Apr 18, 2010
I’ve been living with colitis since I was 19 years old. I’m now 32. After 13 years of dealing with a new flare-up every year or so, I want to share some things that have worked for me (and a few more that didn’t). I don’t have a medical background and I’m not a nutritionist, I’m just sharing my experience with those who are suffering and can’t seem to find a solution with doctors, meds and miracle cures.
Meds and Surgery:
One thing I’ve learned is that the meds and the surgeries don’t work. I’ve all the steroids and painkillers, which only cause dependency and don’t actually heal. If anything, they masked the underlying problem by prompting superficial stimulation. My colon muscles weren’t getting stronger, and all of the painful and annoying symptoms would continue. I would be able to eliminate, but never solidly or with any consistency in texture or timing. I remember enduring colonoscopies without anesthetic and having polyps removed when I was 20. The symptoms would lessen temporarily, but I would never heal. It took a while to realize that doctors (M.D.’s) weren’t interested in healing me. Better to neutralize the symptoms temporarily, say there’s no cure, and insure repeat business. Without launching into a conspiratorial tirade, suffice is to say that I’ve come to realize that this is the theme of the entire medical industry, with the exception of naturopaths, homeopaths and a select few M.D.’s who have integrity. And I’m not here to bash any doctor. But some things work and some things don’t.
OTC/Online/Miracle Cures and other pie-in-the-sky promises:
After the meds, I started trying different healing compounds and miracle cures, either over the counter in health food stores or online, after reading testimonial after testimonial. Nothing has ever ended a flare-up, other than good food. So much money wasted, lining the pockets of profiteers. Many products contain senna and cascara sagrada, which work well for a while but taper off in efficacy after a couple weeks. They’re also dependency-causing. Many promising herbs turn you into a gaseous human water fountain when over-relied upon, or not used properly with good, healing foods.
The idea is not to have an explosive release of gas, water and runny stools. The idea is for the colon to push everything out slowly, gently and solidly (resulting in a clean break, if you know what I mean). It should require little to no pushing. Matter should look brown to light brown, be semi-soft in texture, and float, indicating the body is getting enough fat and fiber.
How you detox:
If we detox too slowly, we don’t feel the benefits because we’re usually adding more toxins at the same time and redirecting energy the body could use for healing. When we detox too quickly with a miracle product, it puts more strain on the system, and then we feel sick and lethargic, as if the body is asking why we won’t let it detox naturally, slowly and consistently. The body detoxifies four ways: sweating, pooping, peeing and coughing (sleeping should probably be a fifth method, because it’s when we do the majority of our healing). Water cleans the system. Good food heals the system. Working out makes you sweat, clears out the lymphatic system and moves food through your system much more efficiently. How much better do you think you’d feel if you were detoxing all four ways and evacuating 2-3 times per day?
I usually get a flare-up a month or two after I quit smoking. Quitting cigarettes is easy for me, but it always triggers the colitis and I end up going back. It really used to infuriate me because I looked as if I had lost my resolve, when going back to nasty cigarettes has always been a conscious, pre-meditated decision. Proper diet has eliminated (pardon the pun) the constipation that leads to a flare-up that can last months on end.
Organic foods with live-enzymes, specialty wheat organic breads, rolled oats, oat bran (not in a box) have ended the mucus, bleeding, bloating, cramping, constipation, gas and overall strain. Straining only puts pressure on the necessary muscles. I know it’s difficult not to strain when you think you’re going to evacuate, but trying to hold it will help exercise and strengthen the muscles, and work the process naturally. When you’re sitting there and you hold it, and breathe, you can feel the muscles higher up in the colon participating in the process. The more they start to work on their own, the stronger they get, just like any other muscles in the body.
I love juicing, however, it doesn’t work for me when I’m dealing with a flare-up. I would in fact recommend against it, unless it’s a small supplement to a meal. A juicing fast gives me lots of energy but there’s no fiber, so the muscles in my colon weren’t re-learning to do the work, so they weren’t strengthening. Fiber, both soluble and unsoluble, is necessary to push matter out.
