Monday, May 30, 2016

Ulcerative Colitis : My Health Awakening

Any independence movement indicates that whenever injustice happens beyond tolerance limits, an awakening occurs. Such an awakening leads to uprising or revolution to fight the injustice. Such a sight is not pretty, and comes with suffering. 

Let's imagine such an event happening in our body. Our body likes to keep itself healthy by removing toxins and pathogens through various excretory processes. However, when we continue to ingest more and more toxins through unhealthy food (non-organic, spicy, fried, junk, processed), chemically synthesized soaps/shampoos/cosmetics, environment pollutants, etc. it leads to physiological stress in our body. Gut flora imbalance results in increase in bad bacteria in the gut. For some folks, one or more such event causes an awakening in the body in form of auto-immune response. The aim of such response is to get rid of unwanted elements in body, and make it healthy. An overactive auto-immune response leads to inflammatory condition such as IBD ( Crohn's or Ulcerative Colitis ).

IBD is an auto-immune condition where the immune system of one's body chronically attacks the healthy cells in digestive tract. Comically, IBD is a war against the pathogens and toxins in the gut. It aggressively sends WBC armies to clean out the toxins and pathogens, but these armies fail to distinguish between pathogens and innocent gut cells- causing one or more conditions like inflammation, ulceration, bleeding, diarrhea. In Ulcerative Colitis scenario, the bleeding in the mucosal lining of the colon allows food particles to enter bloodstream, causing further auto-immune attacks in the colon - making it chronic.

Here begins my healing journey of Ulcerative Colitis. 

Around mid of Dec 2015 during our Hawaii Trip, I noticed blood in my stool. I thought they may be Hemorrhoids.  However, bleeding continued for a week, and I went to see my internal medicine specialist. The doctor thought the same - Hemorrhoids, and prescribed me a Hydrocortisone suppository for 2 weeks. Well, my bleeding didn't stop, but I started experiencing increase in bowel movements to twice a day, with some sort of urge in evening. In this duration, I started cutting on milk products, and reduced eating in restaurants. My water intake increased from less than 0.5 litres a day to almost 2.5 litres a day.  The diet change helped my symptoms, but I was still under impression of Hemorrhoids causing all the symptoms.

I took Gastroenterology specialist appointment. I was scheduled for a Flexible sigmoidoscopy in end of Feb 2016, just 2 weeks before my move from San Jose to Austin. After the procedure, the doctor mentioned I have mild-moderate Ulcerative Proctitis - an initial stage of Colitis. At that time, I had no idea of what this means. The doctor said I'll have to take medicine for a long time - maybe years.  I was shocked to hear this, and asked the doctor of any diet changes I should do.  She arrogantly mentioned diet has nothing to do with this.

My mind was not convinced at taking the medicines, and I started my research on Ulcerative Colitis. I read about the traditional allopathic medicines to treat this condition which are either anti-inflammatory drugs, OR immuno-suppressing corticosteroids. Both these classes of medicines have terrible side effects (like severe kidney or liver problems, increase in heart rate, possible infections due to reduced immune function, depression, etc.) on long-term use. I was shocked to learn that the modern medicine does not understand root cause for IBD such as Crohn and Colitis, and aims at only treating the symptoms. Further, by not considering holistic picture, is the modern medicine blinded by salesman approach to pharmaceutical drugs only ? 

I then read blog posts, forums, articles where people mentioned getting healed from this disease by "natural" or "naturopathic" methods. I decided to try out natural methods. After we moved to Austin in mid of March 2016, I started with approach from Dave Klein's book "Self Healing Colitis and Crohn's". The approach is simple - be on a vegan healing diet comprising of smoothies or juices made from bananas, apple, celery, pear, cucumber OR steamed veggie soups from squash, yams. I also took Dave's phone consultation package to help me along the way. I also visited a homeopath and took his remedies. After a week or so, my symptoms escalated from bleeding 1-2 times to 3 times a day, with diarrhea. This was an effect of rapid detoxification of pathogen die off, which causes the severity. For many folks, this effect is short lived, and the symptoms cease in 2-3 weeks. I even tried cabbage juice, but it back-fired with severe gas and bloat. But for me, it went on for 6 weeks with no reduction of symptoms.  My weight dropped by 20 lbs in these 6 weeks. However, I noticed my belly fat was gone, my nasal congestion vanished, my back pain reduced. Yes, the toxin and pathogen die-off did help somewhere. Seems my healing foundation was being set. 

I visited gastroenterologist in Austin towards mid of April 2016, who scheduled me to a colonoscopy to see extent of the colitis spread. He seem to believe to some extent in natural methods, and seemed to be ok with me being on vegan healing diet for 4 weeks until the colonoscopy.

However, I needed to get my symptoms into some control. I didn't realize that I should have transitioned slowly to Dave Klein's vegan healing diet - so that detoxification is slow and gradual. Meanwhile, I had been also reading Jini Patel Thompson's book "Listen to your gut" where she talks about holistic way of healing IBD using elemental diet and other factors. I tried her elemental diet shakes for a week, but felt it too sweet, and felt like I was having processed food rather than natural food. However, I liked her suggestions on (i) eliminating toxins from environment e.g. shower filters, using herbal toothpaste, soaps, etc. (ii) supplements like Probiotics to balance gut flora, Vitamin and mineral natural supplements. (iii) Enough rest and sleep (that's when body healing occurs) (iv) Emotional and Mental Stress management through meditation, EFT, etc. i.e. mind / gut harmony. Jini explains very well how the 70%+ of our body nerves are in our gut and it is connected to our mood and emotions, and hence we feel gut problems to any stressful activity - be it physical, emotional, or mental. I started on these suggestions like Probiotics, L-glutamine, Herbal Soap/Toothpaste, shower filter, doing meditation, sleeping 9-10 hours a day. All of these helped me in managing my symptoms to some extent. Meditation (Pranayama) helped me feel light and happy throughout the day, and helped me get over mental block of why I have to suffer colitis - in fact I started looking at this condition as an enforcer of great health. 

