Crohn's is not always incurable, nor is it always progressive
Image: woman with colostomy bag
If you suffer from a nasty disease of the digestive tract, such as Crohn's or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), you have probably been told many times over by medical specialists that the cause of your distress remains a medical mystery, still poorly understood, an autoimmune disorder, or some description like these.
You have probably been told that the condition is 'progressive', and that there is no 'cure' for your condition, just 'management' to slow the disease's progression, by powerful drugs that are fraught with nasty side effects.
You have probably been told that you certainly may try 'alternatives' but these are mostly ineffective and medically unproven. By the way, I call this the 'expensive urine' ploy, which is cunningly intended to undermine your efforts at self-help.
You may be resigned to a life that may be shorter than it could be and a lifestyle that is limited by your condition, such as being able to travel afar and the exercise you do. You may be resigned to the prospect of successive rounds of surgery as the disease progresses, as it inevitably will, eventually resulting in the permanent reliance on a colostomy bag and a host of drugs. Nobody wants that.
Let me give you the good news as a counter to the very depressing scenario I have just painted for you:
While these may well be 'medical mysteries', cynically, because there is not currently a 'cure' by way of a patent medicine, rest assured that there are healthy solutions available right now that will ensure you have a long, healthy, productive and enjoyable life.
Caroline McDonald wrote me:
I was reading your blog about the ketogenic diet.
I have been following a grain free diet now for about five years. I eat many vegetables and fruits, a bit of the “good fats” and a range proteins. Besides maintaining a reasonably slim body more importantly I enjoy excellent health. My Crohn's disease is basically non-existent, systemic inflammation is reduced and although I work with the public I haven’t had a”major” flu or cold bug for years. I think it is important for people to understand that some of the bonuses from eating like this don’t necessarily happen overnight [such as the reduction of inflammation].
There are many products now that support this way of eating. I eat a small amount of Paleo bread now which can be obtained from Common Sense Organics and there is a yummy pasta made from beans available from New World in the Gluten Free Section as well as from Common Sense Organics and Bin Inn. This pasta is high in protein and low in carbohydrates which is a bonus. For any one wanting to start eating like this and seeming a bit lost I would recommend the Food Bag called Fresh Start . [if they are able to afford it]. The meals are largely grain free and based on vegetables and proteins. The grains that are included can be substituted easily for something else.
What STUNS me is that
1. People can be so easily brainwashed into believing their plight is hopeless without drugs.
2. People's lack of interest and initiative in trying alternative measures. It seems they act like lemmings queuing up to have bits of intestines cut out.
I have offered to speak with many people about diet and lifestyle re Crohn's and no one has ever taken me up on the offer.
I must say tackling the disease with a holistic healthy lifestyle approach is most probably easier for me than other people as I am a bit OCD ….so sticking to routines is easy.
I think the desire to be as healthy a person as possible has to be created and present. For some people it appears to be too much “hard” work.
I am big on stuff like probiotics and fermented food at the moment too. That really helps I am sure."
Contact details for Caroline:
027 687 0455
As you will gather, Caroline is in excellent health. But this was not the case when she first sought out my assistance way back in 2009. When she came to see me, she was partially on the road to recovery already in that she wasn’t experiencing flare ups.
That had come about through lifestyle changes like giving up alcohol, smoking and a stressful job. But she was still experiencing problems systemically that most probably were by-products of Crohn's such as water retention and inflammation in joints as well as migraines.
My advice and solutions, back then, were not nearly as clear or effective as they are today. However, we simply treated what we could see on the test, along with a sprinkling of common-sense that included some supplements, tidying up her diet and even some special massage to reduce pain and shift lymph fluid that was pooling in her body. To her credit, she stuck with the plan from Day One and look at her now - It has taken a long time but she's now simply amazing!
Tiny gains were made, month-after-month, such that in a few years she was able to fly to the other side of the World with her mother to visit her ancestral home and meet long-lost relatives. For a person with Crohn's, this is a truly remarkable achievement.
When talking about her achievements, running her own personal training business is the most significant one as she has to have excellent health to do this . She works very long hours six days a week in what is a physically and mentally demanding job. Caroline has done this for years now and she still has heaps of energy.
