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06-09-2010, 04:58 AM   #1
Craig
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Strenuous exercise and Crohn's

Hello all,

I were recently diagnosed with Crohn's (January 2010) after spending 3 weeks in hospital. I've since suffered my first serious 'flare up'of symptoms and am now back on the Prednisolone, which is working effectively at reducing the symptoms.

Prior to the first attack that put me in hospital, I were exercising strenuously about 3 times a week in an effort to increase my fitness - running/jogging were a new hobby of mine, so admittadly I had not been fit for several years.

Having recovered from my first serious attack I waited roughly 3 months till I were strong enough to exercise again seriously. Last month however, the flare up occured. At the time of noticing my symptoms begin to occur, I had recently broken several of my personal bests and were probably training the hardest I have ever done.

So, I am now wondering whether there is, or anyone knows of, a link between strenuous exercise and the onset of Crohn's symptoms?


I've had a mixed response from various doctors, from being told there is absolutely no link and/or there is no known research to support this and that 'its possible'.

I am however aware that top atheletes and marathon runners are known to get 'ill' more often as they put their immune system under more stress. Hence, if you have an immune malfunction such as IBD then it would make sense in my mind that causing your immune system to weaken or stress through running/jogging might cause your Crohn's to flare up?

If anyone has had any experiences with exercise and Crohn's in general I would be very much appreciative of your feedback.

It should proberly be noted that I also do regular weight lifting routines and am otherwise generally well, eat normally when in remission and far as I know don't do anything that is known to cause flare ups.

Thankyou,
Craig
06-09-2010, 05:25 AM   #2
Lisa
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I don't know about any specific links between exercise and flares - but I have been involved in a fairly strenuous occupation - firefighting!.....never noticed anything specific there that triggered anything - EXCEPT for muscle spasms from adrenaline....as in if a call came in for something 'real' - once in the vehicle I would get back spasms for a couple minutes.......

I would think stress has more to do with it - than the actual exercise itself.
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06-09-2010, 08:37 AM   #3
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Interesting question! I experienced something similar. Just before I got sick, I was under a great deal of stress at work, so I started working out fairly intensely about 3 times a week to try to get my stress under control (lifting weights and some jogging). The timeline of events all happened within a few months: the work stress started in June 09 and went downhill from there, and I started working out probably in July or August, and then I became ill in October 09. I don't know how much the exercise & high stress levels had to do with me getting ill or not, but it's definitely an interesting thought!
06-09-2010, 10:42 AM   #4
Chuck2008
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I run, do sprints, sports, and weightlift etc. Fortunately I have not noticed any correlation between exercise and flareups. If anything the exercise seems to help. However, watch out for some weightlifting supplements. My initial flare up and only flare since have been after taking Creatine Monohydrate as a supplement (just the minimum recommended amount), I'm not sure if its a coincidence or not but just to be safe I don't touch the stuff anymore.
06-11-2010, 01:20 PM   #5
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My brother is a tri-athlete... and he has Crohn's... he found the training actually helps him... proper diet, regular exercise, etc.
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06-12-2010, 01:28 AM   #6
Regular Joe
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Hi Craig,

I worked out regularly before my flare started last year. I understand how rigorous exercise effects the immune system from reading an article in Runner's World, and also a WebMD magazine in one of my visits to some physician I visited. I agree with what has been written in those articles. Silvermoon's post also supports the theory.

It goes like this. After a strenuous workout, or any cardio workout which is done as recommended, during the first 1/2 hour through 2 1/2 hours after the workout, the immune system is suppressed to a degree. The lowered immune response follows a timeline "bell-curve" which corresponds to individual immune responses within the 1/2 - 2 1/2 hour range (the time differs based on the person and the workout stress level). If a runner comes into contact with a contagious person within that time period, he or she is at greater risk of acquiring the pathogen which doesn't always mean that a person gets sick. There have been at least two times that proved to be the case with me. I got sick shortly, within days, after a workout.

The problem as I understand with any of the autoimmune diseases, including Crohn's, is the opposite of A.I.D.S. Our immune systems become "over-active" or "hyperactive". So as Silvermoon described with her brother, it would follow that his autoimmune response was suppressed. A rigorous workout would probably have either no effect or a helpful effect for us UNLESS we were using medication, including steroids, that lower immune response AND we are experiencing active inflammation or an immune response from our disease. If we're not flaring and not on meds, then we would be prone to "catching something" from someone contagious.

I wan to add, sort of off topic here, that over the past week and a half, I've been able to work out again. I was lifting, gliding, ab-crunching, and basically beating the hell out of my muscles and joints like they haven't been used to in a year. I really busted my @ss yesterday.

I'm as sore today in every joint and muscle in my body it seems, almost more pain than anytime I have flare pain.

