Humbled

Blood. Fuck. Nearly 2 years out of the hospital, 8 months into clinical remission and I know I have pushed my luck too far.

About a month ago I got back from an amazing surfing trip in El Salvador. Ever since I’ve been back, for some reason, I’ve fallen off the tracks a bit. I seize more opportunities to consume something I know I shouldn’t. Instead of being strong willed and committed to my diet and health, I convince myself I’m splurging. And I’ve noticed things not being right. I’ve been really bloated, had some bad abdominal pain and rough bowel movements lately. And now I wake up to a good amount of blood. My body has been telling me I’ve fallen off. I need to stop being so damn stubborn and listen.

To be honest I think I needed to test myself. I needed to get myself into remission and then test the waters, how sick am I really? Is my diagnosis really that severe? Yeah, yeah it is. I should stop trying to be invincible and realize I’m far from it. Because seeing blood in my stool brought me to my knees. It humbled me. It made me really scared. I am really scared.

I need my strong will back. I don’t know why it seems to have diminished a bit lately but I need it back. I have too many future plans to let my body hold me back. I am capable of keeping myself in remission, I’ve done it before. Let’s do it again.

Even now, sometimes eating makes things worse…

Simply put sometimes eating food is not what is best for my body. I usually only feel this way after perhaps eating too much the day before or indulging in something outside the guidelines of SCD (chocolate is almost always the culprit) or eating too many nut flours. But some days I wake up and I’m just not hungry but rather full – and I don’t get hungry throughout the day. It’s really weird. And if I eat on these days, I only increase the suffering. I’ll become really bloated and uncomfortable all day, only finding relief by not eating for as long as it takes to feel better… which sometimes is a day or two.

I take some comfort in knowing that other people with Crohns¬†or Ulcerative Colitis can relate and tend to experience this often. This lack of hunger. Which I guess put into perspective is beneficial? Hey I don’t have to spend time preparing food, I can focus on other things. But I just feel a little uneasy knowing my body isn’t partaking in its natural, biological course. Its like it is tired of trying to digest food so it just gives up for a bit and allows the undigested food to just hang out in my GI tract keeping me satisfied. I know this is just a symptom of having a diseased gut but I also am a bit confused because I am in clinical remission. I’m starting to realize even though the inflammation in my colon has decreased ten fold and I’m technically in clinical remission, my body will always operate a bit differently than the norm. I guess thats probably why they say Ulcerative Colitis is an incurable disease HA jokes on me.

Anyway on these weird and random days of being hunger-free I try to take advantage of consuming as many healthy, healing, anti-inflammatory and hydrating beverages that I can. These usually include my anti-inflammatory ginger/turmeric tea (recipe here), organic peppermint tea (great for digestion), fresh coconut water (hydrating, lots of electrolytes), freshly squeezed and organic veggie/fruit juices (a high dosage of nutrients) and homemade Jun (fermented tea, very similar to kombucha with lots of good probiotics for the gut). I realized not too long ago that if I were to drink everything I know is helpful to me while still eating and not forgetting to drink ample amounts of filtered WATER then in general I would be consuming a lot. So I guess these random hunger free days help me to balance things out and flood my body with other nutrients that otherwise would simply be too much. I’m curious to hear if other UC/Crohns sufferers have these hunger-free days as often as me and what they consume on these days. If you are one, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Ma’s Chicken Soup

8 cups/2 quarts homemade chicken broth

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced

1 large onion, finely chopped

4-5 garlic cloves, diced

2 medium zucchini squash, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed

3 limes, sliced in half, juiced

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp himilayan pink salt

1 avocado (optional – although not really ūüėČ )

In a stock pot place the oil and onions over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the carrots and zucchini and cover with a lid for 3 minutes. Deglaze your pan as you pour in all of the chicken broth. Bring up to a boil. Add the chicken, half of the cilantro, lime juice and salt and turn down to a low simmer. Cover and allow ingredients to simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and mix in remaining cilantro. Serve. Garnish with sliced avocado. Enjoy!

