Day 13: What my doctor said today

I have an amazing physician whom I really really like. He’s experienced, caring and has a lovely bedside manner, and he’s put me on the path to recovery, for which I am eternally grateful. I had been to other doctors with my weird symptoms and they couldn’t help. Dr Neethling fixed me.

Today was my 2-month check up. He put me on a strong dose of cortisone to get my last flare under control, about 3 months ago. Then he switched me to indefinite Asacol, and wanted to see how that was going.

The short answer is: Excellently. Today’s blood tests showed normal ESR levels – that is, no inflammation!

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Inflammation is an indication that your gut is damaged and fighting to recover. My ESR levels and white blood cell count was very elevated in October last year (ESR around 60, when it should be negligable or in single digits). By November, thanks to Pulmison (cortisone) they’d dropped noticeably. Today’s blood test showed a complete return to ‘normality’. YAY!

The 2 important things that this means 

1. I cannot stop taking my Asacol, especially now. While I think that diet is really helping a lot – and I have no doubt SCD is helping to reduce inflammation – I can’t deny that the Asacol got me right. Prior to medication, I was having between 8 and 12 BMs a day. Most days I lost count. The Pulmison cleared that up within days, while the Asacol has kept me on an even keel ever since, with regular BMs, no diarrhoea and no bleeding.

2. Medical treatment for IBD is essential. I believe in following both a medical and an holistic path, and what you choose to follow is up to you. But if you’re flaring; if you’re bleeding and dehydrated and anaemic, seek medical treatment. Even a nutritionalist or naturopath will encouarge you to use science as an immediate intervention in an emergency (and if you’re flaring, you’re having an emergency), and then to phase in the natural remedies when your symptoms are under control.

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I’m so glad I got this encouraging result today because I needed something bright on the horizon. I’m SICK of this diet! I actually threw away half my dinner tonight (pureed carrots and chicken) because I could no longer stomach either the smell or taste of it.

I’m also sick of bananas – who’d have thought the honeymoon would ever end?! – but I guess that’s what happens when you eat 7 a day.

The reason my diet is going so slowly is because I’m following the advice of the guys over at SCDLifestyle.com and phasing in a new food once every four days, which I now see they’ve amended to 3 days, which is such a bonus. Nonetheless, even a 3-day gap between each new food item makes the progress infinitely long and drawn-out, but it is the safest way to do it. Here’s why.

And with that, it’s most definitely time for bed, where I’ll no doubt dream of cheating on my diet with my favourite seductress, milk chocolate.

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Day 12: So over the food

Yesterday I spoke about focusing on other things besides food when you doing the SCD, which is a really important coping strategy for the diet.

Today, I focused on so many things – mainly work-related – and had an active and busy day. But despite all that, one overwhelming feeling wove its way through my day: I’m so sick of this food.

When I bit into my umpteenth banana today; when I dished up my pureed carrot; when I thought about scheduling in my cooking this weekend, I just felt totally over it. While I haven’t typed “sick of SCD food” into Google, I’m pretty sure I’ll discover that this is normal, especially in the beginning.

Me in the kitchen today

Me in the kitchen today

When I spoke to an SCD nutritionalist about a month ago, she told me that the first month is the hardest. In fact, she told me that it’s very hard to do the SCD on your own, which I think was the exact type of challenge I needed to get me going.

Today, all I wanted was some nice sweet fruit – watermelon or peaches or strawberries. I wanted to be able to open my fridge and pull out whatever the hell I wanted to eat – and not have to peel it, de-seed it and cook it for a million hours. I wanted to try the Oreos sandwiched with peanut butter that my colleague told me about. I wanted… my old diet. But I also know I don’t want my old problems, and that’s what keeps me going.

Right now I'd eat a terracotta tile if it were covered in peanut butter

Right now I’d eat a terracotta tile if it were covered in peanut butter

One day, hopefully on day 90, I’ll look back on this and be so proud of myself for pushing through. 12 days is nothing to sneeze and and I am proud. But I’m also bored with my diet and frustrated!

For me, it’s more about the long-term benefits: I wasn’t in a flare when I started this. My symptoms were completely controlled by meds. But I want to get off the meds, hence the diet. So if I am improving, I’m not necessarily going to know about it until I try to ease off the Asacol. There’s no immediate gratification that so many other SCDers experience, which makes it a bit more difficult to persevere. HOWEVER, I love the feeling of less bloatedness, so that is definitely an improvement and a step in the right direction.

That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t kill for a slab of chocolate, an icy drink and a giant handful of peanuts right about now!

