After starting this blog last week and quickly realizing how many Crohn’s sufferers are in my immediate network, I wanted to cut to the chase and jump right into my diet. It is currently working for me and helping me to feel better than I have in a long time, so I want to share it in case someone else may find hope, inspiration, or benefit from some of the things that are working for me.
As I’ve said before, I’ve tried a number of different diets and lifestyle tricks in trying to control my Crohn’s naturally over the last 10 years. Early on, I tried to follow recommendations to eat low fiber, easy-to-digest foods like white rice, white bread, pasta, and bananas that are commonly recommended to those with IBD…but that actually made things worse. After trying to eat “easy-to-digest” foods, I then tried to follow a FODMAP diet at the suggestion of my doctor. But it was difficult to stay on the protocol that required I cut everything out and reintroduce every food, one by one, back into my diet in an attempt to try and figure out what foods I could handle and what I couldn’t (I didn’t have the patience for that at the time).
At one point I even stumbled across Jini Patel Thompson’s Listen to Your Gut e-book and tried to create my own elemental diet shakes, but I craved real food and the shakes tasted awful. At one point I even attempted intermittent fasting because of all the amazing health benefits associated with it, but I don’t like to go without food and only made it a day. (Interestingly enough, however, I now follow the Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting regimen, which I will write about in another post.)
Later, I read Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall and found some relief, but not completely, by following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. After that, I read Dr. Atkins Vita-Nutrient Solution and started taking upwards of 60 supplement pills per day…which only helped in reducing my bank account because that many supplements costs a lot of money. I had countless people tell me to just “eat healthy” and to fill my diet with lots of vegetables and fruit. But, for me, I had/have a very difficult time digesting vegetables. Lettuce was my archenemy, so salads were off the list…along with pretty much every other vegetable out there, unless I wanted to spend my entire life feeling like I had just been shot in the gut.
Finally, I did go on a low carb diet for a while and was able to stay off medications for almost a year when I did that. That’s when I felt the best, but still not great, and it pales in comparison to how amazing I feel now. Anyway, at the time I was low-carb dieting, my now fiancé and I were in our early stages of dating and we spent every other weekend eating pizza and “brookies”…a delicious brownie/cookie concoction from Papa John’s…which quickly unraveled any success I was having at the time and sent me right into a flare, calling my doctor on Christmas vacation just two years ago crying for help. To Jeff’s credit (my fiancé), as any Crohn’s sufferer who has a significant other knows, he’s an amazing man for being so supportive during one of the worst times of my life. I imagine it’s not easy to be around someone who dreads food, doesn’t want to eat out, gets suddenly hit with excruciating pain, feels bloated and uncomfortable, and really wants nothing other than to curl up in bed and cry for 90% of the time. So, to Jeff, thank you for simply being there and loving me through the worst of it. And to any spouse/significant other who might be reading this, on behalf of your special someone, thank you for being there and loving them through the worst of their days. But, I digress…. Back to the story.
Long story short, in December 2015 I was having the second worst flare up of my entire Crohn’s life and my gastroenterologist quickly put me back on Humira and Imuran. After a couple of months had passed and I was doing well again, I was more determined than ever to get off medications. Somehow, my many Google searches led me down a path of researching grass-fed beef and raw milk. So I quickly concocted a new plan and in March/April of 2016 I told my doctor that I wanted to go off medications again and try a new diet. My GI doctor is incredibly supportive. We talked about the pros and cons and he told me that each time I started and stopped medications like Humira, I ran the risk of developing antibodies that would make it less effective if I needed to go back on it. He also recommended that I do another colonoscopy before stopping the medications, just so that we could make sure I was starting the diet while I was in remission and setting myself up for the best chance for success. With the green light from my doctor and his urging me to call at any sign of a flare, I was ready to stop my medications on Memorial Day of 2016…and so I did.
When six months had passed and I followed up with my GI doctor, I was feeling so amazing that he asked me to write down everything I was eating and share it with him, thinking that maybe he could pass it on to other Crohn’s patients who wanted diet recommendations. Crohn’s is different for everyone, so sometimes things work for one person but not another; which is why it is hard to make general sweeping recommendations, especially for doctors. And so, below is what I wrote to him:
Bottom line up front:
Below is a link to the “healing diet” on the Dr. Axe website I came across that got me started down this path and pretty much serves as my guide:
If the link above doesn’t work, it is linked on this page here: https://draxe.com/healing-diet/
My Diet Cliff Notes:
- Lots of fermented foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir)
- All vegetables/fruit are organic
- All meats are grass fed, wild caught, or pasture raised
- I take one generic probiotic in the morning, my only other supplement is L-Glutamine included in my food below
- Raw milk (yes, I’m talking raw, straight-from-the-grass-fed-cow milk) and raw milk yogurt
(Note: various states have different laws regulating the sale of raw milk. If you live in an area where you can get raw milk, you might want to consider adding it to your diet. I’ll write another blog post later on raw milk and why I decided to include it in my diet. Living in Texas, I’m able to get my raw milk from the MooJesus! Dairy located in Seguin.)
