Origin Take 2: What Foods These Morsels Be

Part VI: What Foods These Morsels Be

White bowl with roasted zucchini and spoon

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V of this series

Right now I’m starting to eat solid food again after just the Absorb Plus liquid shakes for 6 weeks. (Yes, that’s an affiliate link, but I only signed up for the affiliate program because the shakes taste really good and I have seen an improvement in my symptoms – No blood in my stool and the abscess pain went away from not having to pass solids.) I started on a Monday reintroducing solids with roasted zucchini cubes in a bit of coconut oil for dinner. (Recipe below!)

On Wednesday I made mushroom broth for dinner with shiitake and oyster mushrooms in homemade chicken stock. On Friday, I ate leftover mushroom broth and zucchini, all without any adverse digestive effects. (For those of you questioning, zucchini is actually a low-fiber vegetable. I didn’t think so, either! 🙂 )

The next week I made congee with the chicken stock and that seemed to do okay. What didn’t seem to sit well was the rice ramen and zucchini.

The week after that, I had salmon on Monday which sat perfectly well. Wednesday I got a plain rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods, again, with good results. I haven’t passed a lot of solid stools, but the Listen To Your Gut book said that was a probability because I’m still mostly drinking my meals. However, in the past week, I’ve been feeling hungry again, which I’m taking as a good sign. And since I feel like eating , I’ve been trying more foods – sautĂ©eing zucchini & squash down to a kind of veggie mush, ground turkey, eating rice cereal with Rice Dream, carrot “fries,” seared tuna steak, and the other night I even had salmon & tuna nigiri, special ordered with just fish and rice. (It was really weird eating sushi without tamari or wasabi!) I haven’t had many adverse affects besides some gas, which I fully expected. I did see some blood for a day, but it was light pink and didn’t last, so I’m not sure what that was from. I’ve been keeping a food diary as well, marking down what I’m eating every day.

So that’s it up to now. Feeling better, gaining weight (up to the mid-160s now!), and while I feel some of the abscess-area pressure, it’s nothing like the pain I was having before. I’m taking it slow with the food reintroduction because I don’t want the pain to return, but I seem to be doing well and looking forward to some of my food staples. (Bananas! Banana chips! Hopefully peanut butter! Eggs! Honey! Larabars! 🙂 )

Thanks for reading along, and thanks also for the support. It means a lot to me.

I’m hoping to get back to posting full recipes soon, I do have a backlog of photos of meals from the past couple of years that I haven’t posted. I’ll start with my “Reintroduction Roasted Zucchini” recipe to help anyone that might be taking these steps, now or in the future.

Glass baking pan with roasted zucchini

 

Origin Take 2: Crohn’s or No?

Part V: Crohn’s or No?

Hazy sunset

Read Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV of this series

About a month ago as I was working on this new “origin” story I did a deep dive on my procedure results. I noticed the phrase “Specific features of Crohn’s Disease are not identified” from my original colonoscopy in October 2016. When told of my diagnosis change to Crohn’s by my GI doctor at the follow-up appointment, he explained it was due to the abscess and also “skip lesions” of ulceration, because I showed inflammation & ulcers near the ileum. However, I found a page on Ulcerative Colitis at the Stanford University Surgical Pathology site that notes while skip lesions are rare in UC, that “The appendix and appendiceal orifice may be involved in the absence of other right side disease and does not constitute grounds for changing the diagnosis.” (I also know the perils of diagnosing myself, and I haven’t yet discussed this with my doctor. However….)

What does that mean? It means I wonder if I actually *do* have Crohn’s after all.

Which I mentioned to my therapist and she reminded me that the name is just a name. Even in the Listen to Your Gut book, in a section titled “How do you see yourself?,” the book asks if accepting a label of “chronically diseased” is mentally helpful, if it encourages healing or does it lead to a mindset of hopelessness. In other words, am I defined by Ulcerative Colitis, or Crohn’s? Or are my health issues merely a subset of me? Am I working *with* my body or against it?

It’s in that spirit that I deleted my “Crohn’s Disease” Google alert that e-mailed me web articles every day that mentioned Crohn’s, because I don’t need to be reminded every day about it. If there’s a major breakthrough for Crohn’s or Colitis, I’ll hear about it. So if I don’t have Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease, what’s going on with me?

I’ve taken to calling what I’m dealing with “gut issues.”