Day 11: Finding joy in things *besides* food

Just for a moment, I want you to take food out of the equation. I know that sounds ridiculous, considering that 99% of the focus on SCD is food – preparing it, finding time to prepare it, monitoring its effects, talking about its effects, feeling its effects, DREAMING about its effects – but hear me out.

During my research into SCD, before I started it, one thing in particular stood out. It was when Jordan Reasoner from SCDLifestyle.com said (and I’m paraphrasing hugely here) that you have to learn to enjoy things in life other than food – you have to make a conscious effort to find the happiness and enjoyment in activities and social interactions without the food element.

“Happy… whatever. Where’s the food?!”

This was a revelation for me. I’m your typical read-the-menu-for-weeks-beforehand type of gal. I’m ashamed to say that I remember more about the food served at social occasions than the actual occasion itself – who was there, what it was for, or what gift I painstakingly chose for… whoever.

Starters - amazing!

Oh, you made starters

For me, food was LIFE. I loved it and I hated it in equal measure, but the hating never stopped me from gobbling it all up (and feeling hugely remorseful afterwards). I often think this is the root of my problem: I always enjoyed my food, but when I hit the teens, I realised that it tended to stick to my belly a little more than I liked. Cue a few years of severe dietary restriction to maintain a stick-like figure (I basically starved myself), and then the ultimate surrender after I realised that eating a single ice cream wouldn’t instantly turn me into the Michelin man.

So I started eating more ice creams… and chocolates, and cookies, and chips, and cookies that fell on the floor, and chips that I didn’t even like. Even other people’s food. Slowly the weight started creeping back, and the guilt-diet-guilt-binge cycle continued. I seemed to have an insatiable sweet tooth that was constantly scavenging for sugar, and which was particularly aggressive when I was inebriated.

My poor gut. I really treated it terribly.

An average Saturday night

An average Saturday night

The cookie monster

Anyway, over the past few years, I settled into a fairly stable eating pattern, though found it impossible to resist chocolate and other moreish foods like peanuts, cookies and the colourful spreads at parties. I was always eager to tuck in, and I always did. It’s a wonder my weight only ever peaked at about 58kgs.

Don't worry honey...

Don’t worry honey…

...we've all been there.

…we’ve all been there.

So for me, it’s always been about the food. When I discovered SCD and really started to understand it, I realised that I was going to have to shift my focus drastically. On the SCD, the most interesting thing about an event can’t be the millionaire shortbread or cocktail sausages – it actually has to be the people, the conversation and the surroundings.

A family dinner with a difference

Tonight I went to my folks’ place for our weekly dinner. I took my own food for the first time – last week they made me some boiled eggs. My parents cook the most amazing food and it’s often my favourite meal of the week, but 11 days in, I realise I’m no longer feeling deprived.

And tonight, I enjoyed myself more than I have in ages. I mean, I always enjoy seeing my folks and my sister, but tonight just felt… different. Maybe it was the gorgeous weather, or the fact that all four of us bonded as our ‘original’ family unit unlike we have in ages (my sister is married but her husband wasn’t there, and K has other commitments on Wednesday nights).

I didn’t crave the food as much as usual, though it was pretty hard watching them eat the mint chocolate I brought for them. But despite all that, I really enjoyed the evening and – BEST of all – didn’t leave feeling bloated, sore and gassy like I usually do. Supper was pureed carrots, minute steak and zucchini. I skipped the post-dinner banana and voila, no bloat 🙂

A vital SCD tool

So I guess the take-out for today (oh, I’m sorry about that pun) is to find joy – and enjoyment – in other things besides food, be it people, a hobby, a pet, a sport or whatever. Shift the focus off your taste buds and what you’re shoving down your gullet, and make a conscious effort to enjoy the here and now – without food. It’s worth it and it’s a vital survival tool for the SCD.

The 10 worst foods for IBD

Today I got to thinking about the worst foods for inflammatory bowel disease. Before I discovered the SCD, while I was going through a very bad flare, the only thing I could safely eat was rice. Now I know that rice is ill-advised on SCD, but at the time, it was the only thing that brought me a little comfort.

Which meant that there were TONS of foods that I just couldn’t go near. Have you experienced the same thing?

Here’s a list of the most common foods that aggravate IBD symptoms. Obviously everyone’s body is different, but these are often the biggest culprits:

– Fibrous foods: You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand this equation: Chronic diarrhoea + fibre = bad idea. When I’m flaring I stay far, far away from foods that promote bowel movement, especially fruits and vegetables. Even when I’m not flaring I have to be careful with these foods.

