Russell’s Story – Ulcerative Colitis, Anxiety, Depression
I had been sick for about a year but the seriousness of my symptoms never registered: constipation for days at a time, then diarrhea for days at a time. I lived on Kaopectate and Pepto Bismol depending on my condition and symptoms. I was uncomfortable all the time. I had constant headaches and my face was a mess with acne. I was tired all the time. I felt lousy. I had constant indigestion, constant gas and bloating, constant abdominal discomfort, and periods of acute abdominal pain. I had intestinal cramps that were so bad, that they literally threw me out of my bed in the middle of night. I would curl up in a fetal position on the floor of my bedroom and moan for hours. I never had a good night’s sleep. I probably had insomnia. I remember lying awake for hours every night. I never had a normal bowel movement. Ropey little stringy things, or hard round black balls, or one variation or other or loose bowel movements right up to full blown diarrhea. I never told anyone about any of this. I was too embarrassed. I was too ashamed. It was late winter, 1973. I had just turned 18 years old.
Months and months had gone by and nothing seemed to change. Then one-night some-thing really weird happened. I sat up in bed feeling the unstoppable urgency that had defined my regular bouts of diarrhea. I ran to the bathroom and made it just in the nick of time, as usual. It sounded like normal diarrhea, but as I turned around to flush, I was shocked to discover that the toilet bowl was filled with bright red blood. My blood.
I was very freaked out.
The next day proved to be even stranger. My appointment with the gastroenterologist was scheduled for 11 am. The waiting room was filled with older men. No one in the room was under 60 years of age, except me. Remember that this was 1973. Men looked older at younger ages back then. The difference between the generations was more pronounced back then. Many things were different back then. By three pm the waiting room was empty. The nurse came out and asked me who I was, and why I was sitting there. I told her my name and said that my appointment was for 11 am. The nurse explained that the doctor never saw patients my age, and that she assumed I was the son or grandson of one of the other patients. Then she explained that the reason the doctor never saw patients my age was because the kind of problems the doctor treated didn’t usually happen to people until they turned 50 or older. I am sure she was trying to be reassuring, but it made me feel even more strange and isolated than before. She apologized for keeping me waiting all day and brought me in to see the doctor.
I endured the excruciating pain and absolute humiliation of a full-length colonoscopy without any anesthesia. It wasn’t even an option back then. (Well, it wasn’t offered to me anyway.) Once the procedure started, there was nothing I could do. I felt trapped. I couldn’t believe the level of discomfort and pain I was experiencing! I screamed out every curse word and unsavoury phrase I could think of. I didn’t even know who this doctor was, but I decided that I hated him. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and was determined to walk out just as soon as I could. Finally, “the procedure” was over. I couldn’t believe I had just willingly submitted myself to such a horrendous experience. I started looking for the door. I wasn’t interested in talking to anyone. I wanted to get the hell out of there.
Halfway to the door, the doctor grabbed me by the arm. “Son, you just can’t walk out of here like that. Besides, I have some bad news for you. You need to sit down for this.”
“Sit down?” I thought to myself, “I may not be able to sit down for a week after what I just went through!” Once again, I felt like I had no choice. I reluctantly and cautiously sat down inside the austere confines of that ill-fated examination room in the middle of what was shaping up to be one of the worst days of my life. Unbelievably, it got worse.
“It looks like you have colon cancer.” The doctor had just spoken. “We have to run some more tests, but it does not look good.” I’m sure he said a lot more than that, but that is all I remember. My mind was spinning in a million different directions. Cancer? How is that possible? Cancer? People die from cancer! Cancer?Me? I’m too young to have cancer! Cancer? I was totally shocked. I had never been in a situation like this before. I felt totally helpless and alone. I was terrified.
What seemed like an eternity probably lasted only thirty seconds. The doctor was waiting for my response and I was trying to come up with one. Instinctively, my mind was racing around for an explanation, a reason, an excuse, a justification, anything. Suddenly, I had a question to ask the doctor:
“Do you think this has anything to do with my diet?”
His answer, as it turned out, changed my life.
“No.” he said. “There’s no connection.”
“Well then, what causes colon cancer?” I asked.