The Raw Diet:
I must admit, the raw diet did work for me, but the process was extreme and I wasn’t able to maintain it. It seems like the healing that takes place in the colon, which took place within a week, weakened all of the other areas of the body. I slept really well, and woke up breathing better than I ever had. I was told that eventually my body would begin to strengthen again everywhere. I felt too weak, too tired and questioned the long term effects of the 80/10/10 diet. I think it was so effective healing the colon because I mostly ate bananas for the entire week, so it wasn’t what I was eating as much as what I wasn’t eating. The body was able to re-allocate all the energy previously used for digestion and thereby had extra energy to apply toward healing. The body is always trying to heal. We often inhibit the process with putting more and more junk into our systems…then it’s something else the body has to contend with before going back to the healing process.
What I eat:
I eat food, not food products. Every day I honor the four food groups, and not the ones the FDA keeps revising to manipulate meat and dairy sales. The four groups below are all we need. (credit to Dr. James, cited at bottom of page)
1) Water: The body needs water. Most of the time when we think we’re hungry, we’re dehydrated. The body is asking for water to hydrate us, lubricate the digestive system and help matter make it’s way through our system. Water cleanses the body better than anything else you could drink.
2) Starches: Complex sugars found in grains, vegetables and beans. The difference between a starch and a refined carbohydrate is, the fiber has been removed from a starch to create a carbohydrate. Brown rice=starch. White rice=carb. Carbohydrates do not exist in nature. They are created by man. Unbleached, naturally starchy foods heal the body, as opposed to hurting the body, because your body gets the fiber to push matter out. They give us the energy we need to do daily activities. These starchy foods give us important vitamins and minerals, too.
3) Proteins: Contained in varying amounts in veggies, fruits, grains, and in much larger amounts in beans, peas and meat. So it isn’t necessary to eat meat every day to meet your body’s protein requirements. Our body nerves, tissues, bones all are made up of proteins. So proteins become very necessary for them to grow and repair. Proteins are also used to produce some hormones and enzymes in our body and provide necessary amino acids.
4) Fats (oils): The body needs fat. It surrounds our vital organs and prevents essential fatty acid deficiency. It provides insulation under our skin and regulates temperature. It provides something to burn when we need be active. Fat is needed to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, S, E, K, and prevent deficiencies of these vitamins. It provides back-up energy if blood sugar supplies run out (after 4-6 hours without food).
I usually like to eat more alkaline-based foods, like fruits, veggies and salads, but I find when I’m having a colitis flare-up, I absolutely need the organic oats and grains and the live-enzyme breads first and the alkaline-based produce second. Almond milk has done a great job of stimulating evacuation while giving me the protein I need. Organic brown rice works wonders with white meat. Rolled oats with organic toast and real butter for breakfast produces 1-2 good bowel movements before lunch. Stick to dark breads, dark rice; avoid bleached foods, which kill the naturally occurring nutrients and pro-biotics (we need those). As far as the breads and rolled oats go, nothing else compares when it comes to healing. The process begins the first day and I can normalize within a week or two (meaning having the proper girth, consistency and frequency or regular bowel movements, two to three times per day).
Things that helped me:
• Exercise. A good workout will make everything start to work well. I sleep better, fall asleep easier, feel calm, strong and confident when I work out 3-4 times per week. Cardio before and after my lifting regimen limbers up the muscles and prevents the buildup of painful folic acid in the muscle tissue. When it comes to lifting, I mainly work chest, legs, arms and back; two muscle groups at a time, with 2-3 days between to let them heal. You build when you heal, the workout is just the tear-down process. I work the heck out of my legs and my abs, because my problem area is right between them. The largest muscles in the body are in the legs, so this is where we get the most hormone production, which is essential. A natural testosterone increase has made me feel strong again. Working the core and doing abs workouts allows me to feel more of the muscles on top of my problem area, which creates all kinds of new stimulation, naturally. Exercise and strengthen the core and you will see magic happen.
• Not eating 2-3 hours before working out or going to bed. When you sleep or work out, you want to be in a fat-burning state, not a carb-burning state. Snacking beforehand increases your insulin levels and tells the body there’s new carbs, and the body says okay, we’ll burn that first, so we don’t burn bodyfat, because we might need it in a survival situation.
• Breathing…so important. The muscles need oxygen to function properly. The organs too. You’ll be calmer and thereby experience much less anxiety about being able to poop. Plainly put.
• Acupuncture aligns the meridians redistributes the chi, and the results are amazing. Weekly treatments have the best results. Acupuncture isn’t necessary for me to heal but it speeds up the process.
