What happens when a trained pastry chef gets diagnosed with ulcerative colitis?
Today’s guest – our friend Michelle – had just that happen to her.
And when conventional treatments weren’t doing a thing to touch her UC symptoms, she decided to try SCD.
Yep, Michelle went from pastry chef to full-time SCD’er.
(More proof that if she can do it, anyone can!)
Now Michelle is 5 years into UC remission and the proud owner of a gut-healthy bakery and cafe.
Here is her story…
A Lifetime of Symptoms
Sometimes I don’t know where to begin my story. Looking back, I know my symptoms started when I was about 8 years old, but because I didn’t complain of stomach aches or pains, that area of my body was never discussed.
Almost my entire life, I suffered from chronic hives (treated with multiple rounds of steroids), recurring sinus infections, and headaches (for which I took too many rounds of antibiotics to count). I learned to live with the diagnosis (chronic hives with no known source) and took antihistamines every day.
Then the Bottom Fell Out
I went back to school in 2008 to pursue a career as a pastry chef – a lifelong dream! I was a single mom with 4 young children and had to go back to work. I decided to follow my passion to become a chef and was excited about the future.
I went to school each day and created desserts and pastries with flour, sugar, milk, and cream. And of course, lots of baking powder and yeast. And the worst part was, each day I came home and ate lots and lots of what I made…”homework.”
Eventually, I graduated and starting working. I loved it.
But I began getting sick quite a bit – fatigue and exhaustion were setting in – I assumed it was because I was working 12-hour days and then coming home to take care of my children (another full-time job!).
The Night Everything Changed
I was sitting in the high school auditorium for my son’s first film festival and began to feel pain in my stomach that was unlike anything I had ever felt before. I needed a bathroom. Badly. We had eaten Chinese take-out that night while rushing to get to the film festival. I assumed it was the Chinese food. I went to bed thinking it was over. I had no idea what was coming.
The next morning, I got up and headed to visit a friend at the hospital who was about to have open heart surgery. As I was sitting with him, I began to feel the same pains from the night before, but worse (I didn’t even think that was possible).
I excused myself to use the bathroom in the pre-op area, and so it began. For several hours, I sat in that bathroom, unable to leave and trying to assure all of the nurses that kept knocking that I was ok. I wasn’t.
My Diagnosis: Ulcerative Colitis
Over the next 6 weeks, I lost 22 pounds and could not leave my house. Quickly diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I began a treatment of Lialda and Rowesa. No improvement, so the doctor sent me to begin Remicade infusions.
If having UC isn’t scary enough, signing the forms for treatment that lists all of the possible side effects could push anyone over the edge. But I signed.
Months later, I hadn’t gained any weight and was not experiencing any relief from the UC symptoms. I had no quality of life. I could barely eat anything. I couldn’t leave my house.
My children were late to school 27 times that year because I could not get out of the bathroom in the morning to get them to school. And, of course, I couldn’t work. My dream of becoming a pastry chef dissolved. Something had to change.
The Answer Was The Specific Carbohydrate Diet
I began to research, and like many others, found the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). I read everything I could get my hands on, and researched where I needed to know more.
Armed with information, I approached my doctor and suggested it as an option, since nothing we were doing so far was working. He politely dismissed the idea and told me we could begin a course of steroids.
As I drove home that day, I began to feel real anger.
Why would I not try a diet that might help? I had no control over my life and my body at that point; here was something that I could control: what I eat and put into my body.
By the time I arrived home, I had decided I was going to do this. And no more Remicade.
I cleaned out the kitchen and started over the very next morning. No grains, no gluten and no refined sugars. Only approved dairy items, and I made the yogurt.
Big Changes, Fast with SCD
Within 48 hours, I began to feel better. Over the course of the next few weeks, I gained weight and began to go for walks. I felt good!
My next visit to my GI doctor was quite surprising: he told me it would not last. Food, he said, is not the answer to my UC.
Well, this July 4th was my 5-year anniversary of being free of UC!
I guess he was wrong.
The Start of a New Life
But the story does not end there: I was very depressed when I became sick and my dream of being a party chef had disappeared. I love food and, as a chef, love preparing food for others. As I began to make new foods for myself, starting with the recipes from Breaking the Vicious Cycle and eventually creating my own. Then, my friends and neighbors started asking to buy it.
Who knew there were so many people in my own small town that needed this? Within 6 months, I was working 7 days per week trying to keep up with the demand.
My children and my then-fiancé, happy to see me working again but unhappy with the revolving door in our home, suggested that I open up a shop. I thought, wait, what? Who would come besides my current customers?
With some encouraging, I began to look but was nervous. It would be great to do what I loved and help other people at the same time. A place that would help people like myself.
But I wondered, what if it failed? Until one evening when my fiancé gave me these words of wisdom: You can’t soar like an eagle and crap like a canary. I still laugh every time I hear that! But he was right. I believed in this and I had to take that leap.
And I Made Lemonade
I took my “lemons” and created a bakery & cafe that helps people who have autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s, UC, Celiac, and so many others: Squirrel & The Bee Bakery.
And while I worried about whether or not people would come, we are about to celebrate our 3-year anniversary this month. I still cannot believe it.
We see customers each and every day who come from all over because they know it is safe here. And because they know they can find food that supports their health. I know that I am blessed. Squirrel & The Bee Bakery has brought more into my life than I could have ever imagined or dreamed possible.
My Kids Are Healthier, Too
This change in my life has not only been good for me, but for my kids as well. All issues that they were experiencing have resolved: no more eczema, asthma, seasonal allergies. My youngest daughter grew 4 inches the first year on the diet!
I wish I had known years ago what I know today so that I could have fed them differently. But I didn’t know then, and today I am grateful for what I have learned so that I can help to make their future healthy.
I am so thankful to the community who has helped me along the way, teaching me and answering questions. And I am grateful that I am able to do what I love in a meaningful way, not only feeding people, but helping to keep them healthy.
And so off to the kitchen I go!
If you’ve been scared to try SCD because it’s really different from the way you eat now, I hope Michelle’s story can inspire you.
Ready to make your own lemonade like Michelle did? Learn more about SCD and get started for free with our Quick Start Guide.
P.S. – What’s the number one thing you need help with? Let us know in the comments section below.