Every time I sit down to write about Crohn’s Disease, I always find myself having an internal debate about how much to share. On the one hand, there’s a lot to be gained from hearing other people’s experiences and I deeply appreciate those who have shared their stories that I’ve stumbled upon throughout my journey. But, on the other hand, the issues that come with Crohn’s are what most people would consider embarrassing, incredibly personal, and not suitable for discussing at the dinner table. That being said, the last few months have been full of ups and downs with regard to my intestinal health. I found myself falling out of ketosis, which brought on mood swings and mild depression; testing the waters with some of my old fermented foods (which were literally old); and circling back to some supplements I had gotten away from. So, to heck with the polite dinner conversation, this is my story and it is what it is…
Now, I know I said I wasn’t going to stray from my carnivore diet again, but…I panicked and went down a rabbit hole and that is where this story begins.
A few months ago at the end of June I finally went to the dentist. Normally, I go every six months and get a checkup and things are great. Never had a cavity in my life (by the way, never say never…). However, I moved from San Antonio to New Braunfels about a year and a half ago. Since my regular dentist was now over an hour away from my house and in the Medical Center of San Antonio where traffic is always congested, I thought I would search for a dentist in my new area.
As I started the search, finding a dentist in my insurance network was proving to be hard, so I kept putting the search off. Time passed, then more time passed, and eventually it was almost two years since I had been to the dentist. Finally, a couple of months ago, I found a dentist, made an appointment, and went in. On that first appointment, however, this new dentist that I had no prior knowledge of or relationship with–and therefore hadn’t built any trust with–said that I had the start of a very small baby cavity and he wanted to drill and fill it.
Well, I didn’t like that on my first visit he wanted to drill on my teeth. So, I called my old dentist and wanted to go in for a second opinion. That four-week period between the new dentist visit and my old dentist visit is when I went down the rabbit hole. I was panicked and thought, “Was my new diet disintegrating my teeth? Was Crohn’s and a lack of nutrients leaching vital calcium from my teeth and bones? How can I fix this without having my teeth drilled?”
Without delay, I went straight to Google–of course–and found myself a couple of books to read: Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel and Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Kate Rhéaume-Bleue, BSc, ND.
Ramiel Nagel discussed the work of Weston A. Price in great detail in his book. Price studied the teeth and occurrence of cavities in populations around the world in relation to their diets. After reading his recommendations for optimal tooth health, what I took away from Cure Tooth Decay was that I needed to increase my consumption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and calcium. Vitamin K–or more specifically, K2–was the entire topic of the next book I read, which was referenced as the “X factor” in Price’s work that was discussed in Cure Tooth Decay. Vitamin K2 helps the body direct calcium to the proper places it needs it (bones and teeth) and keeps it out of the places it doesn’t (like the arteries).
Since I’m a believer in eating real food, I wanted to try to get as many of these things as I could from my diet and not from a supplement. Which put me on a short-lived detour of eating lots of raw-milk cheese, yogurt, a green-foods drink mix, more of my protreat concoctions, and supplementing with calcium/magnesium, liver tablets, and vitamins D3 and K2. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a bit impetuous when I have my sights set on a goal, so I basically said, ‘let’s try it all, immediately!’ Even though I said I wasn’t going to stray from my carnivore diet, the whole reason I started eating only meat was to improve my health. This cavity scared me into thinking that perhaps I was missing something in my diet and I catapulted into experimentation mode once again. Despite how it may appear, my goal isn’t to see how extreme I can be with my diet, it’s to simply find what will make me healthy.
What I discovered after this dietary detour, is that all these changes were both a good and bad idea. I think my body definitely needed the additional nutrients, but not like this! I also think needing the nutrients was more a result of having Crohn’s than following my carnivore diet. But, what actually happened, you might be wondering? Well, eating a lot of cheese was my first mistake. Basically, the only way I can describe what happened was that it was as if my intestines just shut down. I was miserable, bloated, constipated, in pain, and the only thing my intestines were producing was mucus, which always makes me feel like my colon is falling apart; it’s rather unsettling. Seeing as I’m no stranger to the Fleets enemas and Milk of Magnesia, I finally decided to force things to start moving because I was worried I may have a bowel obstruction, but wasn’t ready to call my doctor just yet. Spoiler alert: no obstruction.
