Eating with IBD
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were one treatment, one food, or one way of eating that would help put your IBD (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis) into remission and keep it there?
For those of us who have found a path that has lead to remission of symptoms and moving foward with life, we want to shout it from the mountains, recruit all other IBDers to our way of life, and poo-poo (no pun intended, really) those who don’t agree with or advocate our treatment.
I feel this way often. And I especially felt this while sitting in a CCFA two-hour seminar this past week with a physician’s assistant and dietician discussion “Nurition and IBD.” I was horrified as I listened to them tell the audience of about 40 people to eat Wonder Bread and Townhouse crackers and processed cheese. This was while the audience snacked on cookies, jelly-filled pastries, and chocolate.
As a natural chef of three years and a current student of nutrition, I was truly horrified about what was being suggested as a diet for IBD. As a person who has had UC since my teens, who had eaten the recommended bland, SAD, simple carbohydrate, sugar-laden diet that was being advocated, I just wanted to shout out, “Stop Don’t listen. This advice and way of eating ultimately won’t help you.”
I did ask a few questions, I even ventured to share that I had been eating according to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet as well as dairy-free for nearly three years, and in that time I’ve gotten off all UC medications and now lead a more full and active life. Sadly, my opinion wasn’t welcome. I was told that my way of eating hadn’t been studied enough to know if it really could help those with IBD or not.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think eating according to the SCD or GAPS or Paleo or any other “diet” is easy. It’s not. I put a great amount of effort into preparing what I eat every day of every week of every month. And at times it gets tiring and I “cheat” and eat something more typical and then I feel awful, my gut goes off, sometimes a flare-up ensues and I am very quickly made aware of just how much time in the past 20+ years of my life (pre-SCD) I spent being sick, sleeping on bathroom floors, missing out on my life and the lives of family and friends, how many jobs I’d had to quit or not take because my UC and its symptoms had taken over my life. And when I think back to those times I realize that learning how to eat and taking the time to make foods that are nourishing and satisfying and safe for me to eat is a joy. A pleasure really, because what I am nourishing my body with has helped it to heal and that allows me to live a more fully functional life.
Do I think that diet changes can work for everyone with IBD? Unfortunately, no. Just as one medication doesn’t work for everyone with IBD. But I have met hundreds, perhaps by now thousands, of people who have IBD and are eating according to the SCD and are taking back their lives. As of right now, there are studies going on to test the efficacy of the SCD with IBD patients. UMass is one such institution who is conducting such studies. And so far, they’ve seen some very promising success.
So, it bothers me when doctors, or PA’s, or dieticians, or associations, tell patients that “this diet or that diet won’t cure you.” Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t, or perhaps it will give an IBD patient a certain modicum of their life back without more medications. I would prefer these health professionals help guide patients to diet options, monitor their progress and health, and see for themselves what might or might not help a vast majority of IBD patients.
The diganosis of IBD is on the rise. I believe that more and more of the newly diagnosed are going to want to learn about and know what their alternative treatment options include. Because the one thing we do know is that drugs don’t cure IBD; they treat and possibly mask symptoms without fully understanding their long-term effect. I’d rather risk changing my diet than adding another medication to my daily life.
But, that’s each patient’s choice to make. I just hope each IBD patient is able to realize there may be more than one way to treat their illness.
Elizabeth wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Digestive Health.