7 May 2017
I was living a normal, healthy, active life when the unexpected happened. Almost 20 years ago, I developed ulcerative colitis immediately following the birth of my twins – my third and fourth kids – and went from being an active woman to becoming practically homebound. This happened almost overnight. Fortunately, the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis was made quickly. Unfortunately, the treatment was not what I anticipated.
Because of the severity of my case, I was put on strong medications and then eventually steroids, which were meant to curb the inflammation and stop the disease in its tracks. In the short term, that was fine and necessary, but over time the side effects mounted and were horrible. I looked like a beach ball, and that was the least of it. When my doctor tried to wean me off the steroids, the disease came roaring back. That is when I realized that my doctor was only addressing symptoms, not the root cause, and I was not getting better. I felt like I had wasted a year of my life. Nothing had changed.
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I switched doctors. The next doctor got me off the steroids, but the replacement was an equally toxic drug that messed with my white blood cell count. The bigger issue was that he also gave me a terrible prognosis for the rest of my life. This was incredibly depressing and was not how I envisioned the future. I felt like I was on a carousel of changing doctors and drugs, but no one was really helping me get better. There had to be another way.
As the mother of four children under the age of 6, I desperately needed to live and be healthy in order to raise my kids. I wanted to play with them, see them grow into adults, and be a part of their lives through my old age. I woke up one day determined to find a miracle cure. Of course, there is none, but I started doing my own research, learned that there were other ways to get on the road back to health. With help, I totally changed my diet and lifestyle, and very slowly started to improve. This took time and perseverance, but I had no alternative. As my children got older and I kept feeling better, I decided to go back to school to study nutrition so that I could help other people live their lives to the fullest and not be held back by disease and discomfort.
To be clear, I wasn’t eating an unhealthy diet when I got sick. What I know now is that I was just eating the wrong food for me. What I still find incredible is that I asked the first doctor if food had anything to do with ulcerative colitis. He said definitely not. In fact, the foods he recommended were the absolute wrong foods for people with digestive problems. I had to leave the second doctor (both were considered “top gastroenterologists”) because after I had made significant improvements to my health, I weaned myself off the most toxic of the drugs. He was furious with me. I told him how I had read books on the relationship of diet and lifestyle with digestive disease, and followed the suggestions. I also told him that he should have given me that information himself so that I knew what options were available. He said that it is really hard to live that way: on a restricted diet. I said that it wasn’t his decision to make, and left his office that day for the last time.
Most of us follow the path of established medicine and that may work for you. For me, it took hitting rock bottom to question the system, to be my own advocate, and seek alternative therapies. I just had a feeling that something else was out there – waiting for me to find it. I am so lucky that I did.