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I was always a kid who just loved food. When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at nine years old, one of the hardest parts was the drastic changes to my diet and lifestyle. I was in the hospital at least four times between the ages of 9-12. Once was for surgery to remove a stricture in my intestines; the other three visits were because my flares had gotten out of control. Drastic measures included nasal nighttime feedings to replace all food, discussions of an esophageal stent, steroids, and additional surgeries (my first one only gave me about five months of remission). Through it all, my family and doctors were wonderful, always encouraging a balance between my health care and my need to feel normal. A few years later, we found ourselves frustrated that my medications weren’t getting us anywhere. My side effects varied on different medications over the years: joint pain, constipation, weight gain, body aches, even hot flashes/overheating due to an inability to sweat in one case. I knew I didn't want to be on medication for the rest of my life, and "preventative" wasn't a good enough reason to stay on 8-16 pills per day. More drastic solutions were being proposed. My mother took me out of the hospital and decided we were going to try this on our own. I went on a liquid diet (packed with nutrients) for a month, and my disease instantly calmed down. That was my first experience realizing the power of lifestyle choices and of taking responsibility for your part in your own health care. Against doctor’s orders, I stopped taking my medications about ten years later. My disease was under control, and I’ve managed my Crohn’s with lifestyle choices for the last decade or so. By no means do I recommend anyone simply stop taking their meds or ignore their doctors’ orders, but I wish more would seek alternative solutions and push for a more holistic approach to health care. Whether that means focusing on nutrition or exploring the benefits of Pilates or yoga for joint inflammation, listening to your body is always the first step! Years later, I’m still passionate about food. I love to cook and read every restaurant blog I can get my hands on. I’ve learned to swap in vegetables I’ve found are easier to digest like arugula, sweet peppers, and zucchini, choose lean protein like eggs and fish, and limit my gluten to nutrition-packed multi-grains in small doses. Cooking should celebrate simple, fresh, local, and organic (for me) ingredients; But most importantly, everything in moderation - including moderation! Because sometimes you just need a perfect slice of margherita pizza.