During this time, my face also started breaking out. To me, this was a clear indication that my body was not ridding itself of toxins and bacteria the way it should when it’s healthy. Then, right after my intestines went on strike, I developed an abscess on my chin, which grew to the size of a golf ball. (See the picture at the top of this page.) I was not feeling like the picture of good health.
I jumped on a Teledoc video call and the physician who saw me immediately prescribed me antibiotics. I think the entire phone call lasted about 90 seconds. Although I try hard to avoid medications, especially antibiotics that will–without question–disrupt my gut bacteria, I felt this was necessary.
I then decided to cut back on eating cheese and bought myself a good whole-food calcium supplement instead. While I was shopping, I decided to buy a bone marrow supplement and throw that into the mix as well. Realizing that my body was still out of whack, I decided it was also time to try incorporating some of my favorite fermented foods to see if I could boost my body’s immune system and give it more strength to fight whatever bacteria and/or viruses it was battling.
So, out with the cheese, in with more supplements, and welcome back: sauerkraut, soaked almonds, plain greek yogurt, and kombucha. I was hoping the addition of fermented foods and a supplemental probiotic would help return my system to normal–especially after the round of antibiotics–but things stopped working again. Not only had my intestines come to a complete halt once more, but the addition of all the fibrous foods left me cramping and in much more pain this time. The mucus was still there, but now there was also blood. A little over a week later, I reached for the Milk of Magnesia for help. I probably should have/could have called my doctor, but I seem to have a habit of waiting until the eleventh hour to do so…
I tried for another week to stick with the fermented foods, but things didn’t get better. At this point, I’d also come out of nutritional ketosis and was getting depressed. I noticed my mood was poor, my energy was low, and I felt miserable. It was time to reassess what I was doing.
It was now the end of July and I had my appointment with my old dentist. He agreed that there was the start of a very tiny cavity and he, too, would recommend drilling and filling it. He said that if the cavity was only in the top layer of enamel, it would be prudent to leave it and watch whether it progressed. My cavity had just started to reach the dentin layer, which is when he recommends filling it. I shared my concerns about drilling and asked whether there was a chance my tooth could remineralize with diet or mineral rinses and toothpastes. He respected my desire to try and heal the tooth naturally before reaching for the drill, so he gave me a prescription toothpaste that has been shown to help remineralize teeth and strengthen enamel. We would wait six months, we agreed, to check on the tooth and see if the cavity worsens, stays the same, or gets better.
Since I don’t eat junk food and I take great care to brush and floss every day, the cavity seems more like a sign that my body is lacking something. I don’t want to start drilling and filling my teeth without solving the problem of why they’re losing minerals in the first place. My thought is that if I don’t adjust something, then surely my teeth will just continue to lose minerals and form new cavities. Therefore, I needed to find a way to take control of the situation, which is why I went so quickly and deeply down the rabbit hole.
With my prescription toothpaste in hand (and a few additional remineralizing products I found on Amazon), I was ready to look at my diet and supplement mix to see how I could reign my Crohn’s back in, get my intestines functioning on their own, and return my skin to normal.
I always feel good when I eat meat, so that remained the basis of my carnivore diet. But, this time I decided to keep only my protreats and the green drink. Both are low in fiber and serve an additional benefit of acting as a delivery system for the glutamine and lysine powders I added back into my diet–plus they provide a nice change of pace for texture and flavor 🙂 The liver and bone marrow capsules seemed to be boosting my energy, so I decided to keep those, and after reading the book on K2, I felt it was vital to keep that. Along with K2, I’m keeping the calcium supplement (since I’m not eating bones, sardines, or any other animal source of calcium), the probiotic, and D3 capsules. Since most Crohn’s patients are deficient in vitamin D, I’m betting on the chance that I am, too. (I now have a blood test on it’s way to check my vitamin D levels from EverlyWell. I have a suspicion that perhaps my cavity is more a result of low vitamin D, K2, and calcium…so we’ll find out what happens in a few more months.)