But the cool thing is that I was STONED again! I copped the buzz from increased endorphins, and buddy let met me tell you what, I could SO MUCH feel the chemical rush that rigorous workouts give me. It's been so long since I've reached that point, that it was obvious to recognize. So I was sore, but I LOVE IT. I got the "high back"!

That chemical reaction made me feel mentally alert and good about myself today. I was walking in to my office after lunch, and I finally felt the "cool factor" go up a degree or two. 51-years old, Crohn's disease diagnosis, and all - today I was COOL, and dammit it shows even in my walk!

Listen friends, if I can be "cool with Crohn's", anybody else can. So when you find you're feeling better, or your flare symptoms are easing - particularly no fatigue....Ohhh get your weak butt bouncing into action while you have the chance. Who knows how long it will last. But for yesterday and today, I got a real good buzz, and I hit the streets smilin' and cool!
06-12-2010, 07:10 AM   #7
rygon
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If youve just started exercising then take it easy to begin with. Running can put a lot of stress on the body (ankles, knees especially). If you try and do too much too quickly your body will not have time to recover which could give problems to anyone let alone someone with crohns.

I try and get in 2hrs of kickboxing training a week. Go to gym for another hr doing running, stretches and a few weights. I find if i do training, the next day I can have a bit of a dodgy stomach (guessing from bowels jiggling around) but the days afterwards are normally great. I do train whyen not 100% but if my stomach is hurting I wont, find gas builds up making me feel worse within 20mins of starting.

Remember to stretch off for 5-10mins afterwards as well if not already doing so.
06-12-2010, 09:13 AM   #8
Regular Joe
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Hi rygon,

Yes thanks for the reminders. I do stretch 5-10 mins beforehand. I wake up with abdominal cramps still (nothing new for us), but they go away by noon.

I wish I could still run, but my knee joint is far too shot to even consider running. So I don't run. I have a mountain bike so I'll cycle (yes with a helmet), or use the eliptical machine.

I've been doing 1 - 1.5 hours every other day. I'm going to move the cardio to days between strength and abs once I get to gliding for longer periods of time. I'm not a stranger to workouts, so I definitely know the breakdown/buildup routine. Don't do any workout area day after day.

Also found out that your supposed to get better results doing chest first, followed by arms, back, etc. Well that is if you want to build chest, so I've heard. So that has been my pattern when lifting Chest, Abs, arms, back.
06-12-2010, 09:44 AM   #9
rygon
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I didnt know that about the chest. I dont like running that much as i find it very monotomous and boring. Rather do high intensity workouts. Have you tried any bag work?
Once warmed up I do 1min heavy punching (jab cross) followed by 1min fast and light (jab cross), Do that for 3 reps then the same with hooks. Really good for upperbody workouts and tires you out instantly (well it does). I then go on to roundhouse kicks and front kicks. The bag I have isnt the heaviest so i do light and fast but it gets the muscles and lungs a good workout. Its also very good for your core muscles.

Do you stretch afterwards as well. Can remember reading that stretching before is not as benificial as afterwards, although you do need to warm up before and warm down afterwards

As you said, even tho youre mentally and physically drained, its one of the best buzzes out there.
08-25-2010, 05:53 PM   #10
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Anyone have experience with specific training for sprint events? Prior to my diagnosis, my typical year, starting in October after nationals for bicycle track racing, would be endurance bike riding and building up in my wight lifting till spring. I pretty much just do squat and deadlift, trying to increase my max weight every year. Starting in the spring, I switch over to more specific, sub 40 second efforts and start working in explosive lifting (clean, box squats, weighted jumps, etc). Anyone have any advice?
08-26-2010, 05:12 AM   #11
crazycanuck
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Hmm well that was an interesting post regular joe but you know I really don't think rigorous activity would be linked to the onset of Crohn's it just doesn't really fit to me. As Joe says without any medications we are suppressing the very immune system that is attacking our intestines. I've played higher level hockey my whole life with 2-3 games, 2 practices, and dryland (weight and conditioning) per week and I didn't develop my Crohn's during this time but rather during some downtime in the summer is when it really hit.


also velodrome probably the wrong place to ask that. I'd try weight lifting or biking sites probably not the Crohn's one. or start your own thread so people actually see it instead of people happening to come across this thread that do know anything about that.
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Last edited by crazycanuck; 08-26-2010 at 05:15 AM.
08-26-2010, 10:46 AM   #12
Velodrome-A-Go-Go
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Folks on a weight lifting site wouldn't know much about training with Crohn's, whereas this page is already selected for people with the disease who do various forms of exercise, so I didn't think it could hurt to ask if anyone else trains the way I did before getting sick.
08-26-2010, 11:24 AM   #13
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Haha ok thats true you might get a few more suggestions though if you start a thread. Im not sure if hes around still but guy named benson think his name starts With BWS is on here and he does heavy training with crohns and if hes still on here might be a person to ask.
08-28-2010, 05:52 AM   #14
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Hi Craig, I also do a lot of high intensity training and if anything it has helped me massively both mentally and physically. However, if you are running regularly there is something known as joggers trots (im not making this up) wherduring or after running the person is hit by the sudden onset of the trots! They dont know exactly what causes it but they think it might have something to do with either the motion of running or diverted blood supplies from stomach. It is only estimated to effect 1 in 10 people but this could have something to do with the flares.

