And so it begins. I’ve got the symptoms, I’ve got the diagnosis, and now I’ve got the medicine. But not quite what the doctor prescribed; I told him I’m not interested. My medicine? Food. I’m joining the Paleo community in the fight against Autoimmune Diseases. Crohn’s and Alopecia Areata – you’re going down!
Last month, after years of gastrointestinal turmoil, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. The extent of which is so bad, the stricture that has developed in my large intestine would have closed up altogether if I hadn’t received the urgent (short-term) dosage of steroids when I did. While I began the immediate course of Prednisolone I had to wait a month for my biopsy results as well as the reading of a CT scan that followed my colonoscopy. The CT scan was requested for a full view of my intestines because the inflammation in my bowel was so extensive the doctors couldn’t fit the camera through the passage! (CRINGE!)
I was immediately saddened at the thought of taking steroids as I like to think of myself as one of those ‘hempy’ types; anti-drugs, anti-crap; anti-medical industry. However, given my debilitating state of health I decided 8 weeks wasn’t the end of the world. And it wasn’t. It has been the end of my old world: diarrhea, cramping, bloating, gas, sharp pains, fatigue, constantly needing the toilet etc. All of this totally disappeared within a day of taking the steroids! So there I am, 4 weeks into treatment and feeling happy as Larry. I’m on top of the world; my energy levels have soared, I need the loo only once or twice a day and I can honestly say I finally feel like a normal human being. At the hospital the doctor sits me down, and as expected, confirms that I have Crohn’s disease. He continues by telling me that a section of my large intestine is severely inflamed with a stricture (a narrowing of the colon) that ordinarily should require surgery to cut it out but due to it’s size and location it would be very messy and most likely result in repeat operations, and oh, “no surgeon would want to operate on it”.
Tears well in their ducts and my bottom lip begins to quiver.
“So what we propose instead is that we shut down your immune system’’.
“Sorry, what now?!”
“Given that you also have extensive Alopecia Areata, you clearly have an autoimmune problem. You’re under attack and we need to block it. There’s a very powerful new drug called Infliximab (aka Remicade) that will knock out your immune system”.
“So what do you mean? I’ll have a very weak immune system? But for how long?”
“Yes we’d put you on it indefinitely. Most people with Crohn’s disease are on these types of drugs for life”.
A repugnant rage washed over me. I could have wrung his neck. I knew immediately this was not the answer. Those drugs aren’t cures, they’re masks. They clear the smoke but they don’t put out the fire. It’s all about treating the symptoms. I show symptoms of autoimmunity so their only logic is to target that aggressively, to “bring out the big guns” (no word of lie, I am quoting him directly here). But where’s the consideration for what is actually causing my immune system to be so overactive, so out of control? I’d read enough already to know that diet is the only answer to this question. So I said to him “what about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?” and he responded; “I don’t know what that is”.
I gave up right there and went crying home to Mum and Dad.
I handed them the drug information document (see here) and concluded: I’M NOT DOING IT. They looked a little frightened at first but at the end of reading they firmly agreed. You only need a quick glance over the list of side effects and the method (INTRAVENOUS!) to set the alarm bells ringing. With a nod from Mum I stuffed the papers away, whipped open my laptop and started ordering alternative diet books. Mum had already got me reading about GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) as well as SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) but now I added AIP to my list (Autoimmune Protocol).
In the 4 weeks prior to this discussion with my doctor I had already quit eating sugar and was treating myself with doses of probiotics, kefir and taking antifungals to treat what I believe was an overgrowth of candida albicans (read all about Candida here). I had already been pretty much gluten free for 3 years but the extra step of cutting out sugar and dairy has made a profound difference in terms of intestinal pain, discomfort and diarrhea (albeit majorly helped along by the steroids) but even the doctor was surprised at how well I was doing and the total lack of distention as he pressed my tummy.
Now here’s the biggy: during the past 4 weeks of correcting my diet in this way my hair has started growing back. And not just in one random area. All over! (You can watch my video that shows my alopecia areata here – filmed 3 months ago in March 2015. It got worse than this but I’ll save this story for another post). Of course I’m not oblivious to the fact that there is a possibility the hair growth is due to the steroids but who knows! What I do believe is that by taking my diet a step further and adopting the Autoimmune Protocol (read about it here and here) I can seriously tackle both of my autoimmune diseases at the root and most importantly, without the interference of drugs. All of my positive thoughts are with this. I truly believe I can go this alone.
So watch this space, I’ll be updating you with videos to show the progression of my hair growth and the state of my Crohn’s disease as I reduce the dosage of my steroids over the next 4 weeks and then for the weeks and months that follow. I’ll be incorporating lessons from each of the diet recommendations but mostly implementing AIP with the small addition of live home made yoghurt. I’ll go into further detail about this in my future posts. For me, this isn’t a wacky lifestyle choice. This is about getting well and living life. I can’t wait to share the results!