This is an incredible guest post from our friend Julie, who used food to beat her son’s Crohn’s into remission… but it didn’t stop there. This loving mother worked so hard to care for her son that she triggered Ulcerative Proctitis in her own body.
The power of the story is not only in the amazing transformation they experienced from food, but in the love of a family and how it can overcome anything. I can’t wait to share Julie’s story with you.
I’ve always believed that what you eat matters, so when my son was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2006, I was convinced his gastroenterologist needed to return to 5th grade health to review the purpose of the intestinal tract after telling my son “DIET DOES NOT MATTER.”
“My happy tempered son dropped to the depth of depression, hinting of ending life”
Desperate to get on the road to healing and off the couch, my son endured all the recommended toxic drug therapies prescribed for over 14 months, until his mild-moderate Crohn’s progressed to severe. The numerous oral drugs, biologic infusions, and four rounds of heavy steroids resulted in a significant loss of weight, stunted growth, brittle bones (osteopenia), continued flares and symptoms, “moon face,” and no return to any glimmer of quality of life. During this period, remission from his symptoms was never achieved. In fact, my easy going, positive thinking, happy tempered son dropped to the depth of depression, hinting of ending life rather than facing continued dark days with ill health.
“Just five days after starting The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), my son experienced a return to formed bowel movements”
Panic took over my life at this point and I did what a mother does when feeling cornered, I pounced. I took leave from my job, emptied all processed food from cupboards, fridge, and pantry, and announced to my family that we were all going to change the way we eat. Through this effort came a 3-month period of welcomed remission. Just five days after starting The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), my son experienced a return to formed bowel movements, energy, a relief in symptoms, and a basic joy from participating in life again. But at his young age of 12, all was soon forgotten as he felt a return of health, and it became more important to fit in with his peers than to adhere to SCD. Experience is a great teacher if you allow it! Left alone to make his own choices for his body, we all, as a family, went off the diet for approximately 3 months. My son continued on his drug regimen, as he had all along, and again, without fail, his condition progressed.
“Through all this… there is no real description of what I, as his mother, and our family endured, except TOTAL HELL.”
On what he swore would be his last round of steroids, motivated to regain over a foot of lost height, participate in sports, and be included in activities with friends as he was entering his high school years, my son again committed, this time 100%, to an important change of lifestyle; EATING TO LIVE versus LIVING TO EAT. Now, at the age of 15, he understood clearly what he could not see in his youth, or maybe what he could now see given hindsight, health is everything. He restarted SCD the month before entering high school and has never looked back. Through all this, pre-diagnosis to the moment he successfully took control of his health through SCD, there is no real description of what I, as his mother, and our family endured, except TOTAL HELL.
It was hard enough to accept the onset of illness in a healthy child, but it became even more complicated with the misleading perceptions and opinions of medical professionals and the often well-meaning family and friends. Constantly questioning myself whether I was doing the right thing for my son left no room for others to question why I was spending so much time and effort implementing a diet that was restrictive when my son was already severely underweight and nutritionally challenged. Deep in my gut, I knew that this made sense and moved forward. Specialist after specialist was ineffective in treating his inflammation, symptoms, poor nutrition, low calcium, cortisol, and iron levels, brittle bones, and lack of growth. This only made me more determined to figure things out. And figure it out I did, but in the process through all the stress, rendered my own immune system weak and vulnerable.
“Approximately two years after my son’s diagnosis, that I was hospitalized for one month with Ulcerative Colitis”
It was the day after Christmas, approximately two years after my son’s diagnosis, that I was hospitalized for one month with Ulcerative Colitis. Symptoms had been creeping up on me. Prior to my son’s diagnosis, my 50-year-old colon had been given the admirable description of “the colon of a twenty-year old” by my gastroenterologist. But a year into my son’s illness, my bowel movements changed, and a year later as I relaxed knowing I had my son on a healthy road, I was forced to pay attention to my own progressing symptoms. My beautiful “twenty year old colon” had deteriorated into disease; Ulcerative Proctitis.
“Lying in my hospital bed 25 pounds lighter… I struggled to even hold my cell phone to my ear to talk”
Lying in my hospital bed 25 pounds lighter, non-stop bleeding, propped up 24 hours a day to avoid pain, and so weak I struggled to
even hold my cell phone to my ear to talk, I too endured heavy doses of IV steroids, the loss of my hair, two failed PICC lines (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters) to provide IV nutrition bypassing the stomach, resulting in a blood clot in one arm, and a surgery to place a J-line in my neck for Total Parenteral IV Nutrition (TPN), given the failed PICC lines. To complicate matters, I underwent blood transfusions on three different occasions, due to a doctor’s refusal to cut the dose of blood thinner being administered to manage the clot in my arm. This caused my already bleeding bowels to bleed even more profusely for hours until transfusions were necessary.
“Two weeks of hospital and aggressive drug intervention did not give me the relief that I felt after just eleven days on the intro foods of SCD”
Seeing my life literally deteriorate in front of my eyes as my condition worsened, doctors now insisting on initiating biologic infusions, nurses pushing morphine, and unable to call off the threats of the surgeons that visited my room every morning encouraging me to have my colon removed, I once again trusted my gut instinct over others’ advice. I asked friends and family to bring the intro food for SCD to me in the hospital. Two weeks of hospital and aggressive drug intervention did not give me the relief that I felt after just eleven days on the intro foods of SCD. This diet was my ticket home, and has been my ticket back to 100% health. Implementing SCD was not an easy road to navigate, that is for sure, as there is a lot of reading between the lines required to add to the information first laid out by Elaine Gottschall in Breaking The Vicious Cycle in order to be successful. But I had been down this road before and the path was clear… I had confidence that this diet would work for me as I saw it work for my son. (Steve & Jordan where were you back then?)
Now, when I see others suffering, stressed, struggling, enduring unbelievable pain and surgery after surgery, dealing with embarrassing situations, desperate to find health and not knowing where to turn, I find myself wondering, what would have happened to my family had I not followed my instincts to take advantage of advocating for my son and myself in managing our health? How many more drug trials would there have been? How many surgeries would my son or I have faced? What other health problems would we be faced with as a result of side effects from toxic drugs, chronic inflammation, and complicated surgeries? Could our family have endured more stressful years watching and waiting for the right drug to come along as our quality of life slipped away? I know what the answers might have been to all these questions. Gratefully, I did not have to go there.
My son’s confidence, maturity, amazing self-discipline, and ability to see past the moment at a young age when fitting in with peers was paramount, transported him to where he is today…attending college and socializing full time, up at 4a.m. to row Crew, with additional land workouts in the afternoon, living on campus in the dorms, and cooking SCD for himself, for his health, for his love of life.
“We have made SCD a way of life, not a diet, and we no longer LIVE TO EAT, but preferably EAT TO LIVE”
I am attempting to pay forward my good health, helping others to shorten their journey with a chronic illness by sharing the knowledge I gained through mine. My son and I both continue to enjoy good health, drug-free. We have made SCD a way of life, not a diet, and we no longer LIVE TO EAT, but preferably EAT TO LIVE.
Note: Julie has continued her career as an Occupational Therapist, carving out a new niche with a naturopathic physician who provides complementary care for patients with IBD, as she supports the implementation of The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) as well as the lifestyle changes imperative to successfully self-manage a chronic illness. Julie also runs a monthly SCD Support Group. Please check out her bio and similar “Story of Healing from Crohn’s and Colitis” at http://www.pearlnaturalhealth.com.