I WAS a Crohn’s sufferer; with most of the usual suspects as symptoms: severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, no energy, no appetite and an overall feeling of impending doom: like I’d never be well again! I started my treatment journey in the standard medical way since I knew no other way at the time; prednisone, sulfur drugs, immuran. This regimen covered up my symptoms about 4 days a week, but the other 3 days I was sick (same old symptoms!). This was all happening in the early part of 1986. I had my first surgery about a year later to remove 10 cm (about 3 inches) of my small intestine. The surgery gave me roughly 2 symptom-free years. But drugs and surgery did not address the underlying causes of my condition. In time, my symptoms returned and I was back on the drug-wagon again. I experienced peaks, valleys and all the adverse side effects; pain, nausea, a swollen-puffy-blown-up-looking face, the shakes, mood swings, animal-like hunger one day, no appetite the next. The list of symptoms was endless.
Another surgery followed after my small intestine perforated in 1995 and the doctors had to remove another 10 cm of small intestine. This time, I was marginally better for only about 3 months, then the roof caved in again. My negative symptoms reached a new low that I didn’t think was possible. I went to the experts at Mt. Sinai Hospital (in New York City ) and another regime of drugs was prescribed: prednisone, pentasa, 6mp, cipro. I wept at night believing I would never be well again. My wife, though supportive, felt as if our lives were being taken from us.
On my knees one night, praying, I gave it all to God. I gave up. I surrendered. I told Him that I couldn’t go on, and asked for His mercy. I asked Him to take this burden of my illness away from me. That was the catalyst that gave me new vigor and energy to find another way. His way. In my surrendering to God, something wonderful happened. Something changed. I felt hopeful again. I had the energy to search for answers and to take personal responsibility for my own healing. I was beginning to understand the difference between true healing and covering up my symptoms with drugs and surgery.
I started fiddling with my diet, and paying more attention to my lifestyle. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I simply knew that I had to make changes. Staying the same and doing the same old, same old, was just making me sicker and sicker. I knew that standard medical treatment was not making me well, it was making me sicker. I was now open to finding a better way to health; I just didn’t know what that way was going to be.
Then, I met a Health Educator and Nutrition Counselor at a seminar in April 2003. His name is Russell Mariani. I sat and listened to his personal healing story from colitis. (He said he was originally misdiagnosed with colon cancer.) This motivated me and gave me even more energy and drive to be rid of my disease. After the seminar I contacted him via telephone and starting following his suggestions right away. I made changes in my diet and lifestyle and added some nutritional supplements to my daily routine. He taught me what was really happening in my gut and that bowel disorders were diseases of the fork.
The dietary changes I made were simple ones: whole foods instead of processed foods, proper daily hydration, probiotic supplements, chewing my food. My friends and family were concerned with all my new and weird habits, but I could tell it was all working for me within a matter of days. I agreed to give this program my full commitment for 90 days. Wonderful things began to happen. The fire in my bowels became quiet and cool. I started having normal and regular bowel movements for the first time in years. When my disease was active, it was normal for me to have to visit the bathroom 10 to 15 times a day. My energy levels increased and I was beginning to feel empowered and that I could lick this ugly thing for good. I pushed on and felt stronger and stronger. I began to take MYSELF off the drugs one by one. First the prednisone, very slowly, then the others. My mental clarity and increasing sense of personal freedom were indescribable. Being able to concentrate on my family and work without having to think about Crohn’s Disease. Ah, this was how normal people lived!
After a few months, I was feeling so good that I got a little cocky. I made the mistake in thinking that since my symptoms were gone, I could go back to all the junk food I had missed. My mistake was in not truly understanding that it was all that junk food and other habits that had caused my Crohn’s disease in the first place. It was a hard lesson to learn, but one of the most important in my life so far. Now I know what I need to do to keep my digestive system functioning properly. I want to do the things that nourish me best and allow my body to continue to get stronger and stronger and stronger. Do I miss certain foods? Sure I do, but not half as much as I miss all those nasty symptoms associated with Crohn’s. I do not miss all the adverse side effects of all those drugs either. I do not miss Zombie Mike at all! Besides, as I get healthier and stronger, I’m certain my diet will become more and more varied not less and less so. I am still in the earliest stages of recovery and healing. I am learning that health is about freedom, not restriction. I am feeling more and more comfortable in my own body and more and more confident that I am on the right path. I feel great!
I recently went to my family doctor for a full physical exam. He asked me what drugs I was taking and I told him none. When he had last seen me I was in pretty bad shape, taking lots of different drugs. He drew some blood that day. I told him that once I changed my diet and lifestyle and took the supplements, wonderful things began to happen and that I was feeling terrific for the first time in a very long time. He said: “I don’t believe in that stuff. It was your surgery 9 years ago that made you well.”
I then asked him to explain how I was able to get off all the drugs and why I was feeling so normal. He had no explanation. I got my blood test results a week later which revealed a sedimentation rate of 4, (the amount of inflammation in your body) and a complete blood test of totally normal readings. Once again, the doctor had no explanation. But I knew exactly what I had done to allow my body to heal itself. To me, it’s as plain and as logical as adding 2+2 and getting 4. Why my doctor doesn’t see this is a strange mystery to me.
Shortly thereafter, I had a series of x-rays taken to see what was going on inside my small intestine. In my previous series taken two years earlier, it was revealed that I had a three-inch section of Crohn’s disease on the ileum side of the hookup between my small and large intestine (near the ileo-cecal valve). I also had some Crohn’s narrowing in the mid-section of my gut. Well, the new results were pretty amazing, to say the least. The narrowing in the mid-section of my gut was no longer detectable! The only narrowing they could find was a 3 cm area (1 inch) of Crohn’s near the ileo-cecal valve. And this small area was no longer inflamed or active. It appears to me that my intestines are physically regenerating themselves: with my cooperation of course!
Today I am in control. I am properly educated about my disease and feeling personally empowered about how to be well and stay well. I thank God and I praise God every single day for the grace I have received to more fully understand that in this life and on this earth, my body is the temple for His holy spirit. By eating healthier foods and practicing sensible, enjoyable lifestyle habits, I am experiencing the benefits of physical regeneration, spiritual renewal and personal healing. How sweet it is!