No more messing around, I’m pulling out all the stops and embarking on a short, experimental detour in my Crohn’s journey. Pour yourself a drink, sit back, and keep reading if you’d like to come with me…I’m going on a zero-carb, plant-free, all-animal diet.
I know some of you who know me well may be confused right now, because you’re already under the impression that all I currently eat is meat. Contrary to popular belief, I have tried to incorporate lots of vegetables, nuts, and fruits into my diet over the years, only to regret the decision 99.8% of the time.
But, why the drastic change in diet all of a sudden? As some of you may have noticed, it’s been a few weeks since my last blog post. Unfortunately, that’s because I’ve been wrestling with trying to keep a Crohn’s flare at bay. For whatever strange reason, my Crohn’s Disease definitely has a seasonal component to it. Last year around this time, Jeff and I were in New York City with friends for New Year’s Eve. After a week in New York, I was walking around feeling like I had a knife jammed into the side of my abdomen and finding a secluded restroom was becoming a major stressor. At the time, I thought it was just due to traveling and not having my fermented foods and raw milk on hand. Now, I’m starting to think it may have just been the Crohn’s coming at me with everything it had, despite my best efforts. As soon as I got back from the trip, however, I flooded my system with raw milk, yogurt, sauerkraut, farm-fresh eggs, tuna, and grass-fed beef…and after a few days, I was back to feeling great.
The year before that, Jeff and I spent Thanksgiving dinner at the local IHOP. This was before I had started my fermented foods diet and was already experiencing the second worst flare of my life. I was in so much pain at the time that I decided I may as well eat french toast, since it wasn’t going to make me feel any worse, and so, to IHOP we went. A couple months after that, I went back to my doctor and back on medications. I only stayed on medications for a few months until I started on the first version of my Crohn’s healing diet.
So for me, the winter months are more than just cold weather and Christmas break, it’s a pretty reliable emergence of Crohn’s symptoms and thus, another battle of who/what will win: me and my diet or the disease? The past few months before the holidays, I was feeling really good and started experimenting more with my diet. I incorporated intermittent fasting into my daily schedule and brought myself into nutritional ketosis (both of which are supposed to reduce inflammation in the body). I also started cooking vegetables in a pressure cooker to destroy the lectins that make them hard to digest. Now, if I’m being completely honest here, I did a little binging on macadamia nuts and ate way more than just a little sauerkraut…perhaps it is possible to have too much of a good thing? The fact is, whether it was my dietary experiments or just the change in seasons, my Crohn’s reared its ugly head and I haven’t been able to kick the symptoms this time.
This is when Crohn’s becomes quite depressing. You’re doing everything possible to control it and it comes anyway. For me, it comes with the fear that I’ll have to go back on medications or suffer dire consequences if I don’t. Worst-case scenarios usually start running through my head and I start obsessing about bowel obstructions and developing a toxic megacolon. People usually ask me how I know a flare is coming on or how I know I have Crohn’s. Often, it’s because they’re suffering (or know someone suffering) with some unpleasant gastrointestinal distress. Crohn’s sufferers can experience the onset of a flare up in many different ways and no two Crohnies are necessarily alike. For me, however, I know things have taken a turn for the worse when my bowel movements have turned into nothing but blood and mucus, with occasional diarrhea, and painful bloating/distention of the abdomen. Usually it feels like I have shards of glass rolling around my intestines or what I can only imagine feels like a gunshot wound in the gut. I’m not usually one to cry from pain, but when Crohn’s is at its worst, it brings me to my knees.
Circling back to the beginning of this post, I’m pleased to say that I’m still medication free, my colon hasn’t burst, and I have a new plan of attack. Which brings me to my new diet of just animal products. On the off chance you’ve actually heard of this diet, then you’ve probably heard it referred to as the Carnivore Diet or the Zero Carb Diet. Just as it sounds, it’s a diet that consists of eating nothing but animal products: mostly beef, some dairy and eggs, and fish. But, absolutely no plants or plant products (no vegetables, fruits, sweeteners, starches, etc.). I’ve known for a long time that I feel really good when I eat meat and really bad when I eat vegetables, I just didn’t know until recently that this was actually a diet being followed by many, with some pretty impressive research, stories, and results behind it.
