Hi, my name is Nathan and this is my story of recovery from severe Ulcerative Colitis: a condition that my doctors told me was incurable. I am an average Aussie guy who has lived in sunny Queensland most of my life.
I remember complaining to my wife for a week or so about having a sore stomach and diarrhoea. She had her hands full caring for our toddler as a full time mum and lovingly recommended that I stop complaining about it and go and see a doctor. So off I went to my local GP. The GP said I probably had a virus and prescribed some anti-diarrhoea pills. I returned a few days later in some what of a panic - the stomach pain had increased as had the diarrhoea. But now the diarrhoea was full of blood. Forty-eight hours later I was lying in the surgery theatre of a gastroenterologist about to have a colonoscopy (…I’ll say no more about that, except to add that only those who have experienced a colonoscopy can relate to it’s discomfort!).
The gastroenterologist walked into the recovery room after having just completed the colonoscopy on me and proceeded to tell me that I had Ulcerative Colitis throughout my entire bowel. He went on to say that there was no known cure for it apart from removing my bowel (…an option I was not particularly keen on exploring). He wanted to start me immediately on a course of steroidal drugs called Prednisone (…a drug that I would later develop a love/hate relationship with!).
Over the ensuing few years, I experienced the full gamut of symptoms associated with severe Ulcerative Colitis and the medicines prescribed to treat it. My gastroenterologist prescribed numerous drugs to treat my condition, it seemed that each time I went back to see him, he’d just move down the list to the next drug “to give a try”. I felt like a test guinea pig. He was a great guy with the best intentions, but my condition was not improving and now I was suffering the horrible side effects of these drugs as well as my condition’s symptoms. I remember my stomach feeling so sore and uncomfortable that even the weight of the bed sheets on my abdomen was painful. Some nights I would lie in bed groaning and curled up in a foetal position; unable to find comfort or relief from the nauseating pain; and frequently having to run the short 3 metres from my bedroom to our ensuite bathroom - and often not making it. It was a living hell. I am so glad to be free of it now and so is my young family. My wife would tell you that she lost her husband for those years, and a weak, sickly, exhausted and grumpy man “replaced him”. During the frequent ulcer flare-ups during which my symptoms multiplied in ferocity, I would rarely leave the bedroom/ensuite - it was like a prison. I was unable to play with my children nor help my wife with raising them.
Light in the darkness…
And then I got hold of a book called The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin. As I read this book I felt hope flooding my soul. It was as if someone had turned on a light in my darkness and given me hope. Our western society places so much confidence in modern medicine. You never really notice this until you find yourself relying upon the cumulative knowledge-base known as modern medicine, and the system that supports it. I had spent thousands of dollars on hospital charges, doctors’ fees, and numerous drugs and treatments - all to no avail. A number of the drugs used to treat I.B.D. (Irritable Bowel Diseases) have side effects that are arguably worse then the symptoms of the disease they are meant to treat. The side effects include mental depression, blurred vision, sudden and wide mood swings, headaches, vomiting, pain in the back, hips, legs, arms and shoulders, weakening of the skin, hallucinations and dizziness, to name just a few (…and I mean just a few, the list is very long). I reached the point where it seemed that modern medicine didn’t have the answer for me. Or at least if it did, no one I spoke to knew it. It was at this time that I heard from a friend about an American fellow (Jordan Rubin) who had recovered from Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis and had written books about how he did it. The books were called, The Maker’s Diet and Restoring Your Digestive Health. I immediately got hold of the books, read them cover to cover, and then my wife read them. My wife and I spoke at length about the program outlined in Restoring Your Digestive Health and decided we had nothing really to lose except my Ulcerative Colitis and that we’d give it a go. It was not easy to get hold of the various supplements and foods that he recommended, nor was it cheap. But I decided I’d spent many thousands of dollars on hospitals, doctors and drugs and in reality I was worse off. I desperately wanted to be well again and we were committed to giving it a fair go so we budgeted some funds to follow the program and see if it would work for me. There’s a wise old saying from the bible that says “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Once we’d decided to give the program a go and committed our money to it, our hearts sure followed and we committed to follow it to the letter so as to give it a decent chance.
Within forty-eight hours of starting phase one of the three phase program, I was dramatically better! I couldn’t believe it. Nothing that I had tried before had given the results that I’d achieved in just a few weeks. And one of the best parts was that it was all natural. Nothing he recommended in the program was poisonous to my body so it didn’t have the horrible side effects of the prescription drugs I used to take. I must admit however, the program did require some lifestyle adjustments to what we were used to before I became sick. But then again, I suspect that our previous low fat, minimal meat and processed food lifestyle contributed to my contracting ulcerative colitis in the first place?
After a little more then three weeks on the program, I felt almost completely whole again. The fact is that the digestive tract is a complex system of organs responsible for converting the food we eat into the nutrients we need to live. It is the very “engine room” of our body and when it stops working properly, so does the entire body. So to restore our digestive system when it becomes “broken”, it makes sense that we need to pay close attention to the substances that we put into our system for processing. According to Jordan, given the correct food and supplements, our body has the ability to restore its own digestive health.
After watching my husband able to eat only dehydrated potato for weeks on end and feeling so helpless in my role as the “nourishment provider”, I was immensely relieved to finally have a guide (The Maker’s Diet) as to what foods he should be eating and what was to be avoided. The problem was that I had no idea what some of the foods were, or where to source them! I rang an old work friend that I knew was into some “weird foods”. I started the conversation with “Filippa, have you ever heard of Kefir?” “Yes”, she exclaimed excitedly, “come down to my place”. Filippa was my lifeline for a while, she gave me kefir grains and showed me how to use them, invited me to join her organic co-op and explained away my numerous questions about sprouting, soaking and fermenting. I took down the name of her precious book “Nourishing Traditions” and borrowed and re-borrowed the Gold Coast library’s first copy of it for over 2 months in a row before I managed to source my own. Life was rather full-on for the next 6 months while I juggled daily trips to various health food shops around the coast with a screaming baby in the car as no-one stocked every item I needed! I now buy our favourite brands of sprouted bread, raw milk, coconut and cod liver oil in bulk over the Net. Aaahhh, what a relief to let my fingers do the walking!
I must admit, it took me a while to enjoy a lot of our new menu. Fortunately, our baby LOVED kefir and would crawl excitedly to the kitchen when I poured it into her cup. Not surprisingly though, observers to our family’s new culinary program were not too sure about me feeding unpasteurised, fermented milk to my family. After watching one mouthful of the “wrong” food affect my husband so strongly, I realised the value of food like never before. I was terrified of Nathan becoming ill again and so threw myself 100% into changing the diet of our whole family. To outsiders I know I appeared obsessed, and I guess I was!
A year into our new lifestyle, my husband was 100% well and our son no longer had the obligatory sniffles or ear-aches needing antibiotics every term. We gave away the bedroom vaporisers that used to be running through winter, and a tummy bug that would normally last a week would now last less than a day in our house. I now look at the time I spend in the kitchen preparing stocks, fermenting foods and cooking breakfasts as just part of the routine. And this time does not compare to the time I used to spend sitting in doctor’s waiting rooms or in sleepless nights with sick kids. There are few things in this life that compare to the happiness of living a healthy life.
About the Author...
Kirsten and Nathan Archer live on the Gold Coast with two happy and healthy kids, a dog and seven chooks. They are passionate about organic living and love to share Nathan's story of recovery from Ulcerative Colitis in the hope that others will be helped. Their website, Digestive Health was started with that purpose in mind: to encourage people with digestive disorders towards recovery.