My blood report in end of April 2016 indicated deficiency of Vitamin D3. I found out reduced levels of Vitamin D3 indicates low immune control mechanism in the body, and thus contributes to worsening of auto-immune problems. I got a prescription from my primary care physician, and started on a strong dose of Vitamin D3 supplement. 
With 10 weeks of strict vegan healing diet, my body devoid of sodium caused me a new problem - Hyponatremia, where I felt nauseated when drinking water or juices. I circumvented this problem by drinking water with Emergen-C (mineral ascorbates). My weight dropped by another 5 pounds. I was worried of malnutrition of proteins - Dave Klein solved this problem by suggesting me a great recipe - sprout sunflower seed/pumpkin seed/sesame seed overnight and blend it with water next day, drink the resulting milk - it tasted awesome. 

I also found encouraging stories and UC related knowledge at www.ihaveuc.com, an amazing community of UC folks. The creator of this amazing website, Adam, a sufferer of UC himself, achieved remission with SCD diet being the key factor. This guy has amazing sense of humor, and his articles on the website have been one of my "stress relievers".

Around May 15 2016, I was already tired of vegan healing diet, and started to research alternatives. I read about different diet types IBD patients have tried - SCD, Paleo Diet, Ayurvedic diet, Blood type diet, etc.  Ayurvedic and Blood type diet struck me logically (I naturally grew up with Ayurvedic methods and blood-type diet explains which food react well with given blood type). I changed my diet to rice, quinoa, moong daal, spinach, bottle gourd, squashes, avocados, butter-milk, use of ghee/olive oil/feta cheese, spices like turmeric/coriander/cumin seeds/asafoetida. The diet changed along with L-Glutamine and Vitamin D3, seem to have better effect on my symptoms. My bowel movements went back to 1-2 times a day, with drastic reduction in abdominal cramps/pains. 

Few days later, to my surprise my colonoscopy revealed my colitis inflammation had spread to transverse colon. Maybe it was due to the 10 weeks of detoxification of vegan healing diet of juices. My Austin Gastroenterologist initially thought of prescribing me anti-inflammatory drugs, but since he knew about some of my natural methods, he prescribed me 30 days of VSL #3 DS probiotic - where I need to take 900 billion cfu per day (compared to my intake of 2 billion cfu per day). My health insurance didn't cover the probiotic even though it is available only by prescription, and is healthier option. It is funny that they would cover $900 Remicade infusions whereas they will not cover $120 VSL#3 DS. Anyways, I was happy to start the VSL#3 DS probiotic treatment.

And the magic happened on May 23, 2016. My stool showed zero traces of blood ( sometimes see some tiny blood spots ). Few days later my diarrhea stopped, and stools started forming. I had only 1 bowel movement early morning. I gained back 5 pounds. Seems the combination of VSL#3 DS Probiotic, the blood type/Ayurvedic recommended diet, Vitamin D3 and L-Glutamine supplements, enough sleep, drinking lots of water, and meditation healed me from the auto-immune effects of Ulcerative Colitis. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, someday healthcare industry will understand root causes of IBD or any other long term disease like Arthritis, Diabetes, etc. and heal the root cause in holistic ways instead of just treating the symptoms. In other words, hope to see more doctors who embrace both allopathic and naturopathic ways to tackle a health issue and provide "true healthcare" instead of being sales advocate of chemically synthesized pharmaceutical drugs.

As for me, to avoid recurrence of my Colitis symptoms, I need to be mindful of healthy eating habits as well as healthy lifestyle of less emotional/mental stress, exercise, lot of sleep, drinking lot of water, eating before dusk, etc. The key to healthy eating habits is to avoid processed, junk, spicy food - which irritates the gut, and promote eating organic and healthy gluten-free food. (Eating spicy/processed food in restaurants might be ok once in 5-6 weeks or so).  The Ulcerative Colitis Healing Journey has indeed being my awakening to a healthy living. Whenever I drift off the healthy path by long margin, the colitis will correct me through the symptoms and keep me healthy longer-term. As Dave Klein rightly said, IBD is a gift to regain proper health if one looks at it positively.

My advice to readers: 

Don't blindly follow any health advice from a doctor, or an online resource. Listen/Read to all options, do your own research on benefits/side effects/long term for any advice, and take the best possible health option available to you. Remember, you own your health.

4 comments:

  1. your experience sounds scary and you chose equally brave approach. I wish you a Healthy Life ahead. It's tough to eat healthy food as our diet is controlled by our taste buds, most of the time leading to unhealthy choices.

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  2. Kudos Galus for not blindly going with the flow and finding your own solution. Very inspiring read. Happy that you are doing well now.

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  3. Well written article that is going to help many people. I am also a firm believer of diet as cause and remedy for most of our illness.

    Eat well, sleep well and be well

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  4. Thanks Galus!!! Your experience surely inspires me to be persistent since i too have had issues wid my tummy since childhood....i too have been moving away frm spicey and junk food since last few yrs...

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