The trots cant be good and im guessing could cause an upset.
08-28-2010, 05:58 AM   #15
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08-28-2010, 06:07 AM   #16
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Ive been away training in France. Family rented a farm house in the middle of nowhere so i decided to turn it into a training camp. Crohns is great but developed some nice shin splins. Glad to be back
10-18-2010, 08:16 PM   #17
Craig
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Hello all,

I have an update on this topic that I feel might benefit some people.

Having now spent nearly a year treating and learning about my Crohn's it has become apparent that my mental/psychological attitude severly increases my natural disposition to suffer from symptoms and flare ups.

What I mean specifically, is that as a person I am prone to worrying, dwelling, planning and plotting things. Whilst arguably I do this no more than anyone else, i've since been told that in a Crohn's patient this will almost certainly exhasberate your symptoms. Put simpy all of the above traits amount to increased and unhealthy amounts of stress, which as I understand it is linked with Crohn's in many cases.

What does this have to do with exercise? Well, I were applying all of the above mental and psychological traits to my approach to exercise:

Target driven, trying to beat times, setting myself times, aiming to meet goals, strict routines, worrying when I didn't do X amount of running, being upset when i didn't lose X amount of weight, dwelling on things I had and hadn't done, etc etc.

It would appear that the above is why that both times I have become seriously involved with streneous physical execise I have suffered flare-ups and consequently been put back on steroids.

I'm inclined to say, as many of you have agreed, that you (anyone) could exercise at high rates without directly affecting Crohn's and as also pointed out would probably benefit from mild exercise.

In my case, and perhaps others, it might just be worth bearing in mind the psychological stress you may be putting on yourself at the same time.

Craig

Edit: Quick edit, I think its worth saying also that you could probably worry about your fitness/exercise to the level I did and remain flare-up free: if that were the only thing you were worrying about. This became a problem because of my outlook on everything, as oppose to just that one thing on its own. Hope that makes sense.

Last edited by Craig; 10-18-2010 at 08:25 PM.
10-18-2010, 08:33 PM   #18
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Hi guys-I don't know if this is the right forum to ask, but I was wondering what's the best way to handle some of the Crohn's complications of exercise? Not to be too gross, but when I run, walk or lift weights with regularity I open my fistula, and leak bowel material, enough to interrupt my workout. I have to stop exercising and wait for it to close up, usually 2 weeks and a round of Flagyl.

Am I doing something wrong? No doctor really answers me, they just say to try to get some exercise and to do your best. I would really appreciate any insights and suggestions you might have.
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10-18-2010, 10:21 PM   #19
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Craig, thanks for sharing your insights. Interesting view!

Mountaingem, a fistula is so much more serious than simple leakage (which I get), so I don't have answers, but really hope that someone has an idea for you!
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10-18-2010, 10:39 PM   #20
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Craig: It's hard to exercise just "because it's good for you," isn't it! I'm going into off season for bike racing, which is a different kind of stress from the actual race. I'm curious to see if I can balance the type of focus, planning, and high expectations of myself necessary to be a successful bike racer, with this lovely new variable of having Crohn's. I'm not totally sure of the biological pathways, but I think it has to do with adrenaline. Even before I was sick, my digestion would be off on race day or days of high stress, and it's just much more extreme now. I think it's a good opportunity to work on being a little more relaxed/go-with-the-flow. Have fun, set goals, be proud, but don't be crushed when it doesn't go the way you want it to. We're always harder on ourselves when we feel we have failed, than happy when we have succeeded. It might be a losing battle, but I want to turn that around.

Mountaingem: I'm going to preface this with saying that I don't have fistulas. You can translate that into "I'm talking out of my ass," if you want. But I'd take a guess that they are exacerbated by any kind of core work. If you are lifting weights correctly, you are going to be tightening your core until it is rigid, which gives you the necessary support to lever against. Running could be taking that and combining the bouncing, which will greatly increase the pressure for an instant with each step. You might try low-impact exercise, until they heal up. Cycling on an upright bike, that doesn't require much core work, could be a good alternative. Or light work on the elliptical, or swimming. Also, if you were used to doing exercise before this started, you might have a different perspective of "regular exercise" than the doctors talking to you do. You might think you are taking it easy, but in reality you are doing a lot more than your body is ready for.
10-19-2010, 01:02 AM   #21
Mountaingem
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Mountaingem: I'm going to preface this with saying that I don't have fistulas. You can translate that into "I'm talking out of my ass," if you want. But I'd take a guess that they are exacerbated by any kind of core work. If you are lifting weights correctly, you are going to be tightening your core until it is rigid, which gives you the necessary support to lever against. Running could be taking that and combining the bouncing, which will greatly increase the pressure for an instant with each step. You might try low-impact exercise, until they heal up. Cycling on an upright bike, that doesn't require much core work, could be a good alternative. Or light work on the elliptical, or swimming. Also, if you were used to doing exercise before this started, you might have a different perspective of "regular exercise" than the doctors talking to you do. You might think you are taking it easy, but in reality you are doing a lot more than your body is ready for.
Great suggestions! Yes, I used to exercise and lift weights, and you're right, things that used to be easy now feel akward and difficult.