“We don’t know. (he paused) Stress.”
Then he left it at that and left the room.
Stress? I had never experienced so much stress in my entire life! I left the doctors office that afternoon determined to find out how and why I had gotten myself into such a mess. In spite of my doctor’s assurances that “more tests were needed” before they knew for sure what was wrong with me, I was already gearing up for the worst case scenario. I was also starting to feel that I might have to start figuring things out on my own. By the time I got home that night, I had the very distinct and very disquieting feeling that I was definitely going to have to figure things out on my own.
Why did I ask my doctor the question about diet? It was not because I knew anything about the connections between diet and disease, nutrition, and health; because at that time in my life, I didn’t. I asked the question because it was the only thing that made sense. You see, since the previous summer, I had been on a high-protein diet, where I ate steak three times a day, and as much milk and cheese and ice cream as I wanted. I had never connected my many uncomfortable gastro-intestinal symptoms to my high-protein diet, until that moment. I can’t tell you how or why I knew there was a connection between my symptoms and my diet. But I can tell you this: I knew there was a connection!
The doctor said there was no connection between my diet and my condition, but I believed there was. The doctor said they didn’t know what caused colon cancer, other than stress. I certainly didn’t know for sure what had caused my condition and symptoms. I only knew that the answer; “We don’t know” didn’t make any sense at all. This was America! Land of the free, home of the brave! This was America! We were landing men on the moon! We had the very best medicine on earth! Or so I had been lead to believe. Surely we could figure out the cause and cure for colon cancer. I was determined to find out what caused my condition and symptoms. I was determined to find a cure and get better fast. I had no choice. I had to find a cure. I was too young to die!
(Please remember that I was looking for a “cure” because I was just starting out on my journey. At this point in time I did not know the difference between curing and personal healing as I described earlier.)
In the three weeks between my first examination and my next series of tests, I went to the library almost every day looking up whatever literature I could find about the connections between diet and colon cancer. Here’s what I discovered:
The lack of fiber in the diet has been identified as a major contributing factor in an increasingly higher and higher rate of colon cancer in both men and women.
I can’t tell you from what book or study or author I read the above sentence. I simply can’t remember and I never wrote down the exact quotation or source. All I can tell you is that when I read these words (or something like them), I knew instantly that I had found the first clue in solving the puzzle of my own personal health crisis. I was ecstatic. I was relieved. I was hopeful once again. I was looking forward to sharing my discovery with my doctor. My next encounter with my doctor turned about to be another interesting experience.
He laughed at me. When I told my doctor what I had discovered about the link between dietary fiber and colon cancer, he laughed at me! He said there was no connection. He looked at me with an expression combining disgust and pity, as if I were the biggest fool alive. Then he lowered the boom: “Besides” he said with some measure of relief in his voice, “You don’t have colon cancer. Not yet anyway. But don’t get me wrong, your colon is a mess. You have a very serious case of pre-cancerous ulcerative colitis.” He went on and on but I stopped listening after the first few sentences.
I remember thinking to myself that I was supposed to meet this news about my ulcerative colitis as if it were good news as if this was better than colon cancer, which it was, technically, but somehow it just didn’t feel that way. There was very little good news in any of this for me at the time. I just felt angry and confused and humiliated. In spite of all the feelings swirling around inside of me that afternoon, I felt pretty certain about three things when I left his office:
- I did not like this doctor.
- I did not trust this doctor.
- If I was going to get better, I was going to have to do it on my own.
It never entered my mind to seek a second or third opinion. Imagine that.
In the days and weeks following my informative encounters with the gastroenterologist,
I read a series of books that I had found about the connections between diet and disease. I’m pretty sure that one of those books was entitled: Are You Confused? written by the famous Naturopathic doctor, Paavo Airola. I took the book off the shelf because I most certainly was confused. I read a few chapters and felt more confused. I read another book called: The Save Your Life Diet, written by Dr. David Reuben. I took this book off the shelf because the title really spoke to me. Directly. Literally. The basic premise of David Reuben’s book was that colon cancer was caused by too much meat and dairy and processed foods and not enough fiber from whole foods like grains, fruits, and vegetables. His book made a lot of sense to me.