I’ve also been reading a couple of books about healing and the body’s response to stress. First is The Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve by Stanley Rosenberg. There are exercises in the book that are based on Steven Porges’ Polyvagal Theory and rooted in other bodywork, such as craniosacral therapy and Rolfing. The reading is a bit dense for someone who’s just learning about the pieces of anatomy, but I’ve noticed a difference after doing the exercises. I learned of the second book, When The Body Says No: Understanding The Stress-Disease Connection, from the Tim Ferriss podcast episode featuring its author, Dr. Gabor MatĂ©. The idea that there could be a trauma/stress connection to what’s happening inside me is not a new one, and many people with IBD experience flares at stressful times.

I’m not trying to say that it’s all in my head (I’ve heard that before), but I was telling my wife how stressed out I was about the bathroom situation at the parks during our recent trip and she told me I “have my head up my ass.” And she’s right. I’ve been constantly terrified of crapping myself in public for over 20 years. Every time I leave the house, my brain goes into high gear, getting me worked up about what might happen, or what to do if I suddenly get the urgent urge. What I didn’t fully realize was how much that cranks up the stress response from my body as well. It’s exhausting. So far, reading the books helps calm me down and gives me insight about my body’s response to my gut issues that I might better deal with it. And anything that helps is good.

Next: What Foods These Morsels Be

Origin Take 2: Enough

Part IV: Enough

Blue sky with some clouds and landscape below

Read Part I, Part II, and Part III of this series

I believe it was the evening of June 29th that I went up to take my evening antibiotic. I picked up the pill bottle, opened it, and set it back down. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I stopped taking the antibiotics cold turkey. I let my GI Doc know, and he was on board with it because he had to be. I was either going to keep on that path, or else I was going to die. Easy choice.

It took a couple of days but my energy levels started to increase. By July 4th, I was able to go out to a baseball game with my mom and family. I was in the office more for work in July. My family went on a sunny Friday afternoon to the restaurant where my oldest child worked and we sat out on the patio, listening to a duo play guitars and sing. I could feel my life returning. There wasn’t any abscess pain, and I felt like things were on track.

In mid-July I went to see a healer recommended to me by my therapist. She handed down a diagnosis of Lyme disease which seemed odd as I didn’t have any active symptoms, but I had a test that returned positive for Borrelia as well as Babesia and Bartonella microbial DNA. So I started treatment for long-term Lyme as well. Just another road in my long journey toward health.

Unfortunately, in early August, I started to have the abscess pain again. I talked to my doc, he referred me to the colorectal surgeon again who said that everything looked ok on the outside and suggested another 10-day round of Cipro. I wasn’t thrilled about that, but decided to give it a go and see how much it helped. Long story short, it didn’t. The pain never quite went away.

I was still on Humira, so it appeared that didn’t seem to be helping with the abscess either. I was losing weight and in pain. Nothing seemed to work, and my GI doc & the surgeon didn’t seem to think that surgery to drain the abscess would help. I was working from home again, getting all of my hours in with the agency, but working through and around the pain. Regrettably, in September they let me go in a company reorganization, so now I was out of work in addition to the health issues.

If I wasn’t a Buddhist, all of this would have really bothered me. 🙂 It did bother me, but I didn’t suffer too much around it. I just started looking for writing work and revived my freelance company (Need freelance copywriting/editing/proofreading? Contact me: www.tenzomedia.com).

The big worry coming up was the family vacation that we had planned for the New Year’s holiday. It would involve a lot of walking and I wasn’t in any shape to walk all day, not to mention that I was still having my Crohn’s symptoms (diarrhea, bleeding, urgency, etc.). My wife and I talked to my GI doc to see what could be done and he said he could write a letter explaining my situation to help mitigate any issues we’d have with traveling and such. That was great and helped relieve some of our stress.

But what to do about my continuing symptoms? We did a blood test and scheduled a sigmoidoscopy for late November to see how things were going inside. The blood work came back mostly ok but with the normal inflammation markers. The sigmoid scope went as well as those go, I suppose, and we went to meet with my GI doc a week later to discuss the results.

My wife and I were both in the room when he told us that he didn’t see much change in the ulcerations and inflammation from the previous year. While not ideal, it did let me know definitively that the Humira wasn’t working in the way we hoped it would, making two biologic agents that I tried that were a bust. I knew it wasn’t working before he told me and was planning on telling him that I needed to stop taking the Humira, regardless of the outcome of the sigmoidoscopy.

So where does that leave me now?