This is a staple soup for me. I absolutely love the limey-ness of it and the homemade broth imparts such a great base that no other seasonings are necessary besides a little salt. I tend to save some cilantro to garnish left overs with as well as heaps of avocado. You can swap veggies (maybe celery or mushrooms) or add some leafy greens to give the soup even more body OR go more basic and hold the zucchini squash. As long as there is a lot of garlic, lime and chicken, this soup is gold. 

CLINICAL REMISSION

Tears of joy (not that that says a whole lot considering tears still flow more often than I’d like to admit). But I have this urge to frame the pictures from my colonoscopy yesterday. Such a beautiful colon! Pretty weird but whatever I’m on cloud 9.

15 months on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet with the support of Doctor Vasiliauskas has not only treated me but HEALED me tremendously. Holy shit. To see the proof of all of my commitment and hard work is as gratifying as something could be. I mean I knew my physical symptoms have decreased ten fold since beginning the diet but to actually know I healed myself by simply giving my body the resources to do so is a revelation. SCD works! I’m the type who needs proof. I need to see the science. Here I am my own successful science experiment. That’s pretty damn cool.

I was diagnosed with severe Ulcerative Colitis July of 2015 and now 15 months later after following strict SCD I have a ‘normal’ looking colon (except for a small amount of inflammation by my appendix). Wow. The expression on my doctors face as I was being wheeled into recovery was priceless. He had just come from telling my Mom the great results of the colonoscopy and was wearing this huge grin. “It looks normal! It looks normal,” he kept saying as I was coming out of my deep propofol sleep. Not only was I extremely relieved and elated for myself but for him as well. To have another patient proving that his path into integrative medicine is not only healing people but literally giving them their life back – what a beautiful result to a otherwise precarious procedure. He gave me hope. Now I can give you hope.

Make the commitment. It is absolutely worth getting your life back. To be handed back control over your body – there is NOTHING like it.

Food is medicine. To have health is to have everything.

Soaking Nuts & Seeds

What is a soaked nut/seed? Why would you soak them? How do you soak them?

A soaked nut/seed is one that has been soaked in filtered water w/ salt for anywhere between 4-12 hours. You do this in order to remove the naturally occurring enzyme inhibitor that acts as protection in nature but as a tough digestive obstacle for compromised guts. Essentially you’re starting the digestive process and giving your body a break. Soaked nuts/seeds would benefit anyone but are necessary when dealing with IBS or IBD. I soak all of my nuts/seeds always.

2 c. nuts/seeds

1 tsp Himalayan pink salt

Filtered water to cover

Add all ingredients to a bowl. Set aside. (If it is pretty hot in your kitchen, place the bowl in the fridge. You don’t want your nuts/seeds to start fermenting!) I tend to soak my nuts over night (about 12 hours) and seeds about 6 hours.¬†Then I dehydrate for 16-24 hours @ 125deg F. You can dehydrate in your oven if you do not have a dehydrator. The only problem is ovens lowest setting is usually around 180deg F so you would need to place a wooden spoon in the door of the oven to prop it open and decrease the heat.

What do I eat?

I love food. I’ve always loved food. I’ve always tried to find my relationship with food. My parents raised us on home cooked, healthy and fresh meals so their heathy lifestyle has always been ingrained in my mind. I stopped eating fast food in High School. My Environmental Science degree inspired my increased sustainability awareness and I became vegan for a year and a half during college. It wasn’t until the lamb of New Zealand allowed me to immerse¬†myself in Kiwi culture during my study abroad adventure that I jumped ship. Fast forward to last year when I sought a more holistic, diet-centered treatment after my UC diagnosis. In order for me to maintain my sanity during this past year I’ve learned to not only discover and create old favorites in the kitchen but I’ve taught my body to learn to love healthy, real, simple food.

When you read a list of everything you can’t consume your mind immediately puts up a huge barrier between you and happiness. You immediately go into this sort of defense mode – this feel sorry for myself mode. How long is it maintainable? How long can I beat off the feeling of deprivation? Fortunately for myself, by ignoring those thoughts I used it as an opportunity to challenge myself. I sure do love a challenge.