I took myself off the crazy high protein diet right away. I dramatically decreased the amount of meat, dairy, and processed foods in my diet. I dramatically increased the amount of fiber in my diet. I think the first month on my “new diet” I ate three bowls of bran cereal every single day. I ate salads and carrots and apples and bananas. My family and friends thought I had gone a little “nuts.” I didn’t care. I was on a mission. I was on a quest. In a matter of a few days, I started to feel and see results. In a matter of a few weeks, most of my physical symptoms were completely gone. What a revelation. What a sense of relief I felt. (I am not suggesting that you eat bran cereal. Please be patient. My complete dietary recommendations are in Section Two.)
Although my physical symptoms had cleared up rather quickly, my emotional, mental or psychological symptoms did not. The months of constant digestive problems had taken their toll. The weeks of absolute terror I lived through believing that I had colon cancer and might die as a result, with the best doctors in the world not knowing the cause or the cure, left me anxious, uncertain, and afraid. Though some pieces of the diet and health puzzle made sense to me, many other pieces remained elusive. The more I read, the more confused I became. The more “diets” I tried, the more frustrated I became. No matter how hard I tried, I never really felt 100% healthy again, the way I had felt before the onset of all my digestive system problems, sometime in the Spring of 1972.
The worst symptoms I endured as an aftermath of all my experiences with ulcerative colitis, modern medicine and the hundreds of conflicting choices available to me in the holistic and alternative healing worlds between 1973 and 1980 were these: anxiety and depression.
Sometimes these “states” of anxiety and depression would come upon me slowly and gradually. Sometimes they would hit me like a ton of bricks. Whenever they happened, they were always unwelcome guests. In the previous eighteen years of my life, I had never felt any anxiety or depression. I had always felt lots of good energy. I had always been enthusiastic and optimistic. I had always felt confident and successful. I hated feeling anxious and afraid. It felt like something from my personality had been stolen. These states of anxiety and depression always felt so foreign and strange. At my worst moments, I felt totally helpless and hopeless. At my worst moments, I desperately feared for my life. At my worst moments, I could feel parts of my personality slipping away, eroding away, disappearing and dissolving into some dark abyss, like an Edgar Allan Poe horror story that had become real. (My favorite writer as a high school student.)
During one of these darkest of times, an interesting realization occurred to me. “Perhaps there is some reason for my suffering.” What that reason could be I could only begin to imagine, and what I imagined was usually not very favorable! And so I began to pray. I began to bargain with God. Here was the essence of my prayer: “Dear God! I hate feeling anxious and depressed. I hate feeling alone and isolated. I hate feeling adrift at sea, with no rudder, oars, sail, map, or compass. I hate feeling uncertain about the purpose and direction of my life. I know I am on the right path by changing my diet and lifestyle. I know I am on the right path to learn about the things that nourish me best. Here is my promise to you. If I can ever wake up in the morning once again, free of these awful feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and depression, I will dedicate the rest of my life to teaching others about the things that got me well and kept me well. I will dedicate the rest of my life to helping other people who are suffering the way I am suffering now. Please show me the way back to health and confidence, energy, vitality, and fun.”
During the years between 1973 and 1980, I read hundreds of books, joined many interesting organizations, attended dozens of seminars, and interviewed many experts about alternative health and healing. I experienced everything that was out there at the time, from Alcoholics Anonymous to Macrobiotics to Zen. I had jobs that exposed me to every aspect of the food and nutrition industries, from organic gardening to lab testing the seeds and nuts at the Erewhon
Natural Foods Warehouse. I washed dishes and waited on tables and worked my way from vegetable cutter to head chef. I practiced meditation and yoga and learned many forms of bodywork and massage. I met thousands of people just like me, searching for the answers about the causes of their sickness and disease. I met thousands of people searching for solutions, searching for answers, searching for health. I met many people who healed themselves from cancer and other serious illnesses. I met many people who did not heal themselves as well. I witnessed many people dying from their illnesses at far too young an age. I learned important life-changing lessons from them all.
