Health

3 Olympic Athletes Share What It’s Like to Manage Their Crohn’s Disease

Managing a chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease can be more than uncomfortable and disruptive to your daily life. However, you can stay active and pursue the activities you enjoy with the right treatment plan. Famous Olympic athletes with Crohn’s disease such as Kathleen Baker, Alyxandria Treasure, and Carrie Johnson are all examples of people who have achieved remarkable goals while living with the condition.

Managing a chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease can be more than uncomfortable and disruptive to your daily life. However, you can stay active and pursue the activities you enjoy with the right treatment plan. Famous athletes with Crohn’s disease have even made it to the Olympics. Kathleen Baker, Alyxandria Treasure, and Carrie Johnson are all examples of people who have achieved remarkable goals while living with the condition.

Crohn’s is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that creates inflammation in your digestive tract and causes abdominal pain and other symptoms. When Crohn’s disease is active, meaning someone experiences symptoms, a person may have fatigue, severe diarrhea, and even become malnourished from not absorbing nutrients, according to the Mayo Clinic. Understandably so, these symptoms could make it incredibly hard to do your daily routine—let alone a workout. However, having Crohn’s disease doesn’t mean you need to avoid being active, says Alyssa M. Parian, M.D., an associate clinical director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Parian encourages all of her patients with Crohn’s disease to aim for at least 30 minutes of activity, five times per week. “You should continue to work with your providers to feel good and to be able to go out and do all of the things that you want to do,” she tells SELF.

There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes can make it possible for people with Crohn’s to pursue their goals—as evidenced by Baker, Treasure, and Johnson. Of course, not everyone desires to become an Olympic athlete, but these three show that it is possible to have a full life with Crohn’s disease. Here are their stories:

1. Swimmer Kathleen Baker tried several Crohn’s disease treatments to find what works best.

Maddie Meyer / Getty

Kathleen Baker, Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder in the 100m backstroke and 4×100 meter relay, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2010. Now 24 years old, the elite swimmer is an ambassador with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation where she spreads awareness about the condition at events. “I never wanted to be labeled by my illness,” Baker wrote in her LinkedIn ambassador volunteer description. “Making the Olympic Team gave me the courage and the platform to share my story so I could hopefully inspire others,” she said.

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