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My Gut Reaction: How to Run the Distance with Crohn’s 

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Ali Feller is always on the run.

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Ali Feller doesn’t remember what life was like before Crohn’s Disease. The podcast host and founder of the popular blog Ali On the Run was diagnosed when she was seven, and has been dealing with the chronic disease since. But when she moved to New York at the age of 22 and saw some shiny half marathon medals on her new roommate’s wall, she found a new love—and outlet for the daily difficulty of dealing with Crohn’s.

“I was a dancer growing up, and running to me, that was punishment,” she says, laughing. “In fifth grade, we had to run a mile and I hid under the bleachers after the first lap and then just popped out at the end and tried to convince my teacher I had been running the whole time. He was not fooled. He knew that I was lying. That was my one experience running. Hated it. Didn't know that running was a thing people chose to do.”

Fast forward, and Feller has completed seven full marathons and uses running as a way to handle the chronic stresses of Crohn’s. “When I’m flaring, I tend to get very depressed,” she says. “The mental toll that having a chronic illness takes has been harder on me than the physical toll.”

After having Crohn’s for the majority of her life, Feller knows she can handle the physical symptoms—the stomach cramps, the flare ups, “running for the bathroom 30 times a day”—but the mental stresses wear on her. Running provides an outlet. The freedom of pounding the pavement is a release. The endorphins from the running high become a welcome reprieve. Running keeps her balanced, especially when things get hard.

“I know how to handle the physical toll, and I can remind myself that that's temporary,” she says. “But the mental side of things: the not knowing when the flare is gonna end, the not being able to be social or live the life that I want. Or even walk my dog around the block. That for me can be really hard. Getting outside, even if it's just for 15 minutes, even if I just go for a 10-minute jog down the road, that can turn my entire day around, and that's something that's particularly powerful when I'm flaring.”

Probiotics have helped, too. Feller started taking them five years ago. She was apprehensive at first, but after some extensive research with her husband she decided to give it a shot. “I did need a little extra help, a little extra love from my gut that I wasn't getting and so that's what finally convinced me is that accepting what I was doing wasn't working and I needed to try something new if I wanted to get better,” she says. “I hadn't opened my mind to those possibilities and I didn't believe that that could work for me. I was very closed minded about my medical care.” And probiotics, like Renew Life's Ultimate Flora Extra Care Probiotic 50B, can make living with a condition like Crohn’s more tolerable. It’s not a silver bullet, but it has the potential—under the guidance of your physician—to make day-to-day life more comfortable.

As for running? That's Feller's own self-prescribed antidote. “It’s worked for me all the time,” she says. “And that's kind of why I fell for running really fast.”