Healing naturally. Remission with without prescription drugs.
After telling a close friend about my recovery, he asked why I had to yet to pay it forward and offer my story to others. So here it goes.
I have ulcerative colitis. It’s a terrible disease that sent me running to the toilet 5, 10, even 20 times a day. UC is an autoimmune disease, which means that my immune system attacks healthy cells in my body by mistake. There’s a lot of debate, but no one is really clear on the cause of any of the autoimmune diseases — UC, Chrons, rheumatoid arthritis, and the many more.
I was diagnosed with UC at the age of 22. Like many individuals, it wasn’t that bad at first. I took some pretty low-grade drugs such Colazal, as well as the occasional Canasa during some flares. This actually kept me under control for years. I was doing really well and switched over Lialda 2x a day. Mesalamine’s like Lialda are quite effective and have minor side effects, for most people.
If you were familiar with the drugs in the above paragraph, you can probably predict what happens next. Shit hits the fan.
I started having flare ups, each of which was brought under control with Prednisone. That oh so fun corticosteroid. I’m not going to talk about why this drug is dangerous on many fronts, but at least it worked…. at first.
I asked my doctors about dietary changes when my UC was getting worse, but every gastroenterologist I saw said the same thing:
“There is no cure for ulcerative colitis. There is no link between diet and ulcerative colitis remission. Dietary changes can help reduce symptoms, but in no way can replace prescription drugs.”
Spoiler alert, this is bullshit.
Eventually, my Prednisone doses started getting too high and were not treating the flare ups. My gastroenterologist switched me to a biologic. Biologics are genetically-engineered proteins derived from human genes. They are designed to inhibit specific components of the immune system that play pivotal roles in fueling inflammation. First Humira, and after that didn’t work, I switched to Remicade.
In short, these drugs are the real deal. They can be extremely effective for some people, (spoiler alert, except for me) but also come with a whole host of side effects. Not to mention you have to sit in a chair and have them delivered intravenously for two hours.
For example Humira, one of the most popular drugs in the world has the usual side effects we hear about on TV:
- Numbness or tingling
- Vision problem
- Weakness in your legs
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
but it also may cause….
- Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer
- Tuberculosis (high risk)
- A rare type of cancer called hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma
- Death — fucking death
I wasn’t really happy about taking these drugs, but as anyone with UC knows, the disease really starts to weigh on you. Eventually, the risk of getting Lymphoma didn’t matter as much when I was running to the bathroom 20 times a day. Like many people out there, these biologics were my last option. Unfortunately, these too also stopped working for me.
My doctors (began trying out different Gastroenterologists) suggested surgery. They wanted to rip out my colon, and I was almost ok with this. I had a basically given up and was ready to sign on the line for surgery.
Luckily, life had a different option planned for me.
On the way home from a business trip to Chicago, I was sitting in my Uber listening to the Rich Roll podcast. My wife had suggested I listen to the episode with Seamus Mullen, noting many of our similarities in prescription drugs and symptoms. Seamus was telling his story about how Dr. Frank Lipman saved his life without drugs. Seamus had rheumatoid arthritis and Dr. Lipman healed him through diet and lifestyle changes in 6 months.
As Seamus rattled off the same drugs he had previously taken, many of which I had taken (listed above), I kept thinking… could this also work for me?
So I contacted Dr. Lipman and he agreed to see me. I was ecstatic, but also wondered how this was going to work logistically. I live in Denver, CO and Dr. Lipman is located in New York City. Mentioning that I lived in Denver triggered a conversation about a close friend and fellow functional medical doctor, that had a practice near Denver. I called the doctor here in Denver, made my appointment, and waited for my first visit.
If you wondering, a functional medicine doctor typically has their MD but looks at everything related to you — diet, lifestyle, exercise, sleep… even how often I flossed.
My first appointment was 2-hours. Yes, you read that correctly. 2-hours. When’s the last time any doctor spent more than 10-minutes with you? My previous ones certainly did not.
I was prescribed dietary changes, a handful of supplements, and a heavy dose of probiotics. The basic goal was to reduce inflammation and repopulate my gut bacteria.
First, I stopped all my prescription drugs. I was a little nervous, but I was ready to follow and listen. Next I made the following changes and additions:
- No gluten
- No refined sugar
- No processed food
- Green tea
- Curry powder (in many of my meals)
- Olive oil (On salads. I took a teaspoon to the face… that was not pretty)
- Fish oil (EPA/DHA)
- N-Acetyl Glucosamine
- Vitamin A, B & D (specifically a Methyl B)
- VSL #3 DS
- Fermented foods and kombucha (* I actually make my own per my doctors recommendation. Most retail fermented foods and kombucha actually don’t have as much bacteria as they claim).
… Since my first visit, I’ve also had a number of tweaks to my regimen based on my fecal and blood test results.
NOTE, please don’t follow my regimen without consulting a doctor first. This list was specially tailored to me. In no way am I recommending my list of changes and supplements. I’m not a doctor.
After about three weeks I started feeling better… and better.. and better. Now 5 months later I’m 95% back to normal. All without any prescription drugs. I’m continuing to get better every day.
My calprotectin (inflammatory markers in the body) was 450 at the time of my first visit. It’s now 51 only five months later. Normal levels are under 50, so I’m almost there.
Skeptical? Just ask my wife who I can finally go out to dinner with me and not worry about if I’m feeling well. Or my dog who I can finally walk around the block ( Too scared before due to lack of bathrooms).
Healing through diet truly is possible. Yes, it took a lot of commitment and changes daily routine. But my life is back and I still have my colon.
Medical community, listen up.
I’m not upset at my previous doctors for spending 10-minutes with me and prescribing life-threatening drugs. That’s how our current health systems operates. There are a growing number of practitioners out there, that are taking a more holistic approach to their practice and do more than just prescribe a pill. Unfortunately, that isn’t the norm.
I’m lucky to have found a doctor that took the time to listen and find a way to heal me without the use of prescription drugs. Will a similar treatment work for everyone? I don’t know. But it’s definitely worth exploring.
After talking with a few friends who are doctors, it’s astounding how much nutrition and lifestyle aren’t part of their practice. In my opinion, this isn’t fair to patients who put their trust in their doctors. I almost lost my colon because multiple doctors didn’t treat me with anything more than a pill, injection or transfusion.
If you are a doctor that’s taking a holistic approach with your patients, I applaud you. Maybe you’ll save a patient's life, just like my new doctor saved mine.
- My wife, who found the Rich Roll podcast and told me to listen to it. Prepares the majority of our meals, and stuck by me during my worst days
- Rich Roll. Without your podcast and book, I wouldn’t truly know the power of nutrition and self-healing.
- Seamus Mullen, for telling his story and inspiring mine.
- Dr. Frank Lipman, for introducing me to my current doctor.
- My current doctor (name kept private because I haven’t asked for permission) who saved life.