Today was day one of my carnivore diet. So, in order to properly prepare, I said farewell to my non-animal foods last night by eating a loaf of home-made sourdough bread 🙂 Following my carbohydrate binge, I fasted all day today and then ate a filet at 7:00 p.m., a couple of eggs over easy, and a glass of raw milk kefir. Since I was still hungry, I then ate a fatty ribeye at 9:00 p.m. Both were delicious. So far, no complaints on this diet! My plan is to be very strict for a week or two and then possibly incorporate a small amount of sauerkraut back into my diet. Then, once I’ve made a full recovery and the winter months have passed, I’ll add my sourdough bread back into my diet, a few more vegetable oils (like avocado oil), and perhaps a couple of vegetables that I do enjoy, but don’t leave me miserable (like boiled carrots, avocados, and sautéed mushrooms). If this works, I’m hoping I will have stumbled upon an eating rotation to keep me well all year long–strict carnivore from November through January and then slightly less carnivore from February through October.
Many of you will probably read this and be worried about my health…believing that a diet full of steak, eggs, and more steak will be detrimental. But as I’ve gone through this process of dialing in my diet, listening to my body and its needs, and struggling with Crohn’s, the thing I’ve realized is that no matter what health claim or statement is being made, chances are, there’s going to be a study to support it and a study to debunk it, a group of followers and a group of naysayers. We’re all different with unique microbiomes, diverse goals, and individual challenges. If you’re lucky enough to be someone in good health, with a properly working digestive system, and can enjoy the plethora of fruits and vegetables out there, then I say enjoy them all and be sure to have a serving for me!
Raise your glass, or your knife and fork, and I’ll keep you all updated on how this little experiment goes! Cheers!
4 thoughts on “A ribeye a day to make the Crohn’s go away… (My Crohn’s 2.0 diet)”
I notice you continually refer to alcohol as a part of your ‘treatment’ program. While we respect and admire the Gish Vineyards collection, how do you feel Alcohol impacts your Chrons issues? Good, Bad, Ugly or cleans you out? Alcohol is a terrible subject that people use as both their crutch and excuse for many problems, especially health problems. What is your input? Is Wine good for you and giving you the justification you wish to feel better physically, ie heart, blood, stomach, etc or is it just a way to validate and deny bigger issues that might be impacting health and Chrons issues overall?
This is a really great question, one that is actually deserving of it’s own post (which, I will probably do later, but for now I’ll try to give a quick and honest answer). Part of what makes Crohn’s so hard to treat is that it affects everyone differently. As you can tell from my latest post, vegetables are terrible on my digestive system…especially raw, cruciferous ones. But, I feel amazing when I eat red meat. A colleague that I used to work with a few years ago also had Crohn’s disease and, while I would bring in my bowl of ground beef or leftover steak for lunch, she would make herself a giant salad full of iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and any other vegetable available. But, for her, red meat and wine were her kryptonite. So, that story was a long way of saying that for me, red wine doesn’t make my symptoms worse (I’ll caveat this in a moment) and since my diet has become so restricted over the years, this is actually one thing I take pleasure in.
For me, dry red wine is the only alcohol I drink and I usually only have one glass a night, but not every night. Not only do I enjoy the flavor of red wine, but for me, it’s more about the pomp and circumstance as Jeff, the investor of Gish Cellars, would say 😉 A typical bottle of wine that Jeff and I will open ranges between $40-$120 a bottle. As my palate has advanced, I’ve come to appreciate the nuances and subtleties that are found in the flavor and character of the wines at this level, and as higher quality wines are meant to be appreciated and experienced, it can take me a couple of hours to finish a glass. Because a fine wine should be sipped and enjoyed, it actually forces me to pause and find peace in what may have been a busy and chaotic day. Stress is a contributing factor in Crohn’s flare ups and finding ways to reduce stress is very important for anyone who suffers with Crohn’s. So, when I pour myself a glass of wine, there is an emotional and therapeutically calming effect that I receive in taking the time to sit, breathe, unwind, and savor one of the few things left in my diet. In some ways, it’s quite meditative for me.