Well, as I mentioned, I read a lot about different healing tactics and diets during the summer & fall. From Nourishing Broth to the GAPS diet to Listen to Your Gut. I’m still on a Lyme treatment protocol using supplements. I’m not on any drugs like antibiotics or biologics. My GI doc has suggested a couple of avenues, all of which amount to more drugs, which I just don’t want to do. The memory of the Humira shots and my antibiotic shrivel are both still too fresh.

The treatment angles I read about in Listen to Your Gut felt like the best way forward for me. The book covers the healing journey, treating the physical symptoms as well as the underlying lingering mental contributors. There are some diets to help treat bleeding, diarrhea, gas & bloating, and then there’s the bowel rest diet which consists of an elemental diet. The author, Jini Patel Thompson, also created a mix of protein, vitamins & minerals, and amino acids into a liquid shake product called Absorb Plus. (She left fats out for those who have fat absorption problems, leaving it to each person to add oil according to their ability to digest it.)

I decided to go the bowel rest path and didn’t have any solid food, only the shakes, for six weeks starting in early January of 2018. It wasn’t that difficult to stick with it as I was hoping for some relief from the usual Crohn’s symptoms I mentioned before. The path was up & down but settled out pretty well. I’ve had relief from the symptoms and also the abscess pain. (I did figure out that I have a chocolate sensitivity, though. Those shakes did *not* travel well for me.)

Oh, about that abscess. I had an epiphany one day in mid-February. The abscess was only on the left side. I realized that, when wiping, I would pull my left cheek so as to fully “part the seas” for access. I don’t know when I started doing that, or for how long, but once I realized it, I stopped doing it. The abscess has subsided quite a bit as to be almost nonexistent. I think my “technique” was at least part of the problem.

Next: Crohn’s or No?

Origin Take 2: A Withering Spring

Part III: A Withering Spring

Man lying in bed

Read Part I or Part II of this series

Did I mention that I was trying to work 40-hour weeks at a digital agency this whole time? My employer was pretty good about it, letting me work from home. I’m a writer, so I didn’t necessarily *need* to be in the office all the time. I was on the daily standup call at 8am and I tried to go in when I could, which some weeks was only a day or two. I usually made it in by late morning. I don’t think they loved the arrangement but they seemed to do right by me, which was helpful. And I was thankful to have a full-time job with health insurance. (America’s healthcare situation is fucked up. There, I said it.)

As April became May and May turned into June, I didn’t see any miraculous improvement of my symptoms from the Humira. What I did see was a steady decline in my weight and energy levels. 155 lbs at 6’2″ is not good. I was having lots of diarrhea, basically not retaining any food at all. I attributed these symptoms to the Cipro & Flagyl. Whenever I mentioned that I was on both of those antibiotics at the same time, people’s jaws would drop. The power of those antibiotics separately is strong enough, and I was taking both, multiple times a day.

As I mentioned before, my father died from cancer in 2016. As I shuffled around the house in his hand-me-down sweatpants, I felt like I was channeling his decline and dying in a similar fashion. I mirrored his exhaustion in the way collapsed into my chair, closed my eyes, and rested my chin on my chest when sitting down at mealtime, needing to take a moment to rest before I ate. My energy levels were such that I could only really lie in bed and work. I don’t remember having much abscess pain at the time, just nonexistent energy.

I started seeing a therapist in early June to deal with some of the fallout from things around my father’s death (vagueblog intended) as well as cope with the constant pain. She recommended a book called Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallon Morell in hopes that I might find some healing in those recipes. In late June, she mentioned a rice porridge dish called congee. Being on the SCD for over 13 years at that point, I was comfortable eating rice and once she sent a recipe, I started eating ‘sweet’ congee every morning, made with ginger and raisins. It tasted so good with honey and sometimes pecans. In the words of my therapist, I needed foods to nurture and nourish me. That guidance resonated with the part of me that wanted to live and find a solution to the pain.

But I still wasn’t thriving. I was exhausted. I was as sick as I’ve ever been. And I knew what was causing it.

Next: Enough

Congee is clearly not Paleo/Primal/SCD ‘legal.’ The recipe that follows is taken from the Mosaic Acupuncture website. I have no affiliation with them, this is the recipe my therapist sent when I asked her for congee recipes. Check their site for a ‘savory congee’ recipe after the sweet congee.

Bowl with rice porridge and spoon

Origin Take 2: Pharm Aid

Part II: Pharm Aid

Man's arm with surgical tubes

Read Part I of this series here.