She walks the talk.
"Cured" is not the right word
When dealing with chronic health issues, it is not correct to use the word "cured". It gives the wrong message - the impression that one can slack off because there are no longer any signs and symptoms. But I warn you this:
The absence of symptoms does not necessarily mean the absence of disease!
My advice to everyone who may have had a brush with any kind of nasty disease, is that you must never let up with being vigilant. By the time you have symptoms and by the time your doctor says "Houston, I think we have a problem", that may be far too late in the peace - you may already be flaming out into a million pieces in the atmosphere.
A much better health strategy for life is that we lovingly maintain you while on the launchpad so you are 100% long before any lift-off!
Got the idea?
There are a few lessons to be taken from Caroline's remarkable transformation from chronic sickness to energetic personal trainer, as well as from my years working with all manner of chronic health issues:
Ten lessons about becoming really healthy
1. There are no 'Quick Fixes' or 'Magic Bullets'
This pretty much says what it says. Unless you are afflicted with a raging infection, there are no quick-fix drugs for nasty chronic health issues, such as Crohn's, just as there will never really be a cure for cancer.
When it comes to quick-fixes, the solution may be worse than the disease itself.
"The treatment was a success;
however the patient died"
2. 'Body - Heal Thyself'
I do not heal you, nor does anybody else. Nor does a drug. YOU do the healing. A healer is a person who aids that process. The healer of today is aided by access to powerful forensic tools such as the Interclinical Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis.
3. Your body is programmed for good health
Continuing on from (2.), your body is genetically programmed with a powerful desire to stay within a narrow band of cellular homeostasis that equals perfect health. Injury, stress, nutrition, pollution, gender, the genes you inherited from your parents, and ageing, all have an influence on whether you remain within that band of excellent health, or whether you get shoved out of it.
I think of this as being the pendulum of good health: if it swings gently in the middle, all is well. However, if any of a number or a combination of events conspire to cause the pendulum to swing wildly, there is always the risk it will become stuck out afar (chronic ill-health). My job is to figure out how to free that pendulum and have it gently oscillating once again within the range of 'perfect health'.
4. Food can be both a medicine and a poison
It is said that 'food is your medicine'. I totally agree. Food nurtures. Food heals.
However, food is also our poison because there may be some foods that you are sensitive to and which may inflame and ulcerate our bodies, beginning with our digestive tract.
We now have access to accurate testing that helps us identify any of hundreds of foods that a person may be allergic to. If a person is suffering a chronic inflammatory condition, such as Crohn's, food allergy testing, along with the Interclinical Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis are the first tools I will turn to nowadays.
Identifying any foods that irritate and inflame, then eliminating them, can have a huge impact on health, including Crohn's, full-stop.
Proper testing can throw up some real surprises. For example, a person may have been told that she is gluten intolerant and now living a strict gluten-free diet. She has had some relief but is still unwell and still relying on medication. We discover, with modern allergy-testing, that she has absolutely no issues with gluten, but is highly allergic to chicken egg white. Guess what is found in most baked goods and elsewhere in many processed foods? You guessed it - egg white. Egg white is everywhere. No wonder she was still not well!
A word of caution: not all tests are the same. There are some dodgy hair tissue and allergy tests out there that are not worth the paper they are printed on.
5. There is no one-size-fits-all solution
I have come to detest the love-affair central health agencies have for all-inclusive, sound-byte-sized health advice. I have this saying:
"We are all the same:
at the same time, we are all very different"
Yes, there are some basic health principles that can be beneficial for all of us, such as not smoking and eating more vegetables. But when it comes to reversing conditions of chronic illness what works are interventions that are tailored to the individual and then adjusted (tweaked) as conditions change.
When it comes to achieving and maintaining good health, nothing is constant. Sound-byte health advice sells people short.
6. Give the good things in life time to work their magic
When using foods, including so-called 'Super Foods' to improve health, a long time and being consist are the keys. The process of your body healing itself is a very, very slow process. You may have spent decades slowly getting down to where you are now. It takes years to reverse disease processes that may now be deeply entrenched with much damage done and many years in the making.