I think the reason I was able to commit so wholeheartedly without wavering was simply because I had experienced something so severe. I was SO sick. I saw the ugly side of living to eat rather than eating to live. To me the option was either accept lifelong handcuffs or don’t. Accept no control over your life, unwarranted side effects from harsh medications and uncertainty OR commit like nothing else to hope. Commit to the hope that my health meant freedom. Commit to living fully – fully free, fully healthy. Without health you have nothing. Without health you suffer. Maybe not as severely as I did but you slowly accept fewer and fewer possibilities. You slowly begin to lower your expectations for life. You slowly begin to stop living fully. I could not accept that. I will not accept that. I have too much to live for to live everyday with the fear a flare up will keep me from not only functioning normally but from living my life how I want to live it.

So with all of that out of the way, what do I actually eat?

Coconuts are my best friend. Turmeric/ginger tea is an everyday ritual. Broth/Soup have become the most soothing, comforting and healing aspect of my diet. Vegetables and healthy fats show up in every meal. Sprouted nuts/seeds mold themselves into my most delectable treats. Honey is my savior and fruit keeps me happy. That’s what I eat and I seriously enjoy all of it. If a year and a half ago someone told me I’d look forward to a hot, brothy soup for breakfast I would have laughed in their face. Fuck soup. I want substance. Give me some damn sough-dough bread to dunk in my soup at least… Welp if I can change this much in a year surely anyone can. And no I don’t eat soup for all of my breakfasts – only occasionally.

PASTURED RAISED Eggs. Unprocessed, GRASS FED meat. WILD fish. ORGANIC Veggies. ORGANIC Fruit. RAW (UNPASTEURIZED) Nuts. RAW Seeds. Old/young Coconuts.

You’d be wildly surprised by how those few items above can transform into really delicious granola bars, pizza crusts, pasta, ice cream, cookies, cake etc. Now, the one thing I have learned more recently has been to not simply try to recreate every cookie and pizza crust into a SCD legal/GAPS version but rather to reteach my body to not need a bunch of flour-based foods. Learn to love soup. Without the chunk of bread. That is the groundwork.

I will post as many of my favorite recipes as I can! Please give me feedback. Let me know if you’re looking for a healthy version of something I haven’t posted. Have fun cooking!

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)?

SCD: Specific Carbohydrate Diet

The specific carbohydrate diet can seem so arbitrary and confusing but it really is pretty simple and basic – only consume monosaccarides. No polysaccarides or disaccarides. What is a monosaccaride, disaccaride and polysaccaride you ask? And why only monosaccarides? And why have you never heard of this diet before now? Well let’s see if I can break this down and clear some questions up!

A mono-saccaride simply means single sugar and is the most basic unit of a carbohydrate. Di-saccaride is two sugars and poly-saccaride is multiple sugars. The basis of the diet explains that when you have a diseased and inflamed gut your body is unable to break down the more complex carbohydrates including disaccarides and polysaccarides. It makes sense – the simpler the molecule is the less work your body has to perform to digest it. With that said processed foods, all grains, dairy containing lactose, refined sugar and some seemingly random vegetables and fruit are considered illegal under the diet. See the complete list of legal and illegal foods here.

The specific carbohydrate diet came to fruition around the early 1980’s when the mother of a young girl suffering from terrible stomach pain, bloody stools and other GI issues took the initiative to find the root of her daughter’s diagnosed Ulcerative Colitis. She found a doctor who was researching gut health in young children and who mentioned the SCD as a way to decrease inflammation and subsequent disease and possibly reach remission. After implementing the diet with her daughter, herself and her husband and seeing amazing results previous medications did not provide she went back to school and wrote a book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. The book not only details her daughters experience and remission but provides a more scientific breakdown explaining the reasoning behind only consuming monosaccarides.