Along with the change in diagnosis to Crohn’s Disease was the urgency on behalf of my doc to get me on a new course of medication in order to get my inflammation under control. He wanted to start with Remicade (Infliximab) and I needed to get blood tests and all that to get started. After talking over the benefits and possible drawbacks with my family (and my aunt with Crohn’s that’s been on Remicade for a decade), I agreed that we would try Remicade. (In proofreading this I notice that I say “we,” because for me it’s very much a family decision) I remained on the Cipro & Flagyl to keep the infection in the abscess down while I started on the Remicade.

Years before, when I first learned of Remicade and it’s biologic component, I said that I wouldn’t go on something like that. The idea that it could alter my body for good was scary. However, my doctor allayed my fears, saying it was something we could try and if it didn’t work, then we’d try something else. I told him that when I first went on the SCD in 2004 I said I would give “science” until I was age 50 to find a cure for Ulcerative Colitis-and now Crohn’s. In making his case, he asked me what I was waiting for, which I conceded was a good question. He also said that while I was on the biologics, if science suddenly found a cure, that we could discontinue the biologic and take the (theoretical, nonexistent) curative. This made sense and played into my agreement to take Remicade.

I had my initial intravenous infusions through December and then January, but I was still feeling the abscess pain. I went to an acupuncturist on the advice of a friend who told me he had seen some improvement in his psoriasis as a result of treatment, and I was desperate to get rid of the agony. (Yes, I know that psoriasis and Crohn’s Disease are different.) A couple days after my first treatment with the acupuncturist, the pain got worse. I was supposed to have a follow-up appointment the next week but cancelled that one while I tried to get better. The week after that the pain wasn’t as bad so I went for another treatment (not using needles but a magnet roller on my back and a laser in my ear?), but again the pain returned in a day or so. I stopped that treatment and relayed my continued abscess troubles to my GI doc who recommended I see a colorectal surgeon and gave me a few referral suggestions.

Around that time I had a blood test to see how the Remicade was doing and found out that my body was chewing through the medicine (I had zero amount of the drug left in my system at the start of a treatment, typically there’s at least some still floating around) and I was already producing antibodies to the drug, which meant Infliximab/Remicade wasn’t going to work for me. (It was at this point that I started wondering if I was a mutant of some sort.)

So, I stopped the Remicade infusions after only two and a half months. The colorectal surgeon I went to wanted to do another MRI to see about the pain. From the MRI they could see that the abscess was pretty much all internal, no external fistula or eruptions. The surgeon said there wasn’t much they could do, and I should stay on the antibiotics. Which is good, but when you’re in that much pain, it’s cold comfort.

Let me explain what I mean by “pain.” The abscess is essentially a small pocket of fluid. Wikipedia says “An abscess is a collection of pus that has built up within the tissue of the body.” They’re normally painful, I guess, I don’t recall having one elsewhere. I’ve had boils before, but those haven’t been particularly agonizing. But not like this.

Now, imagine a painful collection of pus situated near your anus. Where waste is constantly building up as it exits your body, applying pressure on the collection of pus. You feel that pressure and pain when you sit. You feel it when you stand with the force of all of your insides weighing down on that space between your legs. That’s a lot of pain, in just about every way you sit or stand. It’s exhausting.

To mitigate the pain, I’d walk around half-bent over. If I were lying down, I would constantly fidget my feet, putting pressure on each other as they went around and around. If I were sitting, I’d be contorted in the chair, listing far over to one side, maybe starting on the left until that got too uncomfortable, and then I’d twist around to the right to try and feel better that way. It’s a horrible way to live, and that’s how I was living pretty much every day.

Continuing my journey to get rid of the pain, we explored other options. Since Remicade was a no-go, Doc recommended starting on Humira (Adalimumab) which meant giving myself a shot every two weeks. I stayed on the Cipro & Flagyl on the recommendations of the doctors, the thought being to keep the infection of the abscess down until the Humira was in my system to work on the inflammation.

I started Humira in late April 2017, which was its own traumatic experience. If you’ve never had to give yourself an injection, even one as easy and automatic as the Humira shot “pen,” there’s a lot of feelings and emotions that rise to the surface. They did for me, anyway. After a good amount of tears, I sat with the Humira nurse and my wife as I administered the four loading doses. 4 shots for my first treatment, then 2 shots two weeks later. After that, I kept on the maintenance doses, giving myself 1 shot every two weeks. Before long I had quite a collection of used pens in a sharps container.

