Shawn’s Story: Ulcerative Colitis

In August of 2012 I started to experience urgent bowel movements that contained blood. At first I wasn’t concerned, but after a few weeks I decided to visit my general practitioner. I was prescribed an antibiotic which didn’t help. I also had blood and stool samples tested. I then visited a gastroenterologist who recommended a colonoscopy to help determine what was wrong. I got the colonoscopy done at the end of November of 2012 and was given a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis.

I was very surprised with this diagnosis. I didn’t consider myself particularly healthy until 2009 when I started a regular exercise routine and started striving toward a healthier diet based on the books written by Dr. Mark Hyman. I have some family history of colon issues, but no one in my family had ever received this diagnosis. I used to get nausea somewhat frequently in 2007 and 2008, but figured it was just because I ate so much junk food.

I started a round of Prednisone (a corticosteroid) and then Lialda as an anti-inflammatory maintenance drug. I got a second opinion in 2013 about the diagnosis. The gastroenterologist wasn’t prepared to give me a chronic diagnosis after only one colonoscopy. At this point, the Lialda was only $10 a month and was doing a good job of suppressing the symptoms. At the end of 2013 I got another colonoscopy and this confirmed my original diagnosis. Just after this colonoscopy my symptoms returned worse than they had been before.

I was placed on Prednisone again and continued the Lialda. With a change in insurance I also switched to Apriso, which was the cheapest anti-inflammatory maintenance drug I could find at a rate of $275 for a 30 day supply. My symptoms went away, but I wasn’t pleased with the scenario – I was paying a lot of money for the medicine and was informed that I may have to move to more powerful drugs at some point. This scared me.

I continued the Apriso through 2014, but I also started a lot of independent research about Ulcerative Colitis. I was extremely frustrated when I read that there was no confirmed cause or cure since it seemed like there was nothing I could have done to prevent my condition, and nothing I could do to fix it. I tried a restricted carbohydrate diet which was hard to maintain as well as a low fiber diet, which didn’t seem too healthy in general. I was also frustrated that there didn’t seem to be any consensus in the health world regarding what was healthy when it came to what food to eat.

I bought Russell’s book in February of 2014, but didn’t end up reading it until the beginning of 2015. His explanations made sense to me, so I started implementing some parts of his plan on my own including the Watercure and cooked whole grains. I also tried taking some of the Essentials (a nutritional supplement). I didn’t notice a big difference, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to continue those items.

In Spring of 2015 my symptoms started returning and I had two of the most urgent bowel movements I can remember. The price of the Apriso was arbitrarily raised to $410 for a 30 day supply around this time too.

I started evaluating what it would take to follow Russell’s plan on my own. I pride myself on being very independent and figuring things out for myself, but since I consider my health to be very important, and I wanted to do things right, I decided to swallow my pride and contact Russell for an evaluation and consultation.

When I started my program and officially working with Russell (in July, 2015) I wasn’t sure what to think. What he told me made sense and seemed simple – do things that “complement” digestive system function and avoid or minimize the things that “insult” digestive system function. Part of the journey was learning which category everything I did fell into. (either complementary or insulting) The program components were easy for me to adopt for the most part, but keeping everything consistent was tough. It was a challenge incorporating all parts of the program until I formed a routine and started documenting everything in a spreadsheet.
(I did this on my own, Russell didn’t require a spreadsheet.)

It was tough to swallow the time commitment but it became easier as I made it a way of life. By far the hardest part of the program for me was restricting my diet to healthy foods since I frequently ate junk food before and was a voracious eater. Although it is still tough for me it helps to think about how awful I felt before and how much better I feel and look now. It also helped knowing that I was becoming a healthier person and I could start to live a better life without the potential need for harsh prescription drugs on an ongoing basis.

I started to notice improvements midway through the colon cleanse. The blood and mucous started to disappear from my stool and the urgency subsided. I learned to spend more time evaluating what was happening with my body and read the signals it was giving me. I learned what it would take to be healthy. I was eating healthier, taking better quality supplements, staying hydrated, not binging on junk food and no longer drinking a large amount of ice water every day.

At the time of writing this I am about 3 months fully committed to the program. I still experience minimal symptoms from time to time but can absolutely see a difference in my health. I certainly feel better than I did when I started the program and I am confident that I will continue to improve if I stay consistent. Russell and Megan have been very supportive every step of the way. Knowing that Russell is just an email or phone call away is comforting and provides a level of support I haven’t received from any other health professional before.

If you are considering starting your own program I encourage you to do so. I really like the functional nutrition approach that Russell advocates since it aims to heal instead of suppress symptoms. The program does require willpower and time, but I strongly believe that good health is worth the commitment. Thanks!