Fast forward to now, the end of August, and I’m starting to feel really good again. I still have some mucus and blood in my intestines, but I think that is a result of elevated stress levels. For those who don’t know, I work at a school and this past week was the start of the 2018-2019 school year. So, there were quite a few nights of coming home from work, only to work at home until 11:00 p.m. or midnight, and then wake up early to get back to work. I think it’s my dad’s influence growing up and the years I spent in the Army, but I find it hard to quit before the job is done and when it’s something that will benefit the school, I hate to say no. (Stress will most definitely need to be a blog topic at some point…)
My intestines are functioning very well again and things actually appear normal (except for the blood and mucus, but that does seem to be clearing up, so I’m not too worried about it right now…it’s interesting how your perspective changes as to what is worrisome when you’ve battled Crohn’s for many years). The bloating, cramping, and pain are all gone and my skin is clear and vibrant again. My energy levels are high once more and my mood has stabilized. I think the latter is definitely a result of getting myself back into nutritional ketosis though. The ketogenic diet is often touted for its anti-inflammatory properties and positive effects on brain health, which is why I’ve been monitoring blood ketones to make sure I’m staying in a ketogenic state while on my carnivore (plus protreat and green drink) diet.
So, to make things easy for anyone who might be following along here, here’s what’s helping me right now…I’ll call it my “Carnivore Plus” diet just for fun:
- Meat (I find I feel best eating ribeyes with lots of butter, so that’s my staple food. But, there are some high-fat sausage links I enjoy, so I eat those quite often to help keep my diet high in fat and stay in ketosis. I eat ground beef when I want a change of pace and crispy bacon when I want a treat!)
- Protreats (My homemade concoction with coconut oil, bone broth protein powder, glutamine, and lysine powder.)
- Green drink (I’m a fan of the Garden of Life supplements, so I’ve been drinking the Pomegranate Yerba Mate flavor of the Energizer Juiced Green Superfood. I don’t know how much of a difference the juice itself makes, but it’s tasty and is a perfect drink to mix more glutamine and lysine in.)
- 1-3 tsp/day of glutamine powder, which is about 15g (I usually mix 1.5 tsp in my protreat and 1.5 tsp in my green drink.)
- 1-3 grams of lysine powder (I’ll have to do a future post on this, but not only does lysine fight viruses in the body, it also improves gut health.)
- Liver Capsules (Ancestral supplements, made from 100% freeze dried, grass-fed beef liver.)
- Bone Marrow (Ancestral supplements, 100% pure bovine bone, marrow and cartilage as it exists in nature.)
- Vitamin K2 (Bioactive form from natto.)
- Vitamin D3
- Coffee (Blended with 1TB ghee every morning.)
- Wine (Because I have to have a vice and let’s be honest, we have a 1,500+ bottle wine cellar built into our house, so I can’t stop drinking wine now…Jeff said there’d be consequences!)
So there you have it, my last few months of radio silence now explained. It may not be the best dinner conversation, but it’s what I deal with pretty much every day. Perhaps I’ve sparked someone’s curiosity enough to go down their own rabbit hole to make beneficial changes for their own health! There are a lot of people jumping on the carnivore diet bandwagon right now, and while it may not be the answer for everyone–or forever–there are a lot of people who are finding it to be a beneficial tool to serve as an elimination diet to help identify foods that do cause trouble when they start reintroducing more than just meat and water into their daily lives.
There is a lot we know about our bodies when it comes to health, but I truly believe we’ve only just scratched the surface of what there is to know. The human body is complex, adaptable, and pretty amazing. So, while my journey has definitely been a rocky road–and I’m sure there will be plenty more bumps ahead–I feel like I’m uncovering what works for me; I’ve finally got premium fuel running in this little machine!
I’ve got plenty more to write about before I go back to the dentist, but stay tuned for an update in January when I have my follow up appointment to see whether my cavity has remineralized…fingers crossed!