Why Baking Is Therapeutic for Me as Someone with Digestive Problems
After developing chronic digestive problems, I started baking much more than I did previously. While it might sound counterintuitive to suddenly develop an interest in making food after being required to restrict what you eat, I have found that baking has been more beneficial to me now than it ever has been. Baking can be therapeutic to many people who do not have a chronic illness. The actual process of baking, which involves following step-by-step instructions and carrying out repetitive tasks, can be soothing. Baking for others has been studied as being beneficial due to invoking a feeling of altruism and allowing for self-expression. As a person with a chronic illness, and especially as someone who has digestive problems, baking provides me with additional benefits. Baking has allowed me to form a positive relationship with food again and has allowed me to enjoy foods that I otherwise would have had to give up completely.
Many people with chronic digestive problems, myself included, have a complicated relationship with food. Before I was treated for my conditions, I experienced chronic nausea and vomiting, acid-reflux, bloating, constipation, and other related symptoms. Dealing with these symptoms daily made me afraid to eat and made me associate food with pain and nausea. The management of my conditions requires me to follow a heavily restricted diet. Because of my gastroparesis, for example, I need to avoid foods high in fiber and limit my intake of fat. Dealing with these restrictions decreased the pleasure I would get from eating because I had to adjust to avoiding many foods I used to love. Baking has helped me develop a positive relationship with food again by allowing me to associate preparing food with pleasant memories. Baking with friends has especially allowed me to make fond memories centered around food.
Another benefit of baking is that it allows me to have control over what I put into the foods I make. I often cannot eat baked goods that are sold in stores and restaurants due to their containing ingredients that I have to avoid. When buying pre-made baked goods, you also have to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what goes into them and not knowing how they were prepared. When I bake, I can specially alter recipes to fit my restricted diet. Baking has allowed me to enjoy foods that I previously had to give up without the risk of them making me sick. Baking your own foods also allows you to know exactly what goes into them and what equipment they are made on, eliminating the uncertainty that comes with buying prepared food.
In general, I find that developing a hobby can be an effective coping mechanism for living with a chronic health condition. The ability to focus my energy on practicing a skill allows me to distract myself from the realities of chronic illness and from the depression that sets in as a result. The hobby I happened to become passionate about is baking. I wish anyone reading this well when pursuing their own hobbies that they use to cope.