Inflammatory bowel disease results in symptoms of flatulence, abdominal pain, urgency, fatigue, bloody stools, diarrhoea and weight loss. For some it can even lead to having part of their bowel removed.
With such a serious possible outcome it is difficult to believe that mainstream medicine still ignores dietary intervention as a possible aid to recovery. However, my husband is proof that dietary changes can not only help recovery but can actually result in complete remission after 25 years suffering with ulcerative colitis.
My husband is proof that dietary changes can not only help recovery but can actually result in complete remission…
He had many flares over the years, ranging from minor ones, where he used enemas to bring them under control, or more major ones when he was in hospital for 3 weeks on intravenous steroids. All this time he was on medication to supposedly stop the flares. One of these being an immunosuppressant called azathioprine. Although doctors mentioned that his condition was stress related and that he should avoid nuts, ice cream and spicy food there was never any official assistance with dietary intervention.
It was only when he was taken off the azathioprine that all of his problems really kicked in. Medication doesn’t cure this disease it pushes it underground and it keeps progressing whilst you believe it is being held at bay so when the immunosuppressant wore off he developed a severe inflammatory arthritis secondary to his colitis.
On seeing a consultant he was told that ‘no-one gets better, everybody gets worse and that he could be in a wheelchair by the time he was 60’.
At this point he was 40 and unable to play with a bat and ball with our son for 15 minutes without the resulting inability to move his wrist for the following 3 days due to pain and swelling. He had periods of walking with a stick and wasn’t able to dress himself due to pain and severe movement restriction in his shoulders. He was also put on a strong anti-inflammatory and was told by his GP, after asking about possible dietary help, that ‘there are a lot of quack diets out there, just keep taking the tablets’.
I could not accept this as a physiotherapist with 18 years of experience of treating people with musculoskeletal problems.So, I started trawling through the internet, reading journals and books to try and find the root cause of the inflammation because, if we could take that away, surely he wouldn’t need that anti-inflammatory and, most importantly, hopefully he wouldn’t get worse. Ichanged our entire diet! We eliminated gluten and dairy, increased our fruit and vegetable intake, increased oily fish and started juicing for breakfast. The plan was to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, so all processed food was removed and everything was cooked from scratch.
I believe we must spread the word to as many people as possible about how different you can feel just by changing your diet and lifestyle.
I added in nutrients needed to heal the gut, like glutamine found in cabbage, and we added in probiotics to boost good bacteria. It was hard work, but slowly his condition started to improve and now he’s playing tennis and has no signs of his inflammatory bowel disease at all. He’s been able to stop all medication and his latest bowel scope showed that all scarring has completely gone! He does get an occasional minor arthritic flare up but these are after holidays when he falls too far off the dietary wagon!
For me, this has meant a change in direction for my career. I still work as a physiotherapist but I am now a qualified nutritional therapist because I believe we must spread the word to as many people as possible about how different you can feel just by changing your diet and lifestyle. If you suffer with inflammatory bowel disease don’t accept that you just have to keep taking the tablet.
Louise is a Physiotherapist, neuroscientist and nutritional therapist offering online nutritional therapy, sports nutrition and weight loss programmes.