Disease

Yoga and Crohn’s relief. For many, the two go hand-in-hand when it comes to stress management and feeling calm. This week, I hand over the reins for Part Two of Hilary Zalla’s guest post. As you may remember, Hilary is a vocal advocate for inflammatory bowel disease and a news anchor at the CBS affiliate in Tampa Bay, Florida. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 13 years ago. Since becoming a “Crohnie,” she’s come to realize how strong our IBD community is. I’ll let her take it away…

Since my diagnosis, I have always been most interested in learning how people treat their disease beyond prescribed pharmaceuticals. I’ve heard people swear by alternative therapies like acupuncture and chiropractic and diets like veganism, Paleo, and gluten-free. Whatever helps you, keep doing it! I am here to share with you how I use yoga to treat my disease.yoga

First of all, I want to start by telling you that exercise was pretty much non-existent in my life until I found yoga. I just never felt up to working out. I gave myself tons of excuses, but really I just didn’t care about my body. I had given up on it because it let me down so many times. I started practicing yoga two years ago when I realized I wouldn’t be able to continue working in television news if I didn’t start taking care of my body beyond medicine. I am so glad I did because I have been in clinical remission ever since!

Yoga has taught me how to take care of my body.  I have battled so many negative emotions since my diagnosis like denial, self-doubt, fear and embarrassment. I didn’t take care of my body for many years because I didn’t think it was worth it. I was already sick, so what good would anything do? Well, I was so wrong.

yoga4Yoga has taught me how to accept my disease and treat my body with compassion. As I started to progress through the physical poses, I realized how strong my body really was. I formed muscle and gained energy I never knew I had. All of these changes made me want to take care of myself. I started eating gluten-free, dairy-free, and seeing a therapist every week for my anxiety. I also started doing more exercises like running and lifting weights.

Yoga also increases my immune system. I am on Remicade infusions every eight weeks, which lowers my immune system. Yoga helps lower the stress hormones that compromise the immune system. By linking breath and movement, we’re able to condition our lungs and respiratory tract and get blood to the organs so they function at their best. I haven’t had a cold in two years!

yoga3Goodbye anxiety and stress! For most of us living with IBD, we hold our emotions in our gut. This is why we can feel abdominal pain when we are nervous or stressed. Yoga is an easy and natural way to make sure the mind and body are in-sync. The practice allows us to relieve physical tension and relax the nervous system. This takes the strain off our intestines and can really help relieve pain. 

As you can see, yoga has so many benefits for people living with IBD.  I have fallen in love with the practice and can’t get enough of it! I am now in the process of becoming a yoga teacher so that I can help others living with chronic disease find relief. I would encourage you to visit a local yoga studio and try it out! Namaste.

Way to go, Hilary! To continue to follow Hilary’s patient journey, check out her blog: Life Outside the Lights.

7 thoughts on “Healing The Gut: How Yoga helps calm Crohn’s Disease

  1. Cathy says:

    I don’t have Crohn’s but I did get 4 digestive diagnoses this year. Trying to heal the gut by eliminating gluten, sugar and dairy. Today I feel horrible and can’t figure out why. After my dad’s recent illness and then his death I’ve stopped yoga. Was only doing gentle for years due to my MS. Perhaps I should get back into my yoga practice, after reading this. I can’t do all the advanced poses you can, but I guess every little bit helps. Thanks for writing this piece!!!


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