A friend of mine asked me to share my battle with ulcerative colitis and food allergies. I wrote so much I thought I would post it here in hopes it may help someone. Please feel free to email me if you have other questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was really at the end of my rope with the intestinal stuff. It was the 2nd bout I’d had with a partial blockage. It was killing me. I knew I was going to have to go to the hospital and they would put me on nasty drugs or do surgery. I knew the ongoing disease process put me at risk of cancer, too. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) at 17, but was just told to avoid dairy and alcohol. No drugs; no surgery. A colonoscopy in the midst of chronic diarrhea after I had my 2nd baby was normal though. Something was weird since I’d had 2 colonoscopies at 17 that confirmed UC.
So at church I admitted the problem and my friends prayed. I went home and was crying. I told God I’d go to the hospital but that I really wanted healing. I felt a warm tingle go through my whole body. I fell asleep. When I woke up, the pain was gone. At that time, an online acquaintance told me about a book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, that described a diet that had helped her dh who also had UC. I said, NO WAY. I had already been delivered from my overeating problem by giving up dieting. I wasn’t going to go back to a diet! She just said, “OK” which made me want to read it. LOL If she’d tried to convince me, I wouldn’t have ordered the book and read it, but I did.
I was surprised to learn that the diet was supposed to heal you in a year or two so you could eat normally again. Turns out it didn’t work that way for me, but if I had known that ahead of time, I wouldn’t have tried it and found the relief I’ve always wanted. The diet is devastatingly difficult. I cried for 9 months. I’m not exaggerating. To really do it, you have to stay off everything. No licks or tastes or cheats. I went through withdrawals. But within a week, I felt better than I’d ever felt in my entire life. That kept me going. So did the painful diarrhea I got when I accidentally ate the “illegal” foods on vacation.
The diet is no-grain, no sugar (but honey is OK), no yeast, no soy, no dairy except lactose-free cheeses and yogurt, no potatoes, no canned veggies. Getting the picture? The theory is that people with all kinds of digestive disorders (UC, Crohn’s, IBS, Celiac) are eating too many carbs and the body can’t digest them all. They sit in the gut undigested where they feed the bad bacteria. The bad guys overwhelm the good guys and irritate the gut, causing ulcers. In order the kill the bad guys, all carbs that are digested in the intestine are eliminated from the diet. In order to grow the good guys, you eat lactose-free and sugar-free yogurt you make yourself.
I think there is much truth to the theory. HOWEVER, I believe the other reason it works is because of food allergies/intolerances. I am allergic/intolerant to wheat. The reason I keep saying allergic/intolerant is because it’s entirely possible I wouldn’t show a true allergy on a blood or RAST test. However, when I eat it, I start wheezing and my throat itches and I get mouth ulcers. I am also, I am sure, getting ulcers in my colon. Other symptoms include eye redness and burning and reflux. That’s when I really eat a bunch. I’m pretty sure I’m intolerant to corn products (corn syrup) and MSG, too, but I don’t have all the symptoms I do with wheat. I discovered this in two ways. First, when I slowly went off the diet, I had a return of symptoms. I was devastated. I also had a horrible flare up when I was pg with my dd. My blood test showed high eosinophils (a marker for allergy). Research I did on this showed that people with IBD (Crohn’s & UC) have higher levels of eosinophils, especially in the gut.
Whenever I hear about celiacs who continue to suffer despite removing gluten from the diet, I suspect they have other food intolerances that aren’t being addressed. It’s entirely possible that the intolerances have less to do with the foods themselves than with what’s been done to them with genetic engineering, pesticides, and food additives. I’ve heard people who are intolerant to milk, for example, being able to drink unprocessed milk from drug-free cows.
I think the food supply and people’s reactions to it is like a nuclear disaster that no one acknowledges. It’s so huge. Almost every day someone tells me about themselves or someone they love who is in complete agony with this problem. My heart goes out to them and sometimes I wish I were a medical researcher, because no matter what it took I would prove that our diets are killing us. When I saw a GI doc when pg, she told me diet had nothing to do with IBD. I would love to see her eat her words one day.
If you or someone you love is having tummy troubles, please buy Breaking the Vicious Cycle (see the book list at left) and consider trying the diet for a month. If it works, I know it’s disappointing in a way. But I no longer feel sorry for myself because I know people who are deathly ill for whom the diet is NOT effective.