During the years between 1980 and 1987 I felt pretty good most of the time. But I never felt
100% healthy and energetic. My best days were about 80%. I figured that’s just the way it’s going to be. I was convinced I was doing the best that I could do and had already tried everything that was out there to try in the holistic and alternative world. I had a part time practice in Shiatsu
Massage and Nutrition Counseling. My dietary suggestions were often too extreme for other people to follow for any length of time, which was an endless source of frustration for me. I knew that people could heal themselves by eating certain foods and avoiding other foods, but most people were just not willing to make too many changes. People wanted magic bullet/quick fix solutions and I didn’t have any to offer.
In the Spring of 1987, I was introduced to a company called Cell Tech and an amazing wild-crafted food called Super Blue Green Algae. I remember my first algae experience like it was yesterday. About two weeks after eating only two capsules of the algae per day, I woke up very early one morning and felt something very pleasant but also very strange. I felt 100% healthy and alive! I was sitting at my desk, and I remember looking at my legs and arms as if I could see the pulsation of my life-force coursing through my veins like some kind of visible electric current. I remember thinking to myself: Wow, this is unbelievable. This is how I used to feel when I was a teenager, before I got sick. I walked downstairs into our kitchen to see if Megan (my wife) was feeling the same thing.
Our eyes met with the unmistakable expression: “Are you feeling what I’m feeling?” The answer was a resounding yes. The intensity of the experience wore off by the end of the day, but each day I continued to eat my algae, and every day I felt 100% healthy and alive again. What on earth was going on?
All I can tell you is this: based on everything I have studied before and since that time, there is only one logical explanation. Prior to the day that Super Blue Green Algae entered my life (and my bloodstream) I was suffering from micronutrient deficiencies.
(This is one of the root causes for all physical degeneration and disease as I described earlier.) The algae contain over 100 different micro-nutrients from every significant category. The algae contains every vitamin except vitamin D, which we get from sunlight. The algae contain over 43 minerals and trace minerals. The algae contain active enzymes. The algae have the greatest amount of chlorophyll gram per gram than any other food. And chlorophyll is a cell builder and blood purifier. A molecule of chlorophyll and a molecule of hemoglobin (red blood cells) are identical in almost every way, except for an atom of iron which gives hemoglobin, it’s red color and magnesium which gives chlorophyll its green color. Chlorophyll carries oxygen to the cells of our body. The algae is the biggest source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. The algae contains all 20 amino acids, which is unique to all plants, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The physical structure of all cells is protein. Most of our human structure is made of protein. The algae contain complete protein molecules. This means that the basic building blocks are present in the algae for the cells of our body to do essential repair work; reconstruction, deconstruction, and new construction! The algae contain nucleic acids which provide vital nourishment for the inner machinery of all cells. The algae contain essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6. And the algae contains all of these essential micronutrients in a form that is 100% digestible and easy to assimilate.
The body exerts no energy to get at these nutrients and there is no fiber and no waste. This Super Blue Green Algae from Cell Tech is the most amazing single food source of vital nutrients that I have ever experienced.and I have tried them all!
In the years between 1987 and 1994, I was mostly symptom-free. I had no digestive system problems and the few moments of anxiety and depression were rare and mild.
In the Spring of 1994, I started to give seminars around the United States and Canada about the fundamentals of nutrition and health. Cell Tech’s distributors and customers and the home office were very supportive of these seminars. I felt fantastic most of the time, but gradually the jet-setting lifestyle started to wear me out. In November of 1994, I was taken to the hospital after suffering my very first kidney stone attack. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my last. It was the worst physical pain I had ever felt. After a few shots of morphine (in the hospital) to relax all my muscles, I passed the kidney stone the following morning.
After that unsettling experience, I started to have relapses with my old friends, anxiety, and depression. I just could not imagine what was causing these symptoms to return. But return they did, with a vengeance. I examined every aspect of my diet and lifestyle and redoubled all my efforts in avoiding insulting foods and habits and stayed totally focused on complementary foods, beverages, supplements, and other influences. In the summer of 1995, I passed another kidney stone. In October of 1996, I passed my third kidney stone in three years. I knew that if I didn’t figure something out soon I would be heading straight towards the creation of my fourth kidney stone or something even worse. But I was distracted. My anxiety was becoming more frequent and near constant. I was starting to have extreme panic attacks. The only solution was to lock myself in my room and just wait it out. Depression was hovering around me constantly now, and the worst thing about all this was that I couldn’t tell any one. I was Mr. Health Educator! I was Mr. Nutrition Counselor! I was used to figuring these things out and solving them alone.
