I Beat my Crohn's through Diet
(An article by one of our patients)
Five years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory disorder that produces diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating, fever and a range of other unsettling symptoms. Conventional treatment consists of steroids and, if eventually necessary, surgery to remove sections of the bowel.
In my case, I was also suffering from most unpleasant sinus headaches and catarrh - again a long-standing condition. These latter symptoms were becoming more and more obviously related to food, and would come on with or immediately after virtually every meal. So, as my activities were becoming curtailed and I was feeling rather desperate, I decided to consult the IBS and Gut Disorder Centre to see just how much any or all of my symptoms might be linked with food.
I was asked to complete three detailed questionnaires and after some further questions pronounced that I was suffering from an overgrowth of Candida, a yeast organism which we all have in our intestines and which, in some people, grows out of control, producing a host of unpleasant symptoms. It was suggested that I follow a diet involving the exclusion of all wheat, all cereals (oats, rye, etc.), all yeast, all sugar and foods containing sugar, and anything that had been fermented. This meant excluding wine, beer, cider and whisky. I was also prescribed tablets to kill off the yeast and special probiotics to replenish my gut with friendly bacteria. My natural colonies of the latter, was suggested, had been destroyed by a lengthy dose of antibiotics I had taken in my teens.
I initially doubted whether I could manage such a strict dietary regime. Yet radical though the measures were, my resolve was strong, given the scale of my problems. I was sent me away with a sheet of suggested menus and I began my six-week treatment.
I lived on my new diet for six weeks before going back for my next appointment, and I have to say that I implemented it very strictly. I think I had a glass of champagne during that time, but that was about the only lapse. And I probably ate better during this period than for many years. I rediscovered what it was like to cook and to have a varied diet rather than relying on one thing all the time. And, of course, I was forced to read labels. Snacks were the most difficult part because all the things I would usually reach for were now out of bounds. Rice cakes, nuts and carrots ended up doing duty instead.
What surprised me was how rapidly I saw the beneficial effects on my digestive system. And it was only then that I fully realised how much I had been suffering. I had often assumed that the problem was that I couldn’t tolerate fibre but, with a large chunk of my diet now comprising vegetables and salads, this was evidently not the case. All those bowel and stomach symptoms - the constant discomfort - vanished like magic. No more getting up in the night, or gritting my teeth through meetings, or worrying about travel. No more athlete’s foot either, and I had (despite the most scrupulous hygiene) been plagued by that seemingly intractable condition for as long as 25 years!
My energy levels improved markedly. I particularly noticed that the afternoon dips in energy and the flaking out in the early evening tended to disappear. I felt hungry and unsatisfied for a lot of the time at first, but this was, after all, a period of adjustment. Somehow I knew that the feeling of emptiness was not ‘genuine’ but more a function of withdrawal. Also my skin condition generally improved, something that several people commented on. And the excessive catarrh on eating was much reduced.
It is amazing how transient one’s memories of discomfort can be. I returned to see Victoria Tyler and the results were no surprise to her; the way forward was for me to continue to adhere to the diet. And yet after a while temptation crept back in: a slice of cake here, a biscuit there, a piece of bread. And along with these lapses my symptoms returned, reminding me of just how much improvement there had been and how awful I had felt before the diet. The answer, in particular, was to keep off wheat and cereals. If I started having sugar again, my skin condition deteriorated and my athlete’s foot came back.
In my case, the answer to Crohn’s and my other symptoms has been both easy and difficult. Although I continue to take anti-inflammatory medication, the whole constellation of unpleasant symptoms has been eliminated by mere attention to diet. For me this is a fact and it’s a simple and straightforward one. But changing your diet can be an initially traumatic process, and thereafter not easy to maintain. We are surrounded by debased and degraded foods laden with sugar, and we tend to rely on a single substance - wheat - day in and day out. Breaking free from this is, in practical, social and even cultural terms not easy, but the rewards in terms of health have been, in my case, extraordinary.
Crohn's Colitis Solutions
Harley Street London, Oxford, 9 Weymouth Street London W1
0345 129 7996
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