- If I need oils to cook/sauté with, I use grass-fed butter or ghee
What I eat pretty much every day:
Side note: In some regards, I’m lazy. I do spend a lot of time in the kitchen these days, but because I’ve made the decision to try and take my health back through diet, I’ve accepted that the time commitment is greater than what it would be to eat out at fast food establishments and restaurants every day. But, because I’m already spending so much time in the kitchen (this is where my laziness comes into play), I tend to find it easiest to just eat the same thing every day. As I write more posts and show you the evolution of my diet over the last year and a half, I’m sure you’ll start to find that there is a variety of food, it just takes planning and preparation. I sincerely hope that the outlook of spending more time in the kitchen doesn’t deter you from wanting to take better control of your health through diet. Since no medication comes without risk, for me, when I consider the side effects accompanying immunosuppressants and immune-modulating drugs, I’m willing to spend more time in the kitchen preparing amazing food if there’s a chance it will help. Plus, I feel absolutely amazing these days…better than I’ve felt in 17 years. I can’t describe how elated I first was when I started following this diet and didn’t double over in pain an hour after eating. I feel incredible. So, in May 2016, here’s what I was eating:
- Enjoy organic coffee with raw milk cream.
(If you can’t or don’t want to get raw milk cream, I recommend trying Bulletproof coffee (which is what I drink these days). Bulletproof coffee is your coffee blended with up to 1 TB coconut oil or MCT oil and up to 1TB grass-fed butter or ghee. I make my Bulletproof coffee with 1TB Brain Octane Oil and 1 TB Ancient Organics Ghee.)
- Protein shake (when I started this diet, I used the Dr. Axe brand Bone Broth Vanilla Protein powder because it has very few ingredients and is one of the only protein powders I’ve ever used that didn’t upset my GI system).
- scoop of protein
- 1 cup raw whole milk
(if you can’t get raw milk, I recommend unsweetened kefir made from grass-fed cows, Lifeway is a good brand I can find at H-E-B stores in Texas)
- 2 tsp L-Glutamine powder
- 2 tsp ground flax meal
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- handful of kale (yes, I was able to enjoy this shake with a small amount of kale, even though as I mentioned above, I have a hard time digesting vegetables, especially lettuce)
- frozen strawberries
- frozen blueberries
- I also eat homemade fermented sauerkraut before drinking my shake in the morning.
(I recognize that this sounds strange, but raw fermented sauerkraut is truly a wonderful food! I will be writing an entire separate post about it, including a recipe with how I make it at home. But, before I started making my own, wildbrine raw organic kraut was my favorite brand.)
- Salad (yes, I was actually able to eat salad…not iceburg lettuce, but a small amount of mixed supergreens) made with
- supergreen mix (kale, spinach, chard); just a little bit of greens (a small handful)
- tomatoes (just a few cherry tomatoes cut in half), cucumbers, avocado
- raw turmeric root (diced up…word of caution, this will turn your hands yellow temporarily and will stain your cutting board yellow)
- homemade fermented sauerkraut
- blue cheese
- chicken or beef
- olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzled on top
- raw milk yogurt with 1 tsp L-Glutamine mixed in and blueberries (again, if you can’t get raw milk yogurt or don’t want to, I recommend the Stonyfield brand organic, plain yogurt)
- homemade fermented kombucha tea (if you don’t make your own, I recommend GT’s organic & raw plain kombucha)
- wild caught canned tuna (I like the Wild Planet brand) mixed with avocado oil mayonnaise (or chicken or beef)
- 1 cup of raw milk (skip this or drink more kefir if you don’t have raw milk)
- soaked (and peeled) almonds (I soak my almonds for 24 hours in water with sea salt)
This is a little protein concoction that I created and now call a “protreat” because I do have a terrible sweet tooth!
- 1 TB coconut oil
- 1 tsp L-Glutamine
- 1-2 tsp raw honey
- 3/4 scoop protein
- couple drops pure vanilla extract (optional)
- 1 tsp ground flax meal (optional)
- few dried gojiberries (optional)
Mix up the ingredients and refrigerate.
I eat this mainly so that I can get some coconut oil and more glutamine in my diet…and it actually tastes good and satisfies my sweet tooth.
My creature comfort food is usually a glass or two of red wine a couple of nights during the week (we all have to have a vice, right!). Otherwise, I avoid all other alcohol.
Other than that, I’ll snack on grass-fed cheeses, cucumbers, mushrooms, avocados, and carrots (just go easy on the vegetables if you have a hard time digesting them like I do).
I avoid all other foods like the plague (processed foods, sauces, grains, wheat, sugar, etc.).
It certainly takes dedication to follow this, but being able to eat without worrying about bloating, pain, cramping or diarrhea and feeling this incredible, actually makes it easy to follow for me. The only way I can really describe it is that I don’t dread food anymore.
And that was the end of my email to my gastroenterologist. The diet above has gone through a few evolutions (I actually eat very differently now) as I’ve tried new things and have become more knowledgeable in various foods and why they help (also, I’ve found my Crohn’s to be constantly evolving as much as me and my environment are). But, I want to take you through each phase that I went through in case there’s something along my path that you find insightful or helpful.
If you have questions, I encourage you to comment below or message me on social media.
Cheers to taking back your health through real food and thank you for joining me on this journey!