REVIEW: ‘Managing IBD: A Balanced Guide to Inflammatory Bowel Disease’ by Jenna Farmer

Follow Jenna on Twitter @abalancedbelly and check out her website: www.abalancedbelly.co.uk

  1. Initial Thoughts

Managing IBD: A Balanced Guide to Inflammatory Bowel Disease” is just that, a balanced guide to navigating a diagnosis and life with IBD. Jenna was diagnosed in China after suffering with IBS for almost ten years prior. The pressing need to find out information – in English – and pursue good care in a foreign country, led her down the path toward her study in Nutritional Therapy and subsequently this book. She says early on that “being alone in a foreign country … forced me to become my own doctor, nutritionist and health advocate all rolled into one” something which is a mean feat, even of its own.

Books about IBD are either dietary based or are personal journeys and memoirs. This book does highlight diets that can be useful to some patients with IBD but also brings an element of the personal story Jenna has had with her IBD. It touches brilliantly on to so many other topics that are related and fundamental to how your life with a diagnosis of IBD. She states are the end of her Introduction;

“I know how difficult it is to live with this disease day in and day out, yet the very fact you’ve brought this books shows you are trying your best to fight it. Be kind to yourself, work with your body and use this book to help you live the best life you can despite having IBD.”

  1. Helpfulness

What struck me first was the titles of the chapters – Adjusting to live with IBD, Food and Supplements, Living Life to the Full with IBD and Other Possible Approaches. When first diagnosed, there is a rush of fear, anxiety and confusion. What will this diagnosis mean, how will it impact on my life, will everything change? And to a certain degree, there is uncertainly which never truly goes away, but becomes more manageable in time. As you progress through this book – with its advice, personal experiences and signposts to other organisations that can help and support you through having IBD – you feel comforted by the fact that having IBD isn’t as awful as once thought, nor should the uncertainly stop you from living as you once did.

She begins by explaining the physiology of the body with Crohn’s, symptoms and signs to note, as well as tests and procedures used to diagnose IBD. She provides space and questions through this chapter to help you gather your thoughts on what causes your symptoms, what questions to ask a specialist and how to best manage your health. It is highlight how empowering and educational asking these questions can be; how they can positivity impact on your mental state as well as helping you move forward through your diagnosis and treatment for your IBD. She also provides links to organisations who can help support you and give you information; a good reference point to help you build up your IBD knowledge.

Jenna is careful to include both effects of food and diet has on your IBD. How certain foods can trigger certain symptoms, how some symptoms can be elevated and how following particular diets can affect the gut. Her nutritionist background has a key role here – she explains the theory of gut bacteria and how to keep this balanced, how this is disrupted in IBD patients and possible ways to improve it without medication.

Living Life to the Full with IBD was a particular interesting chapter title – it focuses on the big questions you might have about the long term affect a IBD diagnosis would have; travelling, working, exercising, socialising with IBD whilst attending hospital. Here, Jenna takes you through some top tips and gives some lovely personal experiences, as well as advice – terribly important under the travelling and working aspects. The title for me was the stand out; it is highlighted from the outright that living life to the full with IBD is possible.

Other approaches to how to deal with IBD are not neglected; they also have their own dedicated section.

  1. Accuracy and Sources

What is evident from the layout and Jenna’s premise behind her writing is that this provides you with the ability to pick and choose different approaches to help you manage your IBD in your own. What works for one person, may not work for the next person; she has provided good and clear information on subjects she is trained in, and excellent signposting to those who can help.

She draws from her own experience – which is valid and has valuable knowledge – and other patients in aspects she has not personally experiences. She also drawn on the knowledge of IBD nurse Kay Greveson and therapist Sally Baker for their own specialties.

  1. Summary

This is not a book which is full of medical jargon which can make it hard to understand. There is a strong personal connection and that is evident in the passion and knowledge written in this book. Jenna has a wonderful writing style which is informative but warm too. Her blend of her own personal experience alongside other patients works well. The use of other expertise does not overpower. I place this book in with my other Crohn’s Disease books – John Bradley’s Foul Bowel and Kathleen Nichols Chronological Order.

For anyone who is looking for a go to medical and personal experience of what to expect from an IBD diagnosis, look no further. A must read for the newly diagnosed.

Disclaimer: Occasionally, I am asked to visit companies, review products and services. I am compensated for my time, which helps pay for the running of this site. I work with companies who I believe have IBD and ostomy patients best interests at heart. In light of this, all views and experiences shared on this blog are mine and of my own honest opinion, and do not reflect the official position of any company I review for or visit.

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