This diet is extremely new and young considering how long humans have been around. Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis are also fairly new diseases in comparison to other autoimmune diseases like say Type 1 Diabetes. Why is it that in our societies as our technology and intelligence increases we get sicker? It seems as though many of these autoimmune diseases and sicknesses are becoming an epidemic in fully developed countries that should be at the top of the health and wealth spectrum. Maybe this epidemic is so evident in developed nations because our food industries are driven by money rather than health. If humans need food to survive then we should eat what makes us healthy, right? So why is it that our food is making us sick? To start maybe the genetically modified, pesticide laden ‘food’ isn’t actually food at all. Maybe because there isn’t money to be made in healthy people. The money is to be made off of sick people. But oh man is that a whole other story…

So if you haven’t already noticed but it seems as though the Specific Carbohydrate Diet has roots in a more commonly known Paleolithic diet. Although there are similarities there are quite a few differences as well. I’ve found it interesting that a paleo diet that I scoffed at a couple years ago is so similar to the very diet that is currently healing me. Ironic.

Diet has been the main reason I am fully functioning without medication. My doctor at Cedars Sinai Hospital supported my decision to choose diet over medication and I have stuck to it like glue since the day he informed me he’s seen the most healing in his patients through this diet. December 2015 I stopped taking the anti-inflammatory he still insisted I take (precautionary reasons I assume) and I kind of jumped into this weirdly, scary abyss of taking sole control over my health. After being diagnosed with a life changing disease and choosing to abandon modern medicine to embrace real, simple food as medicine I simply cannot state the amount of gratitude and love I have for my parents who have not only supported me and cared for me during this experience but cleaned out the kitchen pantry and fridge, spent hours researching blogs and diets on their own and actively tried to heal me. I went from an extremely anemic, vitamin D deficient, sickly skinny, muscle-lacking, lying-in-the-hammock-all-day-trying-to-save-my-energy-so-I-could-possibly-make-it-to-restorative-yoga-class (which entails lying on the floor in stretching positions) 23 year old woman to a ‘normal’, active, working and seemingly healthy 24 year old woman. All through food. Real food.

 

Celebration

I need to jump off of something. No, not to my untimely death but rather to celebrate. I need to celebrate the life I have. We all do. Adrenaline is my type of celebration and falling through the sky from a plane or into the water from a bungee cord sounds just like what the doctor ordered.¬†Anyway it seems to be good timing because I’ll be turning 25 in less than a month. Quarter life crisis? Nah, no crisis here. I’ve spent the last year redirecting my life – I’ll consider that my quarter life crisis.

I don’t want to be stagnant. I don’t want complacency. I don’t want to be just content. I don’t want to blindly walk through life without truly experiencing it. I want to embrace change and unknown with open arms because I want to grow and learn and BE NOW. I think these are all reasons why I want to ‘celebrate’ my year of healing/managing UC by jumping off of something – to truly get to be happy and joyous in the present moment. The more of these moments I have the more I am healing.

One of my closest friends and I just booked tickets to hike the Na Pali coastline in Kauai, Hawaii… in 3 weeks. HA. Fuck it. We’ve never been able to travel together, are both available and are both stoked to spend the week camping, snorkeling, hiking and getting lost on this little island in the middle of the pacific so we figured WHY NOT?! I love her for that. Now, the thought going through my mind during our entire booking process was, “You don’t have a job, you have a very specific and necessary diet restriction, you’re not exactly sure what career path you’re going to pursue and you’re buying a ticket to frolic around through nature for a week with your best friend?!?” Seems a bit irresponsible, right? Although my parents were supportive I know they were thinking the same thing. They are trusting my process and I am SO GRATEFUL to them. I will not take advantage of their support. I will trust my process too. I will feed myself with nature and friendship.

Not a ‘diet’, but rather a lifestyle change

I dislike when I say I’m on a diet. It feels wrong. To me I’m not on a diet. I’m molding my body and mind into a new lifestyle using my diet. Yes, the food I eat means more to me than most things but my success so far is due more to an all encompassing lifestyle I have created. I am not on a diet. I’ve changed the way I live. I eat real, simple food. I cook and bake everything I eat and I love doing it. There is something so beautiful about creating the very meals that make you into you. I love feeding my body and nourishing my soul. And it goes without saying but I love treating and healing my ‘incurable’ autoimmune disease on my own. I can’t get enough of creating delicious, nutritious and most importantly healing meals in the kitchen.