Next: A Withering Spring

Origin Take 2: A New Beginning

A little over two years ago, I wrote about my journey-my “origin story“-up to that point with Ulcerative Colitis. I had been on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) for 10 years and I was making do. Towards the end of that post I wrote that “I’ve always had a pretty good life health-wise, even with colitis, and I realize that I could be so much worse off.”

Well, as they say: That was then, and this is now.

I had no idea how much things could change in 3 years, and how untethered and bewildered the ensuing time would leave me.

For the most part, it’s only been just over a year and a half of digestive trouble, but wow, what a year.

I guess it started back in 2015. I had a fever spike of around 103 one day and then had some pain around my anus, and I wasn’t sure what it was. I went to see a colorectal surgeon – I think I saw them because it was going to take too long to see my GI doc at the time, something like 2 weeks. I was in too much pain for that. I don’t recall that diagnosis, maybe hemorrhoids. I think he prescribed Prep H suppositories and maybe that was it. Took those and the problem cleared up for the time being.

Fast forward to a year later. My dad died in April 2016, and mentally I was dealing with the fallout from that along with other family issues. Lots of stress and pressure under the surface. Also adjusting to a new job as a Content Strategist and writer at a digital agency, trying to make sense of a way of working I wasn’t used to: hourly billing.

I don’t recall when exactly the symptoms started, but I do remember it was September when I realized I needed to do something about the pain. Different than previous pain I’d had during flares, this was very acute and localized, again in the anal region, and it wasn’t going away.

I made an appointment with a new gastroenterologist as I felt my previous one wasn’t all that engaged in my treatment. I had done a few colonoscopies with him but he seemed detached. Too clinical, maybe.

I chose a my new gastro doc from the practice website. His credentials were solid and his bio said that he was active in looking for new treatments/therapies for Crohn’s & Colitis. I wanted someone that knew about Colitis and might be open to my “alternative” treatment of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet that helped mitigate my symptoms for so long.

Our first meeting in mid-October 2016 I weighed 170lbs. I weigh ~155 today. They put me on Cipro & Flagyl to help heal what we thought at the time was just a fissure. Next was a pelvic MRI to rule out cancer or any other internal mass. It found a fistula along with an intersphincteric perianal abscess. That’s what the pain was. Also it suggested Crohn’s Disease, not Ulcerative Colitis, based on some scarring near the ileum. This was in the report but I think my new GI doc kept that to himself until they got a look via a colonoscopy not too long after.

After my colonoscopy my doc told me that I have Crohn’s Disease, not “just” Ulcerative Colitis. The diagnosis was based on the presence of abscess/fistula along with “skip” lesions, meaning that there was inflammation & ulceration near the ileum. I sent the pictures of my colon to a friend who is a surgical grossing tech and they agreed with the Crohn’s diagnosis on the basis of the skip lesions.

So I felt like I had to adjust my entire life – since 1994, anyway – and come to terms with my new diagnosis. I have relatives who have Crohn’s Disease but I had always identified as the Ulcerative Colitis guy. But not anymore, according to my GI doc. And that was going to take some getting used to.

Next: Pharm Aid

Stew Are You? I Lamb What I Lamb.

I wouldn’t blame you if you closed the browser tab after reading that headline. It hurt me to write it as much as it probably hurt you to read it. 🙂

Spiced Lamb Stew

This is another recipe that I’m not quite sure how I came across it, but I found this lamb stew recipe on The Kitchn website and printed it out, intending to make it someday. Someday arrived in March when I needed to use a Groupon that I had purchased for the upscale butcher in the Denver area, Tony’s Market. I had $40 to spend and figured that lamb tends to be expensive, so  why not buy the lamb and make the stew?

I spent almost all of it on the 2lbs of lamb that I needed for the recipe.

Luckily, the rest of the ingredients aren’t that expensive – spices, carrots, onion, garlic, red wine. So this will tend to be a meal that I make maybe once a year. Or less.

My wife doesn’t like lamb, so I took everything to my parent’s house and cooked for them and my aunt, who are fans of lamb. And they loved it.

The recipe recommends to spice the meat and let it rest for a day.

Spiced lamb in glass bowl

Brown the meat and then add the mirepoix – which I modified, probably using less onion than it called for, and using celery salt instead of celery itself. That’s because of my colitis, some vegetables cook down well, but celery is one that I’ve found doesn’t play nice with me.