And I would never think you were "talking out of your ass"lol!
10-19-2010, 01:46 AM   #22
kildare crohnie
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do people on here swim much...??
10-19-2010, 03:16 AM   #23
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I swim! We have a pool in our complex. I'm a huge believer in hydro therapy. I can be in a bit of pain, get in the pool, do laps, and my pain or upset stomach seems to just shut off during these times.

As for my experienced exercising, I do mostly weight lifting. My walk to the gym is 20 minutes and I'll get on a bike for 15 to further warm up. I don't go nuts on the cardio machines so I probably don't get my heart rate to the insane levels you marathon people do (meaning that as a compliment, I hate running for hours on end so my endurance isn't where I'd like it to be.) I haven't noticed weight lifting causing flareups, but during times where I'm feeling a little off, or if I'm fresh out of a flare, I stay away from ab exercises till I'm 100%. My goals are just to tear muscle, then go home and pound protein so I can ad muscle. When I'm at a good weight and not flaring, I do parkour to build strength and cardio.

Mountaingem - That sound's insanely painful. I've had an almost fistula, whatever its called where youve got the beginnings of a hole but it hasnt gone all the way through the lining yet. Maybe swimming is a better option?


Does anyone else just LOOOOOOVE getting into a hot tub? Especially when your gut is a little cranky? I could sleep in one, I can't have a flare when I'm in those things.
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10-19-2010, 09:49 AM   #24
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I swim, too, although mainly only in the summer (I don't like walking home with frozen hair!). Hot tub afterward is AMAZING on the stomach, you're right.

My main fitness activity is spin class, which I do for 60 minutes twice/week right now and plan to move to 3x/week as my symptoms improve. I try to balance that with a little strength training. I used to run 1/2 marathon distances, but that's too hard on my stomach these days (intense pain); if this ever improves, I plan to try a triathlon.
10-20-2010, 06:44 PM   #25
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This is indeed an interesting topic. Now that I think back to the month that the symptoms of Crohn's started to show up I was in College under a lot of stress between juggling schoolwork and working part time. I have myself always wondered if that had something to do with it or not or if it was just a big coincidence. It could just be that the stress sped up the onset of it though.
10-22-2010, 12:42 PM   #26
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Prior to my diagnosis, I'd been exercising regularly. I wouldn't call it strenuous, imho, but I was working out about 6 days a week for 1.5 hours (running and weightlifting.) I was in the best shape of my life. I've been out of hospital for about 10 days and the docs have let me start exercising. I can't do anything near what I was doing, just walking on a treadmill, but I feel that I'm getting stronger and can do a little more everyday. I do feel occassional cramping, but my doctor said that it's muscular (and also in a different area than my inflammation.) My doc is encouraging that I want to be so active, but as always, I guess you just have to listen to your body.
10-22-2010, 04:32 PM   #27
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To me 6 days a week is strenuous. Your not giving your body time to heal. If it has to fix all those broken fibres as well as your bowels then its going to get stressed. I was feeling fine last month and was doing 4hrs a week of kickboxing (2hrs mon and wed) bit of rockclimbing in between, and skydiving/drinking. Managed 3 weeks feeling fine then started to feel tired, next I know my stomachs playing up again, 2wks off and slowly getting back into exercise. Remember to take things very slowly no matter how good you feel. Less stress on the body is the key.
10-22-2010, 04:38 PM   #28
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I can see I must be overdoing it, I keep trying to do my old routine-walk 3-5 miles 5 days a week, weight lifting 3 times a week. My brain has to get in sync with my body!
10-22-2010, 04:42 PM   #29
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Ive never understood weightlifting. Apart from nearly shatting yourself everytime you do a rep, its so boring. Much rather go and do circuit training (maybe thats just an excuse cos i can lift much weight lol)
01-14-2014, 10:16 PM   #30
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My symptoms of Crohn's started about one month after completing my first half marathon and all the training that goes along with it. I was running more than ever in my life and felt great…till the symptoms. Probably a coincidence but I wondered the same thing as this post.
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