• Practice effective food combining; don’t eat a million things at once. Keep it to two or three if you can and see what simplicity does to aid you. I use this food chart: http://www.drugfreehelp.com/diet/food_combining_chart.pdf
Things that hurt me:
• Smoking cigarettes. The chemicals and nicotine in cigarettes put a heavy load on the entire system, especially the colon, which is responsible for eliminating toxins from the intestines, blood and lymph systems, and move waste into the rectum. This is a lot of work to do without adding more to tend with. Quitting smoking does cause temporary constipation, but if you add in extra organic breads, brown rice and rolled oats, you won’t have to fool yourself into thinking YOU HAVE to go back to smoking, because you’ll never be constipated.
• Being inactive. Why aren’t things moving? It stands to reason that if you’re never moving, your insides won’t either. I’m sure that’s a simplified assessment, but a little activity goes a long way. The blood starts pumping, you start sweating, everything seems to want to work in unison and then you ask yourself why it wasn’t always so easy. And then you realize it could have been, and from now on, it will be. Working out alone has played a major role in increased, healthy elimination for me.
• Being a pessimist and throwing myself a pity party. Do the steps, know and believe you’ll heal, visualize your new self, and let it happen. Knowing that the healing is not a complicated, lengthy process reduces a lot of stress. And if you say you won’t heal, you won’t. If you reaffirm that the body is healing, it will follow suit, I promise.
• Drinking alcohol, sodas and energy drinks. It’s all passing through your colon. These drinks wash the nutrients out of your food, inhibit digestion and make you crash. Drink more water. Do tea and coffee sparingly.
• Eating junk food, fast food, pre-packaged food, dead food which isn’t food, too much of any one type of food throughout the day. Excessive condiments just add more to the load. Learn to taste your food again, understanding that taking the more basic route is giving your body less to deal with.
• Expecting herbs, meds and miracle cures to heal me. They may help, but diet reigns supreme, and will dictate whether you’re going to heal or just attack the symptoms.
I try to have a piece of fruit with everything I eat. I don’t necessarily follow the proper food combining methods laid out by the Diamonds, in Fit For Life, for instance, I just know what works for me. An hour or so after I’ve had my toast (with real butter) and my rolled oats, my body tells me it wants some fruit to help move things. At lunch if I have a salad or a sandwich (with organic meat/cheese), an hour or so later it tells me it wants another piece of fruit. By dinner, after a day oats, grains, fiber, fruits and veggies, my body is ready for a small helping of fish, turkey, chicken or pork chops, to help move things through. It all comes down to balance and the body strengthening from the proper texture, fiber and nutrients from organic, healthy foods. This is still amazing to me, after years of having to wait 2-3 days at a time for one halfway decent and sometimes painful bowel movement.
The overall lessons I’ve learned:
Use foods to heal. Always try to buy organic. Combine effectively. Eat smaller portions 5-7 times per day. Don’t eat too many different things at once. (simplicity makes it easier for the body). Don’t eat 2-3 hours before working out or sleeping. Drink water between meals and during workouts.
None of the extreme methods and/or products will end the battle. It’s not magic. It’s basically just us doing what we’ve already been doing, just eating better, eating more often, eating smaller portions, drinking more water, removing some of the crap, exercising a little more (after no food for 2-3 hours), sleeping a little more (on a regular schedule and also after no food for 2-3 hours), imagining ourselves healed, and demonstrating general common sense with our health decisions.
I’d like to acknowledge that any doctor could poke holes through my advice. But they weren’t able to heal me after 13 years, with all of their amazing science and medical degrees, and food did. My battle with Colitis is over. I’ve won. If this helps one person, I’ll be so grateful for the difference it could make in that one life. I remembered when Colitis affected me so drastically that I spent a good deal of time seriously contemplating suicide. I was too scared that I would mess it up and wind up living in a mental institution for the rest of my life. I’m only 32, and I’m an otherwise intelligent, well-balanced, normal, good-looking and healthy guy. I have my whole life ahead of me now. And so do you.
I’m not an expert (on this subject or any other for that matter) but if you think I can help you, feel free to email me @ ***@****.
You may also find the information on www.drugfreehelp.com very helpful. It’s a great reference guide. Dr. James’ daughter, Jess, is a good friend of mine. Dr. James isn’t in for the money. He truly wants to help people, and I have him and Jess to thank for my healing.