In January 1997, for no apparent reason, I felt completely fine. The fog of depression had finally lifted and the constant panic attacks had stopped. As much as I enjoyed every precious moment of my reprieve, I couldn’t help but thinking that another episode was just lurking around the corner. Now, trust me, I wanted desperately to think positive thoughts, but the truth was that I knew with confidence that I had absolutely no idea why my anxiety and depression had suddenly disappeared. This realization troubled me. And of course, I still hadn’t figured out what was causing them to appear in the first place. This was most troubling. I had learned so much about the puzzle of nutrition and health, but clearly, a piece was still missing. I kept reading. I kept talking to my colleagues. I kept experimenting with my diet, modifying my lifestyle, but nothing seemed to help at all. Still, I was very grateful for my unexpected reprieve. I never knew how temporary these reprieves would ever be.
Then in February 1997, I flew down to Tampa, Florida from Boston to give one of my seminars. I remember walking on the beach on a Friday afternoon soon after my arrival. Clear blue skies, 80 degrees warm, and brilliant sunshine. As I walked along the beach I remember thinking: Man do I feel great or what! This is just perfect. I wish I could bottle this moment and remember how to feel this way no matter what happens in the future. There were beach volleyball games happening every 100 yards or so and I was thinking I would go and join one. Then, it hit me. Wham. Just like that. The lights went out again. The dimmer switch got turned all the way down. The air went out of my lungs. The darkness and shadows descended upon me. Fear roiled in the pit of my stomach. Depression. Just like that. I walked back to my hotel in shock and disbelief. In a few short hours, my seminar was set to begin. How was I going to pull it off this time?
Somehow, I survived. I always managed to survive. I kept on trusting and hoping and believing that there was an organic explanation for my suffering, even though I could not seem to find the right book or the right person to explain it to me. Not yet anyway. I just never stopped believing that the explanation was out there, somewhere. My job was to keep looking for it and never give up. Perhaps you know the feeling.
The following weekend I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma to give another one of my day-long seminars. I was halfway through the Saturday morning session when a very troubling and distracting realization entered my mind: You may never find the solution because you keep looking in all the wrong places. Whoa. That thought really messed me up. I stopped lecturing. I remember looking out to a sea of puzzled and concerned faces. Beads of sweat broke out around the edges of my forehead. My mouth got really, really dry. I thought for sure I was going to melt-down right in front of everybody. Suddenly, I had an idea: “Folks,” I said with a forced but passable smile on my face, “I sure hope you understand, but sometimes these things just happen. I’ve given this seminar a hundred times over the past few years and I can give this particular talk in my sleep forwards and backwards. But, I just had an unmistakable brain cramp and I’ve completely lost the thread of what I have been talking about.” Everybody laughed. That helped. “Let’s take an early lunch break. Let’s get back together at one pm .” It worked. Everyone got up and filed out of the room without incident. I turned around and shuffled through some papers on the lectern, trying to look unavailable and distracted and busy.
When I turned around to leave the room there was a strange looking man standing there waiting for me. He was skinny and disheveled, wearing denim overalls and a yellow plaid cotton shirt. He wore a scraggly day-old beard and was missing a front tooth or two. I didn’t say a word to him. I just stared. He spoke first. “I was wondering if you have ever come across the connection between hydration and depression?” Say What? I thought I was hallucinating. Maybe I had melted down after all. Maybe everyone was still in the room. Maybe this man was a shamanic guide from the Carlos Castaneda books I had read in the early seventies. Before I could formulate a response to him, he started speaking again: “I think you need to read this book. Here, take it. It’s a gift.” He handed me the book, and I said thank you. Then he turned and walked away.
