Nourishing Ulcerative Colitis: My Persistent Journey Toward
a More VIBRANT State of Health via Culinary Nutrition
Your life (as you know it) drastically changes when you receive news that you’ve been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (an autoimmune condition and Inflammatory Bowel Disease). This condition is characterized by the body’s immune system attacking the body’s own healthy cells, which it deems as foreign invaders. These conditions require strategic choices, namely anti-inflammatory, therapeutic foods that are passed through the bowel with ease, so as not to exacerbate damaged tissue (ulcerations) of the lining of the colon.
It was January 2004. My first colonoscopy. For the few weeks prior, I had been experiencing lower abdominal cramping and bowel movements streaked with fresh blood. The year to follow would be tumultuous – a medical chemistry experiment with various drug therapies until the symptoms settled down and showed evidence of some degree of "remission". The "remission" (and some new state of "normal") did occur about one year later, amidst exhaustion, reduced appetite and weight loss.
I was provided very limited and general advice as to what to eat moving forward, I continued to eat my varied, pre-diagnosis diet (with some minor changes), taking the stance of letting the medicine continue to do the work. I finally hit a wall in early 2012 - "sick and tired of being sick and tired"! I finally acknowledged that there was much more I could be doing for myself. For the past 8 years I had been teaching full-time in the school system - a very challenging environment, you can imagine, to expect your Immune System to keep up to! Between the endless mental and physical demands and daily deadlines to meet, and the acute illnesses that can become rampant when so many bodies are sharing a space, it was clear I was struggling in such an environment.
So, after executing a customized Skype consultation with the Kushi Institute (known for its therapeutic approach to nutrition via Macrobiotic Cooking), and obtaining a dietary protocol to guide me in my quest to move forward in a more fitting direction, I got into my kitchen with new whole foods ingredients and far greater creativity, immersing myself in cookbooks and experimentation. I was displaced from my comfort zone like never before, and newly fuelled by the determination to gradually reduce my reliance on an immunosuppressant and anti-inflammatory medication over time (given the undesirable side effects). With the protocol devised for me, I eliminated dairy, red meat/poultry, wheat/gluten products, processed foods and refined sugars, so as to track their variable impact. I also minimized my caffeine consumption and cooked from scratch whenever possible.
Since 2012 and that first protocol, my dietary approach has evolved a number of times, from Macrobiotic, to Pescatarian, to what I now refer to as "Plant-Rich Paleo-Inspired".
This evolution as been due to a number of contributing factors: formal education in this field (certifications in Culinary Nutrition, Holistic Nutrition and the 'Fundamentals of Fermentation'), as well as much ongoing, self-directed learning and research and the completion of Continuing Education courses. At the end of the day, it is highly beneficial to monitor their body's response to your dietary approach, responding accordingly to what is working, and what is not working. It all comes down to eating what makes you THRIVE!
To summarize the past seven years of my life, a drastic personal transformation has occurred! My kitchen is my oasis. I continue to make everything I can from scratch using local, seasonal and organic ingredients as often as possible. I now own and operate my own private Culinary and Holistic Nutrition consulting practice, providing a range of customized services as a Sole Proprietor. Furthermore, I also mentor other adults pursuing a Culinary Nutrition certification as a past graduate of the same program. I am living a very different pace of life and lifestyle and know for a fact that this is where I am meant to be and what I am meant to be doing!
With regards to particular food items that have the potential to make a significant impact on how you feel (if you are managing digestion-based inflammation), here are some suggestions to consider:
Some foods to boycott:
Dairy Products – may have difficulty digesting lactose (milk sugar) and/or casein (milk protein), therefore experiencing possible diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas[i]
Wheat Products/Gluten – capable of feeding harmful bacteria and yeasts in the body and may contribute to constipation, bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain[ii]
Coffee & Alcohol – stimulate the Immune System and the Adrenal Glands, causing them to work harder; coffee acts as a diuretic, flushing the body of key minerals and nutrient because it induces urination[iii]
Some foods to embrace:
Turmeric – the main, active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient and anti-cancer agent, fighting free radicals that are capable of causing cellular damage[iv]
Prebiotic Foods (i.e. garlic, onion) - provide a food source for probiotic foods; necessary to maintain healthy intestinal tract bacteria[v]
Probiotic (Fermented) Foods (i.e. sauerkraut and kimchi) – decrease toxin levels, produce digestive enzymes, support the lining of the intestinal tract, increase absorption of nutrients and help protect from intestinal parasites and infection[vi]
[i] Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions - Ulcerative Colitis. Retrieved October 12, 2015 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ulcerative-colitis/basics/definition/con-20043763
[ii] Kane, S.V. (2010). IBD Self-Management: The AGA Guide to Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis. Bethesda, MD: AGA Press.
[iii] Holford, P. (2012). Optimum Living Made Easy: 6 Weeks to Super Health - An Easy-to-Follow Programme for Total Health Transformation. Great Britain: Piatkus Books.
[iv] Mother Nature Network: The Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric. (2008). Retrieved November 25, 2015 from http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/the-amazing-health-benefits-of-turmeric
[v] Daniluk, J. (2011). Meals That Heal Inflammation: Embrace Healthy Living and Eliminate Pain, One Meal at a Time. Toronto, ON. Random House Canada.
[vi] Daniluk, J. (2011). Meals That Heal Inflammation: Embrace Healthy Living and Eliminate Pain, One Meal at a Time. Toronto, ON. Random House Canada.