Brown the meat

It cooks for a long time, but that gives everyone a chance to get really hungry!

mirepoix

The recipe calls for serving over rice or couscous, which is against the SCD & Paleo, but the rest of my family isn’t on the diet so they had it over rice and raved about the whole meal. I loved it, too! (SCD/Paleo folks could maybe use “cauliflower rice” if you’re so inclined)

The recipe says it could be made with other stew meat, although I’m not sure I’d want to make it with beef. I guess it would be ok, but I like the taste of the lamb combined with the spices. Your call. 🙂 It’s really good though! Especially on cold nights where you want something hearty and warm.

The Tastiest Catch – SCD Crab Cakes!

Crab Cakes In pan - brown

Tasty crab cakes!

 

When one goes on a diet like the SCD where large swaths of the American/Western diet are jettisoned, one of the first things people do is try to create foods like they used to eat. These don’t always turn out well. Making bread is one that usually disappoints first – it’s usually flat and dense. Doable, but it’s not like a soft pretzel or spongy bun. I’ve made some pretty good batches of ketchup – and some that were, well, let’s say “off.”

When you have a full family around you who cares about you and wants to see you happy, they will approach you with recipes from time to time, hoping that they will work out. Sometimes there’s a key ingredient that you can’t have that leaves the whole recipe wanting, or it calls for something like cream of mushroom soup, for which there is no easy substitution.

About a year and a half ago, I get an e-mail from my wife with the message “Do you think we could use your almond flour as a binder or would that not work? Change the taste?” and a link to a Disney blog recipe for lump crab cakes from Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. I smiled at her kindness and clicked the link, bracing for one of the previous scenarios. I glanced over the ingredients list and got more excited as I read farther down and everything was “legal”. (Those of you on the diet know how this feels!) At the end of the ingredients list, there were only 2 non-legal items I could see: sriracha in the tartar sauce (sriracha usually has sugar in it), and panko crumbs in the crab cakes.

Crab Cake Mix

Golf ball

 

I giddily responded that almond flour should work fine, so let’s try it! As for the tartar sauce, my family’s not big on sauces anyway, so I figured I could try the tartar with just a dash of Tabasco in place of the sriracha.

Crab Cakes in pan

Flatten the golf ball

 

 

Crab cakes in pan

Browned and yummy!

 

In short – they’re *fantastic*. We don’t have them often because crab is expensive (duh) and they’re also *very* rich and filling – so much so that we only use 1/2 cup of mayo in the recipe instead of the 3/4 cup that is called for. But they’re crab cakes! Some of the best I’ve had, actually. So thanks, Disney! And a big thanks to my wife for her constant support. It’s not easy living with someone on the SCD, but she’s always been supportive. <3

Crab cakes on platter

These crab cakes go fast!

 

For Tartar Sauce: At least 1 hour before serving, mix well 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickle, 1 tsp Old Bay, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp chopped fresh chives, 1/8 tsp ground black pepper (and 1 tsp pepper sauce if wanted). Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Stir Fry Time!

Being a bit of a recipe tinkerer, stir frys are always fun for me. It’s kind of like omelets – open up the fridge and what can we find to put in here?

StirFryIngredients

I took the base of the recipe from one of my SCD-style cookbooks (Grain-Free Gourmet by Jodi Bager and Jenny Lass) and then adjusted to my family’s tastes. The recipe calls for onion, but i don’t really digest onion well unless it’s really soft sautĂ©ed, and my family’s not too crazy about it either, so I left it out. I might have sprinkled in some onion powder while the veg were cooking. 🙂 The recipe calls for peanut oil, which imbues the dish with a Chinese-food flavor and aroma. I’m not sure if peanut oil is okay on the Paleo diet – I checked the list on the Ultimate Paleo Guide website and it said peanuts themselves were not allowed because they are legumes, but didn’t mention the oil. I’m guessing that hardcore followers would eschew the oil, but that’s your call, y’all. If it’s not allowed, switch it up with one that is!

Stir Fry Pan

I also used baby bok choy, just a few leaves. My family doesn’t love the red bell pepper, but I do like it. Might just do a few pepper strips just for me in the future. And as you can see, I added broccoli as well. 🙂

Stir Fry Plate

This plate has rice on it, which is not allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. This is what my family’s plates looked like. I put this picture up to show how the dish can be adjusted/added to in order to make it a more traditional family dish. I just served up more of the stir fry instead of the rice. Yum!My kids added some soy sauce, my wife and I prefer tamari, which is a form of gluten-free soy sauce. Read more about the differences between soy sauce and tamari on the kitchn blog.

