My UC stories can fill volumes (or toilet bowls), but I will boil it down to a few paragraphs. Bottom line: there is hope, but you may not find it at your GI’s office.
My background: I am a partner at a large law firm, practicing in Northern California. I was diagnosed with UC in early 2005 at the age of 43. Four years later, I had run through the battery of available meds. Asacol, Colazol, Prednisone, 6MP (imuran), Rowasa enemas, Cortaid enemas, sulfasalzine (I broke out in hives due to an allergy) and Remicade (yuck). None worked very well for me or controlled the symptoms for more than a few weeks or months. I was suffering a flare that had lasted for about 2 years, when my regular GI referred me to the head of GI at Stanford. Her conclusion was that I should talk to a surgeon.
At age 47, I wasn’t ready to give up on my colon. Despite struggling with the disease and trying all the meds, I hadn’t really changed my behavior or my diet. I was still working crazy hours, juggling the demands of my practice, suffering in an unhappy marriage and trying to be a father to 3 teenage sons. Although I experimented with probiotics, kiefer, aloe juice and coconut oil, and tried to avoid some of the obvious foods that sent me sprinting to the john, I hadn’t fundamentally changed my eating habits, which pretty much conformed to the Standard American Diet (or “SAD”).
In early 2009, I realized something needed to change. I read “Self Healing Crohns and Colitis” by Dr. David Klein, a naturopath. He recommended a three-part approach: 1) rest – to allow the body to heal and regenerate; 2) dietary change – Klein had success with a fruit-based vegan diet; and 3) recreation – have some fun, get some sun, try yoga, meditation, etc.
I followed Dr. Klein’s advice and made self-healing a priority. I took a medical leave from work, moved out of my house in Silicon Valley and rented a cabin on a hillside in the Sonoma countryside. With help from a vegan boot camp, I radically revamped my diet. (Big shout out to my friends at True North in Santa Rosa.) I gave up animal-based foods, processed foods and grains (except oat meal). Alcohol, caffeinated beverages and diet drinks were totally off limits. I was basically surviving on fruit-packed oat meal (cooked in apple juice), dairy-free smoothies and protein shakes, salads and roasted/grilled veggies. I slept a lot, and tried to enjoy myself as much as possible with yoga classes, mountain bike riding, hikes, etc. I also separated from my ex-witch and started dating.
All of this yielded immediate positive effects. With the dietary changes, I experienced pretty dramatic weight loss, dropping from about 190 to 155 pounds in just a few months. After about 6 months, my weight stabilized and I generally was feeling much better. But the UC symptoms persisted. I felt like I hadn’t had a solid stool in years.
That was about to change. A friend recommended that I see Dr. Lise Parenteau, an applied kinesiologist (“AK”) practicing in San Francisco. Before my first appointment, Dr. P interviewed me by phone. She asked whether I was prepared to change my diet in order to get better. This was a “no brainer” since I had basically gone vegan for six months and was beginning to test out what I could add to my diet without aggravating my colon.
My first appointment with Dr. Parenteau lasted nearly two hours, as she performed the battery of muscle tests that are at the core of AK. It was the strangest physical examination I ever had. At the end of the examination, she put me on a combination of supplements and vitamins.
Dr. P also recommended a diet that is very similar to the SCD. I’ve been at it for a couple of years (sometimes more, sometimes less, religiously). Every meal includes a mix of healthy fats, eggs or animal proteins, and vegetables. Like the SCD, sugars, starches, most dairy, processed foods, most grains, alcohol, coffee and diet sodas are off limits.
One more positive factor to throw in the mix: on the same day that I filed for divorce, I met a beautiful young woman and we fell deeply in love. (We married a year later on 10-10-10).
Within weeks, the blood and mucous disappeared. The diarrhea went away and, before long, I was down to less than 5 poops per day, with loggers in the pot. And by the end of 2009, I was feeling strong enough to return to work.
I don’t want to give false hope. My UC certainly hasn’t been cured. While good lovin’, healthy food and visits to Dr. P every few weeks have been more effective for me than the pharmaceuticals my GI had prescribed, I flared for a couple months this year and last year. The flares are tied pretty closely to increased work stress and straying from my diet.
Fortunately, the flares have receded. No more blood and mucous when I wipe. The loggers have returned and the cramps and extreme urgency are gone (unless I sneak a small coffee at the office). I chalk the improvements up to getting medieval on my diet, as well as following new protocols from Dr. P, together with a healthy dose of sweetness from my new wife. And this year, after my colonoscopy showed UC involvement throughout my colon, I started taking Asacol again and was pleasantly surprsed when I went into remission two weeks later.
As the stories on this site show, UC can wreak havoc on your life. But there is reason for hope. I feel dramatically better than I did three years ago, when I abandoned the hard-core medical interventions and pursued a path of self healing. In many ways, I’m thankful for having UC. It has caused profound changes that have improved my life for the better. Even if I lose my colon to surgery one day, I expect I will live a longer, healthier and much happier life because of UC and the trans-formative effect it has had on my diet, my lifestyle and my outlook on life.