Don't let your Crohn's win. Beat the Crohn's.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Following the Diet

After receiving e-mails about the diet, I figured I should share what I'm doing and how it's been working for me.
I knew that completely cutting out processed foods and carbs was going to be extremely difficult. I don't eat poorly, but I was never a super healthy eater. I did some research about diets and found out that sugar can actually mess with our brains the exact same way as drugs do. If you take it out cold turkey, you will most likely have withdrawal symptoms and crave it so much that you have to eat sugar again. I decided to start the diet slowly.
I always (unless there weren't any good options) took a dessert after lunch and supper. First off, I cut that out. At first, I really wanted a peanut butter cookie or a piece of chocolate cake, but after a week, I decided to have one, and I didn't even want one. I no longer think about taking a dessert because I just don't want it anymore.
Then, I realized that I ate a lot of bread. When I didn't know what I wanted, I would make a sandwich. Instead of doing that, I would make a quesadilla. It still has grain, but not as much. Once I stopped craving sandwiches, I started making sure I took a salad, piece of meat, and possibly fruit (which isn't on the diet, but I wanted to get into eating healthy).
Throughout this time, I'd stopped drinking milk for every meal. I made sure I drank a glass of water in line for the drinks and then got a second; this is based on other diet articles I read. Water helps clear out our intestines. I stopped putting cheese on my quesadillas and salads and no longer took cottage cheese.
Now, when I crave potato chips or something salty and unhealthy, I eat almonds. I've been doing this long enough that I actually crave almonds over chips. I make sure I eat a small salad with every meal.
I've made myself the goal that by the new year, I will be 100% on this diet. It will have taken me about a month to make the transition, but I don't mind that it took a long time. Having the goal has allowed me to eat a cookie when I want one without feeling guilty, but I'm also working on only eating these foods. It's not difficult, and I feel so much healthier.
I will keep you all updated on how the diet is going and whether I feel better. I never believed a diet would work, but we'll see!
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Cure/Cause of IBD?