I’ve been trying to read more. Besides reading the extensive amount of GAPS, SCD, Bone Broth, and Ulcerative Colitis/Crohns books I have also been indulging in completely separate literary desires. Whether it’s the biography of Steve Jobs or the Alchemist or maybe a random book about a scientist in the jungles of Brazil reading has been so beneficial. I am feeding my mind. I want to indulge my mind with knowledge and love. Reading also acts as an escape for me – its another way to focus solely on the present moment. Laugh or cry (which i’ve done quite a lot of lately and I mean A LOT) it allows the stresses of life to fall wayside and the story to take precedent. It becomes real. You can appreciate a different perspective of your life so much more when you take a step back and play pretend for a couple hours.

Along with reading I have been consciously trying to reach out to people to maintain and develop relationships. People need people. As much as I enjoy time spent alone¬†I realize I need people. Not even so much ‘need’ but I want people. I want to be around those I love and those who push me to grow and be better. Ulcerative Colitis took me to a brink that I have never been to and honestly I never thought I’d experience. It showed me the delicacy of life. It reaffirmed the love I have for the people closest to me. I want to fill my soul with loving relationships and I want to meet more people and develop as many of those lovely relationships as I can.

Yoga has been my muse for the past 5 months. I find myself bringing up yoga in random conversations. Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. It has helped me in so many ways and I’m beginning to feel and see the benefits of such a consistent practice. It not only helps calm down my mind but it forces me to be completely present. Not to mention it’s helping build my own body awareness and my favorite – strength! I love the sensation of feeling strong and stable while focusing solely on my movement and breath. Moving in unison with breathing is such a simple inherent action that you’d think we would all be experts. Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Fortunately, I am improving. I have probably heard something to the extent of “focus on your breath” from every yoga teacher I’ve ever learned from but now it resonates so clearly to me. I can appreciate “breath in, breath out”. Holy shit moving to your breath really relaxes you! Even when your arms are shaking and your chaturanga looks gnarly. When you focus so much on your own body, breath and strength you begin to love yourself. Your physical being and your soul collide into this beautiful¬†abyss. Self doubt begins to fade and self love becomes.

Something that’s been vital to my lifestyle change through yoga is loving myself. Like everyone else at some point in their life I’ve always struggled with self confidence. I’ve always struggled to completely and utterly accept and love myself for exactly who I am. With yoga I’m watching my strength and focus build and build and I’m loving how my body looks and feels in poses. It is definitely rebuilding my confidence. I always want to be investing in my body and my mind and through yoga I feel like that is completely possible. I’m taking my analytical, quantitative mind and forcing myself to FEEL. What do you mean I can’t calculate feeling? I mean I know I feel strong but how can I actually measure it? Sometimes I need to just shut out my thoughts and FEEL. Balance that left side of the brain with the right, right…? Feel your body. Feel your breath. Feel your heartbeat. Feel your love. Yoga is allowing me to love myself.

I’m functioning happily and [more] healthy than before my diagnosis because of my evolving lifestyle. I’m not in pain anymore. I’m not rushing to the bathroom 20 times a day or suffering from joint pain and red welts. I’m not anemic or ghostly thin and weak. I’m not at the mercy of my diseased colon. I don’t feel like my insides are being ripped out and I don’t feel like my hunger can’t be quenched because food only makes the suffering worse. I am healing. I am learning. I am not on a diet. I just live a different life than I did a year ago and it is surely a beautiful thing. I’m embracing the control over my body that I’m gaining from changing the way I live. Using food, books, relationships, and yoga (along with music, push ups, outdoor activities and many more!) I am healing my UC and my mind. I am becoming. And I love it.¬†I am focusing on myself and it is exactly what I need to be doing right now.

Listen to your body – it is always speaking to you.