I might improvise chicken or shrimp for the protein (make sure you cook those in a separate pan all the way through!), or leave the meat out for a pure vegetarian stir fry. All sorts of vegetables can be added or substituted. Green beans and snow peas make me gassy (thanks, colitis!), but your mileage may vary. I’ve seen people use asparagus, zucchini and/or yellow squash, and I suppose you could toss some shredded cabbage in there to wilt as well. Like I said, I’m a freestyler.

So have fun, be creative, and enjoy!

The Dietary Dignitary Origin Story

Yes, much like Batman had to become the Batman, I was not born with a hundred gluten/grain/starch/sugar free recipes in my back pocket. My origin story starts as many do – with a catalytic moment. For me, that moment was when I was informed of my Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis .

I was diagnosed in 1994 after dealing with some visible symptoms – mostly blood in my stool. I was told at the time to take Azulfidine (sulfasalazine is the generic) and that I could otherwise eat or drink anything that I wanted.

I took that advice and after a year of living with increasingly more and more dire symptoms, I went to a different doctor. Very poor retention and/or absorption of foods (to the point where if I ate a Whopper from Burger King, I’d see sesame seeds about 4 hours later) had led to me lose quite a bit of weight, and I was losing blood as well. My new doctor did some blood tests and found that I was anemic, had no Iron stores and was pretty much wasting away. He later told me that with the amount of blood left in my system, had I lost all that blood at one time (car accident, etc) I most likely would have died, but my body just adjusted to losing a bit over time to the point where it was getting by with so little.

I started getting Iron shots as my stomach couldn’t handle a supplement. I think I was getting 2 or 3 shots per week. My new doctor said “You can’t eat just anything” and told me to cut out a LOT of foods that I was eating that would not help – mainly insoluble fibers. I pared my diet down to mostly chicken & rice to sort of “zero out” my system. My doc suggested going very basic and then adding other foods little by little to see what my system could tolerate, and so I did. I drank mostly juices, laid off the sodas and alcohol. Ate the bland diet as is usually called for – toast, crackers, chicken (no seasonings) and rice, etc.

The short of it is, I credit that second doctor with saving my life because he identified the problems over and above the previous docs I had seen. He got me back to healthy again, and taught me to manage my symptoms accordingly. I still took sulfasalazine and I would go into remission, would then forget to take the drugs (I don’t like being on drugs anyway. I feel that many times they mask a problem) and be off them for months at a time. My symptoms would return and I’d go back on the drugs to try and mitigate them. Sometimes it would help, sometimes not. I never found a “trigger” food or drink that would bring me out of remission, or cause a flare up. Sometimes I could drink beer for weeks and not go back into a flare. I could eat loads of ice cream and not see a difference in my health. But somehow, sometime, the symptoms would creep back. Starting with blood.

Fast forward to March ’04. I’d been in a colitis flare for about 2 months, the sulfasalazine didn’t seem to be helping, and I was wondering what my options were. I joined a Crohn’s and Colitis group online and I was reading through the discussion threads. Some people in that group had luck with some treatments, some had ileostomies, etc. Then I saw a lone link to a book called “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” that a friend in a different online community had recommended a few months prior. I went to check it out on Amazon and found over 120 reviews of the book (there are now almost 650!). The diet that was described in the book is called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or SCD. Some people said that it didn’t work for them, that it was too hard, etc. Most were ecstatic in the results they got for their various diseases (Crohn’s, colitis, celiac, autism). What it amounts to is a diet, based on science, about what can set the gut off. The author, Elaine Gottschall, had a daughter who was diagnosed with Colitis at 4 years old, I believe, back in the 50s or 60s. After going to various doctors and such, none of whom were much help and telling her that only surgery would cure her daughter, she talked with Dr. Sidney Haas who asked her what her daughter ate. Elaine claims it was the first doctor to ask her that question.

Dr. Haas basically prescribed a very strict diet, and here’s where the science part comes in. (Elaine has since gone on to get degrees in biology, nutritional biochemistry, and cellular biology to support the theories.) Basically, she has done more work, but has come to the conclusion that what is eaten by people who have the diseases is what feeds bad bacteria in the body. It’s not that the bacteria are inherently bad, but they’re part of the problem in people with Crohn’s or Colitis.

The diet is easier to explain as the things you cannot eat. No grains, starches, refined sugars, or uncultured dairy (examples of cultured dairy are many cheeses and yogurt). Of course, this eliminates many things that were previously considered “bland” – rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. The things you can eat, once you get over the restrictions, are many and varied. Fresh meats, vegetables (not canned, though, sometimes there are “illegal” additives), fruits. Eggs. Nuts. Etc. Some veggies might not be allowed depending on the severity of your condition. If you read the BtVC website, you’ll get the idea. I’m just giving a brief outline.