Finals are finally done! Which means I have time to write another post. Today, I had the fantastic opportunity to talk with Dr. Steven Gundry from California. He's done some really amazing research, and I'm hoping to summarize his explanation of his theories about the cause of IBD.
Dr. Gundry first was a transplant surgeon, and apparently one of the best. He first began with the joke about how most people stop an elevator from closing with their hands, but surgeons stop it with their heads, because it's the least important part of their body. Joking aside, he took me throughout the timeline of his research. Dr. Gundry and his partner would do heart transplants, and several times it happened that the patients would develop coronary heart disease. They attributed it to the fact that those patients did not have healthy hearts before the transplant, so the same occurred with the new heart. However, the same thing began to happen when they did heart transplants on otherwise healthy kids.
Down the road, Dr. Gundry met a man who cleared his arteries in six months, with diet and supplements alone. This is a crucial part of his journey. He told me that you cannot see anything unless you go in with your eyes open, and without preconceived notions. Many researchers tend to already have theories about what should work, and that's what they end up seeing. Dr. Gundry saw that this man was clearly better, so for a year he tested this diet on himself and other humans. He thought that it worked, but wasn't sure how.
Dr. Gundry began to suggest this diet to his heart patients. His patients had amazing results. What couldn't be completely helped through medication was gone with this diet. Patients with other diseases said that they were even feeling no symptoms from the diet, which made sense because it was anti-inflammatory. People's arthritis was no longer bothering them, and Crohn's patients, who could never get rid of some symptoms no matter what treatment they tried, were symptom free.
At this point, Dr. Gundry looked at what exactly the diet was doing, whether it had more to do with what patients were eating, or what they weren't. What he realized, was that all the foods he had taken out of their diets included the protein lectin. This is a protein similar to gluten, but he has found that it plays a bigger role in autoimmune diseases. When on a gluten free diet, people tend to eat foods that are made from rice or corn, but corn contains 40 proteins that are very similar to gluten, so that explains why a gluten free diet may help, but it usually doesn't completely take away the symptoms of the disease. Lectin is contained within the seeds of certain plants and the genes of American cows (which is why people shouldn't eat cheese or drink milk from the United States).
This is how he explained how lectin is the problem. Plants are smart, a lot smarter than we give them credit. They can make matter from sunlight, which we have not been able to do yet. However, animals are their predators. In order to keep from being eaten, plants will put proteins (which act as poisons) within their seeds (or babies), in order to keep reproducing. Most animals, once they become sick from eating this plant, will stop eating it. He says that humans are pretty dumb; we think that we can overcome these poisons and take tums or immodium instead of not eating the foods that sicken us.
Lectin is contained in plants that were not originally eaten by our ancestors (if you are from European descent, possibly others as well), such as corn, potatoes, and seeds of fruits. At the beginning of human life (about 30 million or billion years ago), we only ate plants with two leaves. Although they also contain a poison, we had a long time to adapt and be able to digest them. Up until we were introduced to different foods (roughly 10,000 years ago), there is no evidence of arthritis in the skeletal remains of humans. As well, before that time period, most humans averaged to be over 6 feet tall. After then, humans shrunk to an average of about 4 feet, 10 inches (roughly 8,000 years ago). It took only 2,000 years to feel the damaging effect of eating poisons their bodies weren't used to. As he said, 10,000 years is merely a blink of time compared to the 30 (million/billion) years that we've had to evolve to be able to eat green, leafy vegetables.
The Kitavan society from the South Pacific eats no grains, and its only starch is from the taro root. They live well into their 90's with no modern medical care; they have no strokes, heart disease, or many other diseases of the modern world. And they smoke.
Italians refused to eat tomatoes until about 300 years ago because they believed the seeds to be poisoned. Irish people refused to eat potatoes until they had a famine 150 years ago because they believed them to be poisonous.
People with autoimmune diseases have a hyper-sensitive immune system. Dr. Gundry explained that when our immune system sees these toxins in our body, they attack more heavily than they do in a normal person's body.
Dr. Gundry also said that most people with IBD can relate the start of their symptoms to a certain event in their life, one that is usually related to stress or taking antibiotics. This is because our body relies heavily on the bacteria within our gut. There's about 5 pounds of bacteria in our gut, but they contain more genetic information than the rest of our cells combined. If these are messed up, such as by antibiotics or stress, it can start the onset of IBD if we are genetically predisposed to it.
I know this post isn't super well organized, but I'm still processing all of this as well. I was never a big believer in diets; throughout my 10 years I've been on tons of different diets, and none (except for liquid) have made me feel any better. However, I've been trying this diet (cheating a little bit now and again) for about 2-3 weeks now, and I had my first day of no loose bowel movements in months, if not over a year. I've gone through years of no remission, but I'm finally hopeful.
If you're interested in the diet here's what you can't eat:
Dairy products from the U.S.
What you can eat:
Green, leafy vegetables
Meats (preferably organic)
French cheese or milk
Sheep and goat milk/cheese
If you have questions, feel free to message me!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Uncertainties of a Clinical Trial

Tomorrow is my week 6 appointment for the Ustekinumab clinical trial.
I had a great week about fours weeks ago in which I had only 2-3 bowel movements a day, and very little pain, but I'm back to 5ish a day and difficulties sleeping because of the pain. I get tired so easily and I don't like eating because it just causes more pain.
Sometimes it is so frustrating to be on a clinical trial. I have no idea if I even got the medication. However, there was that one week of being quite a bit closer to a remission state, so I want to have hope that I got the medicine and that it could possibly work for me. As well, because I've been back to where I started, if not a little worse, I know for sure I will get the drug this next time, so I will hopefully be able to tell if it's going to do anything for me.
This whole not knowing thing just gets to me. If I actually got the placebo, but I had that one really great week, why did it only last one week? And what could I do to get that back, because it wouldn't have been from the medication. But if I did get it, why did I only feel good for that one week? Why are my symptoms worsening on it?
Being on a clinical trial, well, I don't really have much hope left to ever reach a remission status. If this doesn't work... then what do I do? I go on another clinical trial and go through all of this uncertainty again?
Mrs. Buntrock told me about her no-carb, no-sugar diet. While it sounds like it's really worked for her, I'm 19 years old. I would be restricting myself from eating pretty much everything. I love pizza and ice cream, I really don't want to stop eating it for the rest of my life.
There's a lot of times where I wonder if I will ever reach a remission status. Since I was 10, I have had 2-3 months where I had few enough symptoms to be considered in remission. Is that what I have to look forward to the rest of my life? While I love learning about different medications and the theories of the cause of IBD, I would much rather learn about it from a book and not as a patient. At least I'll have plenty of personal experience when I'm a gastroenterologist.
All these questions, but no answers. I just hope that all the data they get from me brings us a little bit closer to understanding IBD.