7. Patience and persistence eventually pay huge health dividends
About eight years ago, I set out to be the fittest over sixty year old in the world. It's my way of showing the power of the work I do for ensuring excellent health and fitness regardless of age. Eight years and two failed attempts later, I have got very close to my goal, but not close enough. Have I given up? Of course not! I'm more determined than ever.
Think of it this way: if your goal was to win an Olympic medal you would be expecting to put in a decade or longer of gruelling training, along with huge personal and financial sacrifices, while overcoming numerous setbacks along the way. It is therefore hardly a surprise that 99% of the athletes who aspire to Olympic Greatness fail. They give up despite their talents and opportunities. The ones who succeed are not always the most gifted, or the ones with all the flash resources. The few who succeed are the ones who train hard and smart - often doing it hard - and they never - ever give up on their dreams.
If you are afflicted with a chronic disease, how long do you really expect it to take to be well and how easy do you think its really going to be to get there?
Life was never meant to be easy. If it was, then all of us would be Olympic champions and we would all be wealthy, thin, muscled and healthy.
Think of your health goals as being the equivalent of your Olympic Gold Medal.
8. The only goal to set is perfect health - nothing less
How you perceive your health may be heavily influenced by the company you keep.
I have made it my goal to be a multiple age group world champion athlete. I'll be there next year. To do this I must be in perfect health and very fit. I've made it a point, for the last few years, to mix with extremely fit younger people. The intention is to challenge myself physically to improve my standards for physical performance. This includes resetting my perceptual expectations to a much higher level. I could have comfortably ridden "B Grade" in cycling, but decided to ride "A" instead, initially hurting badly and coming close to last in most races.
It is funny how performance follows perception. If I was surrounded by "B" athletes, guess what? Yes - I'd be a rather good "B Grade" athlete, but never would I be a world champion. Despite the extreme discomfort, initially, I'm now a rather comfortable "A Grade" rider.
If you are sick, medicated and well overweight, but surrounded by people with similar, or worse issues, you might be feeling like where you are at is actually kind of okay. With a small improvement in health, the loss of a few kilos of weight you may be thinking, "job done!" But is it? It all comes down to how you define "Good Health". My advice to you is to set a really high standard from the very outset. Surround yourself with healthy people.
You deserve only the best of everything, especially when it comes to health.
9. Perfect health is the "Holy Grail": you'll never get there
It is inevitable that we will all get slow down and eventually die. This is called "Getting Old". It is the process by which our cellular systems for healthy homeostasis gradually and inevitably fall into a states of metabolic chaos and disrepair. It happens to all of us - even the rich and famous.
The secret to an active, productive and enjoyable life that we can look back on with joy and satisfaction is ageless good health. Without good health, our lives are limited in so many ways.
Much of what we once thought of as being the inevitable consequences of getting old are, in fact, controllable
The exciting news is that we can do more than ever before to maintain good health as we get older by applying what is learned as scientists burrow deeper and deeper into the inner workings of our cells.
10. Do not allow others to undermine what you know is the right thing to do
Expect everyone, including your family, best friends and even medical specialists to undermine your plans to get healthy by doing it yourself. Be ready to counter, or simply ignore their attempts to capsize your good intentions.
Attempts to undermine you may be quite subtle. Be ready for these:
"It is expensive urine: you are peeing your money down the drain"
"There is no evidence that those work"
"You must not stop taking your drugs"
"C'mon - just one beer/burger/cigarette ..."
My advice is to be strong. Ignore them. Smile. You may explain what it is that you are doing but you really do not have to justify yourself to anyone else, let alone apologise. If necessary, walk away. Never give up on what you know is right and best for you.
Recruit those closest to you. When consulting me, I may invite you to bring along those closest to you to listen in and take notes for you. This is because it is important that your loved ones understand what is going on and are supportive when there are diet and lifestyle changes in the wind.
The message that Caroline and I are sharing with you is this:
There is hope!
So long as you understand that the road to good health is not the easiest of journeys, and you must also understand that you are the one who does the healing. No one else can fix you, nor will any drugs. We merely help by providing a nurturing environment and a gentle hand to guide you.
Enough said - it is now time for positive action - go for it!