Sitting in my comfy Northern California home after a hefty meal and a beer or two, I now realize that my mind is trained more to the need to lose a little weight than it is to the predicament I struggled with for so many years. I often thought that one day I’d share the tale, and the unorthodox resources and tools that helped me reclaim my health and ultimately fully cure myself of an “incurable” disease, mainly because, well, I guess it seemed like way too much to go though just for my own benefit.
Since I’ve spoken with Joel , and read so many posts on Facebook, I’ve felt compelled to share and help in any way I can. I am not a doctor, and so I have to check myself when it comes to each person’s individual experiences, every one of us is different, but, having said that, we have some important factors in common, don’t we?
Please don’t take my story as personal advice or recommendations, each of us need to think with our own heads and consult with the experts when it comes to advise from anyone. My methods are more a reflection of my own personality than they are a representation of sound logic. As such, this is my story.
As a kid I always suffered from random stomach aches and headaches. I was always thin, but that had more to do with my obsession for skiing and anything to do with being outdoors, or so I thought. In my teens I suffered a few extremely severe abdominal cramps that were so bad I thought I had been stabbed… then nothing for months on end. Then it would happen again… then nothing for months and months. Until it hit me for real in my early twenties.
It was so severe and troubling I didn’t know what hit me. I lost weight so quickly it was truly alarming – I was thin to begin with. I went from doctor to doctor and the unanimous consensus was that I had ulcerative colitis. I’ll never forget, the doctors all told me the same thing; nobody knows what causes it, and there’s no cure.
As the months went on, I couldn’t bear the severe pain, and the ulcerations got so severe that I was losing a significant amount of blood. I grew weaker and weaker and weaker, and soon enough I barely had the energy to walk. My doctors told me “take your medication, and you’ll be fine”. I assumed they would follow with some dietary advice – common sense, right?… They did offer dietary advice “eat whatever you want, it doesn’t matter, just take your medication and you’ll be fine”. I didn’t know a thing about food and diets at the time, but I knew that didn’t make any sense.
In the winter of ’97 I was bed ridden and felt as though I had the flu, at which point it occurred to me I was in real big trouble – could I die from this? I called the doctor again and told him I was in really bad shape and was alarmed at the amount of blood I was losing. I’ll never forget his casual tone with which he brushed off my concerns, “that’s not that bad, we’ll probably need to remove your colon?”. I FREAKED out… the gravity of this needed some time to sink in.
I grew more and more angry at their casual nature and their lack of answers. Now, I’m not advocating this, let me be clear, but I literally said the F word to the doctors and never saw them again. I would figure it out on my own. I never saw another western doctor for any internal medicine issue again (except for my appendectomy – I’m not an idiot). I never had another colonoscopy again, no checkups, nothing, (again, I’m really not advocating this, its just how I am). No medications to lead me to a life plagued by blood disease, impotence and allergic reaction to sunlight – I left it all behind, content to die with that decision.
I embarked on beyond obsessive research and self-testing with foods. I kept thinking to myself… and I still fully believe this today – if they don’t know what causes it, and don’t know any cure for it, then they are just naming a group of symptoms – therefore the diagnosis is fairly meaningless and certainly not instructive in finding a cure. This may sound silly, I realize but this was a key motivating factor for me, it liberated my mind from the idea that I had an incurable disease at all. Heck, I’m better off calling it something else, then searching for an answer to this personal mystery rather than lining up for their miserable solutions.
In my initial dietary experiments I stumbled upon something that allowed me to regain a good deal of strength and energy and was what I considered the first step in saving me from the edge of desperation. Rather than eat what I thought I should eat, I ate what a strongly craved; boiled potatoes and heaps of butter and a little bit of salmon. Years later I still consider potatoes and butter to be incredibly healing to the digestive tract, easy to digest and providing a good needed boost of energy. Bleeding and pain reduced significantly after this discovery. This was later confirmed by my research (*primarily Healing with Whole Foods – Paul Pitchford).
Another lucky discovery – my best friend introduced me to a very talented Chinese Medicine Doctor named Dave Ruther. I told him about my predicament, and added that I still suffered pain cramps and quite a lot of bleeding. He said in response to the bleeding, “oh, I’ve got a great herb for that” I took an herbal pill on the spot and again that night. Interestingly, in that treatment, Dave was able to tell me exactly what was wrong, whereas my doctors were always shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads.
The herb he gave me stopped the bleeding overnight. This is no exaggeration, it stopped completely and 90% of the pain was gone the next day. Not only that but the bleeding never happened again, ever… not once, since that day. The herb is a form a ginseng that the Chinese regarded as the gold they wouldn’t trade. Years later I have dozens more stories and personal experiences of the power of this herb, which I will save for another day. This herb is known as Yunnan Baiyao**, obviously consult with doctors on your own situation and possible drug interactions. I regard this a critically important to stabilizing acute cases of ulceration and bleeding. Western doctors do not know this herb and will tend the think in terms of coagulants and thinners. This herb is both and neither, it improves the quality of the blood and invigorates it and drives it back into its proper channels. Do some research on it if you’re curious it is truly miraculous.