Now, back to my caveat on the wine. The red wines I drink must be high quality (poor Jeff, right?! I’m a high-maintenance girl who requires grass-fed steak and expensive red wine), otherwise, cheap red wine, while it won’t put me into a flare, will leave me with an upset stomach and, sometimes, intestinal cramping. What most people don’t know is that cheap red wine really isn’t even wine…it’s red, chemical-filled alcohol. Mass producers of the cheap wines will usually buy the leftover grapes that the wineries that grew the grapes didn’t want and were then not selected and purchased by the other wine makers that don’t grow their own grapes; so they’re starting their wine with poor ingredients. Then, to save cost, they won’t actually age the wine in barrels to give the wine flavors, they’ll chop up old wine barrels that have already lost their flavors from being used too many times by other wineries, mix the wood chips into the “wine” to soak, and then add all sorts of chemicals to add a deep red color and smokey flavors (mega purple and liquid smoke to name a couple)… So, next time you reach for that bottle of wine that costs $6.50, whether you have Crohn’s or not, you may want to think about what you’re about to drink. If you want to drink quality wines and don’t know where to start, the best advice I can give is to find yourself a local wine sommelier who can recommend high quality wines that are made traditionally (if you live in New Braunfels, go to the Specs at Creekside and ask for Mark!).
As a final note, whether to drink alcohol or not is a personal choice. I have met, over the years, fellow Crohn’s sufferers who have found that they can’t tolerate any alcohol in their diet and they’ve completely given it up. I’ve met others who can tolerate clear, hard liquors, like tequila, but nothing else. Beer, however, is the one alcoholic beverage that seems to be universally hard for people with Crohn’s to tolerate, though I’m sure there’s at least one person out there who isn’t affected by beer, but is by other alcohol.
So, there’s the short version of my love for wine and why I include it in my diet; perhaps I should start signing my posts as The Crohn’s Wino 😉
Interesting your symptoms seem to flair up during the winter. What are your thoughts on the current studies about vitamin D effecting CD? I’ve read that CD is more prevalent in colder climates where the sun shines less. Might explain why Eskimos can survive by eating meat almost exclusively during the winter yet people near the Equator do just fine eating mostly plants. Whereas some vegan thinkers say a meat only diet is a death sentence, maybe meat eating, especially wild or grass fed meat, provides the vitamin D needed during sunless environments.
I’m also curious about why you connect the initial cause of your CD to the Anthrax vaccination.
This blog is extremely well written and insightful.
Thank you for your comments and questions!
I haven’t done intensive research into vitamin D levels. However, what I have read is exactly what you are saying. Most Crohn’s patients are pretty reliably deficient in vitamin D and many articles I’ve come across have shown improvement in symptoms for people who supplement with it. I actually do take a vitamin D supplement every day, as well as magnesium and glutamine. Unfortunately, it seems to just be one small piece of a very complex puzzle right now. And, from everything I’ve learned, you are spot on about the Eskimos; fish and marine mammals are rich in vitamin D, along with a whole list of other nutrients required for health.
Interestingly, I’ve also heard some arguments lately about what vitamin levels are truly necessary for different diets. There are vitamins that are not absorbed well when carbohydrates are present in the diet, so those would need higher recommended levels. But, if someone has no carbohydrates in the diet, then theoretically a person wouldn’t need the same recommended level for that vitamin. It’s something I’ve just started contemplating as I’ve only recently heard the theories/ideas for this. If all of the recommended levels of vitamins and minerals are based on the average person eating a Standard American Diet, then should those levels be different for someone following a completely different diet? It’s interesting to think about.
I think you also touched upon a great point about the different diets throughout the world based on different locations. Human evolution would have most certainly adapted certain people to eat certain diets.
As for the anthrax vaccine, from what I’ve learned about autoimmune diseases, there are a number of different factors at play. For me, I believe there was a genetic susceptibility to autoimmune disease. Then, pair that with a lifetime of eating junk and being exposed to or ingesting toxins (everything from sugar and gluten to all the chemicals in processed foods and things we come into contact with in our daily lives), which most certainly destroyed my gut bacteria and contributed to a permeable lining. Finally, introduce the straw that broke the camel’s back, which for me I believe was anthrax, and the immune system is suddenly malfunctioning. Something has to “turn on” the gene for the specific autoimmune disease. So, in my case, I do believe anthrax played a role in triggering my immune system to fight the anthrax from the vaccine, making my immune system go haywire. Obviously, it’s all just a theory on what I think happened…but, my first symptoms did arise about the same time as I received the vaccines. It makes sense to me that this would be my perfect storm of developing Crohn’s.
So, maybe the anthrax played a role and maybe it didn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised though, if in 50 years we start seeing commercials similar to those for mesothelioma for illnesses related to anthrax vaccines…