I stared down at the book cover and read the title to myself: Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. And the subtitle, right below it: “You are not sick, you are thirsty!” By F. Bat-manghelidj, MD. I tucked the book in my bag and walked to my room. I sat down on the side of my newly made bed and read through the table of contents, I scrolled my finger down to chapter five, Stress and Depression : the initially silent compensation mechanisms associated with dehydration. I turned to chapter five and started reading:
A state of depression is said to exist when the brain, in confronting a stressful emotional problem finds it difficult to cope with other attention-demanding actions at the same time. This phenomenon can become so all-absorbing as to incapacitate the person. p.55
Pathology that is seen to be associated with social stresses, fear, anxiety, insecurity, and (gradually) the establishment of (a state of) depression are the results of water deficiency to the point that the water requirement of brain tissue (brain cells) is affected. The brain uses electrical energy that is generated by the presence of water. With dehydration, the level of energy generation in the brain is decreased. Many functions of the brain that depend upon this (water-generated) energy become inefficient. We recognize (the symptoms associated with) this inadequacy of function and call it depression. p.57
Dehydration is the number one stressor of the human body. Chronic cellular dehydration painfully and prematurely kills. Its initial outward manifestations have until now been labeled as diseases of unknown origin. p.69
I read the entire book on the flight home. I couldn’t put it down. First thing on Monday morning I called the publisher listed in the front of the book, hoping to make a telephone appointment with Dr. Batmanghelidj (known to his legion of devoted fans as Dr.B). To my utter surprise and delight, I was told to hold the line and within a minute or so I was talking to Dr. B. himself. He was very generous with his time. He was very patient with my questions and my skepticism. He kept repeating himself over and over again. “Just follow the watercure recipe and you will be fine.” Two hours went by. I finally agreed to follow the guidelines of his watercure. I told him I would stay in touch and let him know if anything positive happened. I hung up the phone and started the watercure.
Prior to that moment, I never drank more than one or two glasses of water a day. And I loved
water! Since the mid 1970s I had always made sure I was drinking natural spring water or purified water from a home water filter. I was always careful about my drinking and cooking water quality. I just never paid attention to my drinking water quantity. I had been taught that it didn’t matter. And I believed it. I had been taught that more than enough water was in my cooked whole grains and steamed vegetables and fresh fruits. I was taught to “eat when you’re hungry and drink when you’re thirsty.” And so I did. For about 25 years I drank one or two glasses of water a day. Dr. B was claiming that at my size and body weight (six foot tall and 200 pounds), I needed about six times that amount on a daily basis. There was no way I could consume that much water. There simply wouldn’t be any room for anything else! Or so I thought.
I had to accept something very important and very real. No matter what I thought about drinking that much water, the simple fact of the matter was I had never consumed that much water before and I had been experiencing bouts of depression and anxiety off and on for the past 25 years! I had run out of ideas myself and nobody else in my life was coming up with any new ideas. I had absolutely nothing to lose and potentially every-thing in the world to gain. I tried it. Fourteen days later my depression lifted and has not returned since. Not once. I have not had one moment of acute anxiety, and not one panic attack since either. Oh, yeah. And no more kidney stones!
The habit of proper daily hydration according to the guidelines set up by Dr. B in his (soon to be more) famous watercure recipe was the last piece of a puzzle that I had been searching for, for a very long time. In the nine years that have passed since my initial discovery of the watercure, I have not missed one day of following that recipe precisely.
I encourage you to do the same thing. I have tried to the best of my ability to share the watercure with everyone I know. There is nothing that I have discovered in over 30 years of searching for common sense health solutions more important than the watercure. The watercure may turn out to be the single most important health discovery of all time.
Imagine that. (The watercure recipe is found in Section 3.1)
Thank you for reading my story. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you learned something. Please read the other stories I have included here in the final pages of Section One. I know that you are eager to get to the other parts of the Intestinal Regeneration Program found in Section Two. I am eager for you to get there too. Simply keep in mind that each one of the next six stories was carefully chosen with you in mind. Remember that each story is a true story, a case history report from a recent client of mine who is following the same program I am describing to you in this book. I believe there is a powerful seed of truth for you in each of the next six stories. A truth that could set you free from the pain and suffering of your current digestive system problems.