I had recovered much of my health and vitality and body weight following this turning point. In the years that followed I became more and more obsessed with my research, I had to understand the way everything affected me and had a burning desire to understand Chinese Medicine as it appeared to have a sophisticated method of understanding the subtleties of the body’s internal balance.
Though I rarely suffered from cramps after this, I was still plagued by food sensitivities, variable energy levels, periodic food reactions which manifested as almost food poisoning and I was still quite thin. I couldn’t put on weight no matter what I ate. For the next nearly ten years I tried every diet imaginable, I ate every food combination, and went off dairy for years at a time. In addition to this, I took almost every herbal supplement you can imagine. I read countless books and became a well read and educated TCM patient to some of the best TCM doctors in the country.
In TCM terms, Interestingly, but not surprisingly if you understand the terminology, I always showed significant spleen deficiency and liver/spleen disharmony. This is very common for UC patients.
Despite all of my exploration, I could never escape this feeling of bloating and malaise that seemed to follow me everywhere. Until, I met TCM Dr. and Michael Smith *** in Nelson B.C. who also battled with UC, issued a Spring Renewal protocol which had a series of self-tests. Going through his workbook, which I still have today, I scored off the charts on low stomach acid. The remedy he suggested was Betain HCL – supplemental stomach acid.
The first time I took Betain HCL with a meal was a revelation, it was a true turning point and I knew it then and there. The bloating was gone, the malaise was gone and my energy and wellbeing was the best I’d felt in years. I went on taking HCL with every meal for the next nearly two years. I had never felt better, or looked better. I gained 65 pounds of lean mass in the year or so to come. I ate freely, anything I wanted, nothing bothered me. I indulged in dairy again, and I ate in massive amounts with total abandon for consequence and finally had to back off when I stepped on the scale and saw 218 flash at me. I wasn’t fat mind you, I was lifting weights and stacking on muscle like a total meat head, it was fun but I knew I felt better at a healthy mountain-bike-friendly weight of 190-ish.
I reigned it back in and started eating consciously again, now looking for some kind of super human health. I continued taking the Betain HCL until it started giving me acid reflux, which is the sign that you don’t need it, by the way. I decreased slowly until my body would not tolerate it at all. In the last several years I’d gone vegan for two years, until I reached diminishing returns and then I went strict gluten-free for the last few years. Ironically the last thing I tried, (gluten-free diet) I now consider to be one of the most important steps. I’m now a firm believer in a gluten-free diet.
In my research of TCM and Ulcerative Colitis what I’ve come to understand is that there is a very common disharmony that people suffer from, and almost everyone has some variation of it. That disharmony is one of the interdependent systems of the liver, spleen and stomach. In some people it can cause stomach ulcers or acid reflux, in others it can cause the opposite which is a total lack of stomach acid. When the stomach produces good levels of stomach acid, food is broken down and certain foreign bacteria is killed and the food passes through the digestive tract and absorbed as its designed. However, when there is NO stomach acid, the food is not broken down and foreign bacteria is not killed it can proliferate and infect the digestive tract leading to chronic diarrhea and autoimmune reactions as the lining is stripped away and tissues of the colon are infected by bacteria. This becomes a wicked cycle that gets worse and worse and you become weaker and weaker. So the diagnosis as an autoimmune disease is wholly inaccurate in my view – the immune system is doing exactly what its supposed to do.
So what causes the disharmony? It’s important to know that perfect health is not a destination – you don’t arrive at perfect health and stay that way passively. It is a never-ending balancing act. I’ve learned to be more sensitive to my body’s needs and processes than I ever thought possible. For me , I can say that after all this time having been fully cured of UC there one thing that I will not touch ever and that is gluten, and there is one that I greatly minimize, and anyone who is dealing with active UC should avoid and that is dairy – as there is no nutritional benefit from either of those and they bring a whole host of health issues that should be avoided (I allow some goat or sheep milk from time to time). There are a long list of other factors and dietary recommendations that are beyond the scope of the story.
It gives me a good sense of satisfaction simply having the thought that someone might read this and benefit from a word or two. I don’t pretend to know what each person’s answer is as I only have this one story to offer, and I know that people are suffering more than I can imagine. My heart truly goes out to them, because I remember as if it were yesterday the feeling of helplessness, and of course the searing pain, how can I forget that.
Now that I go back through it all, perhaps the greatest victory for me personally, was probably won very early on when I pounded my own sickly chest and said “I am responsible for my own health”,” I will figure this out on my own”. Did I figure it out on my own? Hell no, I had so many great teachers and healers along the way, but I never put myself in any one persons care and said “fix me” this allowed me to gather more information from more sources until I cracked the code. Its been 20 years since my diagnosis and I’m happy to say I’m healthy as an ox with colon fully intact and my amazing wife and my perfect little healthy baby girl now 18 months old. So when they tell you there’s no cure, I can tell you they’re wrong, YOU are the cure, that is the only cure there ever is – your body will heal itself just like its designed to. You just need to give it the chance… you just need the turning points. Stay strong!
Strong mind, strong body.