When I started on the diet, I just wanted to see if it made any sort of difference. I figured, at worst, I’d be right back where I was, which was somewhat managable, except for flareups. At best, I would be cured, as many have said that they have been (including Elaine’s daughter). Elaine suggested being on the diet for at least two years. That’s at least two years without pizza crust, bread, soda (that’s pop to the rest of you in the midwest ;), fettucini, a glass of milk, french fries, etc.

Starting the diet back then was tough for me because my wife was out of town, I was caring for our two daughters, I came down with a cold, and it was difficult to get the nutrition I was looking for and needing from just what we had in our cupboards. My parents were supportive (with the diet and helping with my kids – they were planning on helping some anyway) and we were cooking things that I could eat. I went to the store a couple of times and bought some more “legal” food and started on it pretty strictly. The first week was very rough. Being sick didn’t help, and I was tired and hungry. The second week, I felt like I was getting better, both from my cold and internally. As the week progressed, I was surprised at how much better my colitis was doing. I noticed that I was making fewer trips to the bathroom. I noticed that overall, in that regard, things were improving.

I’ve kept on the diet for the past 10 years now. The first couple of weeks on the diet were nothing short of amazing to me. I only had to make one trip to the bathroom on the Saturday and Sunday of the second week, for what I usually would have gone maybe 3 or 4 or more times in the morning before I’d go to work, a few more times in the morning (mornings have always been my worst time of day), maybe once or twice in the afternoon, maybe once at night. But I only went once. *Once*! Even when I was in remission before, I still had to go more than once, and, shall we say, things still weren’t as they are for “normal” folks. Those first couple of weeks it was pretty normal for me. As normal as I had been in the 10 years prior. I felt that, if things continued, this could be the second thing that saves my life.

In the 10 years since, I can’t say that I’ve been cured by the diet, not by a long shot. There have been a couple of times in the past few years that I’ve been on prednisone to help get my symptoms under control. I’m not sure what caused those flares, but they were some of the worst I’ve had since I was really sick back in 1995. I guess you could say I’m lucky in that a short dose of Prednisone (tapering for less than 10 days) is enough to get my body back on track. When I’m in a flare, I still can’t really identify what caused it or how to get out of it, although the SCD chicken soup seems to help.

I have followed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet very strictly for over 10 years and have a lot of good recipes to show for it. I only take some vitamin supplements, and no drugs (excepting the occasional Imodium). My cholesterol and blood pressure levels are low. I lost about 50 lbs in about 4 months when I first started the diet (see the picture below) – which was too much, too fast. I realized that I wasn’t eating enough fats in my diet and corrected that. Since then, my weight has stabilized around 170 lbs for a 6’2″ man.

My quality of life with Ulcerative Colitis has been most affected by my needing to know where bathrooms are at all times. Knowing where to get off on the freeway should the need arise. Not being able to take public transportation because they don’t have toilets. Feeling uneasy about going places that I didn’t know the “bathroom situation”. When my kids were babies, I would think about what later years would be like, going to field hockey games and the like, having to scope out if there were restroom facilities at the field or not. It’s a horrible, creeping feeling that disturbs and informs everything I do. Like at parties or being out with friends, all I want to do is hang out and have a good time, but I spend part of it wondering about my problems instead of just being able to relax. A trip into DC many years ago with my kids was just this side of abject terror for me, hoping that I’d have places to go to the bathroom if I needed to. I even skipped going to a Civil War battlefield near my sister-in-law because….it was just a field. Nothing else, no facilities. “I can’t go there! What if…?!?” I’ve found a few things that have helped with the anxiety in the intervening years – mostly daily meditation – but nothing natural to heal the symptoms completely.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences with Ulcerative Colitis or life on the SCD. I’m very open about my life in this regard, because after years of feeling ashamed or embarrassed about it, I’ve come to my peace with my disease. I know that I’ve learned a lot from having UC – compassion for others, patience for myself, and love of life. I’ve always had a pretty good life health-wise, even with colitis, and I realize that I could be so much worse off. If there’s any way I can help you, let me know either by leaving a comment here on the blog or sending an e-mail to sam@dietarydignitary.com.

SamOnBoat

This is me 3 months after starting the SCD in 2004. You can see how big the XL t-shirt is on my now Medium-size frame! Even with the quick weight loss, I kept buying Large t-shirts for years.