Dairy: Even before I officially learnt that I was lactose intolerant, I just knew that it wasn’t agreeing with me. I’d eat an ice cream and have hours worth of diarrhoea. Not really sure why I needed a test to tell me what I already knew, but there you go. Many IBD patients are lactose intolerant, and dairy is one of those things that most Westerners eat ALL the time. So if you’re having bad symptoms and you can’t put your finger on the trouble, try cutting out dairy for a bit and see if it helps. Or just go for the test.

Nuts: They’re super healthy and beneficial but we simply can’t chew them well enough for our bodies to be able to digest them easily. That’s why SCD recommends nut milks and butters – and even that’s only much later.

Fried food: Kind of a no-brainer, but there you go. In my opinion, no one should be eating unhealthy fried food (it IS possible to make healthy fried food, by dry frying or using healthy oils or even water). All the excess oil, especially from deep frying, can wreak havoc on your gut.

Alcohol and caffeine: I MEAN WHAT IS THE POINT EVEN WITHOUT COFFEE AND WINE?? I hear you say. And I can but shake my head and shrug sadly. These two nectars of the gods make life living worth living on both sides of a really long work day. But when you’re flaring, they’re going to cause more trouble than they’re worth. However, even Elaine sanctions wine (dry only) and coffee (weak and not instant) in Breaking The Vicious Cycle. 

PS: Chocolate also falls into the category but I just couldn’t bring myself to destroy your day further.

No more of this?!

No more of this?!

Popcorn: Sob! What’s a movie without popcorn? A BOOK! This has always been a favourite treat of mine, but to be honest, I don’t miss the days of scraping kernels out of my teeth… four days later. Plus, I always felt horribly bloated and stuffed up after eating a mountain of the stuff. It’s not surprising: Popcorn is a wholegrain (already a problem for UC and Crohn’s), and one of the hardest of all the grains to digest.

I had to give up popcorn before I ever discovered this! *sob

I had to give up popcorn before I ever discovered this! *sob

Fruit & veg with peels: But you already knew that, didn’t you? Skins and peels are tough and can aggravate the gut no end.

Tomatoes: Perhaps due to all their pesky seeds (see below), tomatoes just don’t agree with certain people, especially during a flare. Monitor yourself because some people don’t have a problem at all. But I know that they can really cause me a lot of trouble if I’m not careful.

Grains: We all know that gluten is the baddest of the bad foods for IBD, due to the fact that it really irritates the gut – plus most gluten-based produced today are filled with unimaginable amounts of processed crap. Instead of dealing with the discomfort, avoid it altogether.

Seeds: Seeds are SO healthy but they can wreak havoc on a damaged intestinal system. That’s why SCD instructs you to de-seed all your fruit and veg in most of the stages except the last ones. This also includes all those really yummy and nutritious seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, etc. I learnt this really cool trick in a book I read by Sally-Ann Creed, called Let Food Be Your Medicine. If you want to know how well (or not well at all!) your intestines are breaking down your food, swallow a handful of sunflower seeds, preferably without chewing them. You’ll soon see whether the food in your system is being broken down or not.

By the way, I can highly recommend her book. It’s teaching me so much about the healing power of food and proper nutrition.

Which food has been the hardest for you to give up?

funny-wine

Day 10: An exercise in futility

I’m not gonna lie, it felt awesome to write ’10’ on my hand today – double digits and one 9th of the way there.

TEN days in. Happy.

Still on boiled eggs for breakfast and bananas for lunch. I was ravenous by about 4pm and there was nothing I could do about it, because I was still stuck at the office. Don’t let this happen to you! I must make a plan to start eating more, and start carrying more food with me. One of the toughest things about SCD is if you’re stuck without food, you’re really screwed. I mean, where are you going to find some pureed carrots or even a really-really ripe banana just lying around? 

Anyway, tonight I introduced zucchini! Silly me – I peeled it and chopped it up, thinking that if I boiled it for long enough, the seeds would simply fall out. No, that’s not what happens.

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One does not simply… de-seed a zucchini

What did in fact happen was that I ended up with tiny pieces of well-cooked, falling-apart marrow (we call zucchini ‘marrow’ in SA) that were nearly impossible to de-seed without completely obliterating.

Nonetheless, I battled through it, removed as many of the seeds as I could, and was left with about a third of what I started with.

Next time I'll do it like this.

Next time I’ll do it like this

And now I’m bloated.

But I know that could just be the banana too (I had five today, although the bloat only kicked in after dinner. Really guys, don’t base your diet on mine – I’m often a poor example). Also, I eat a ‘big’ meal at dinner time, so I probably overload my tummy. Tonight’s dinner was carrot puree (probably about a cup and a half), 2 small ostrich meatballs and the zucchini, followed by a banana.

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Meat rotations

I’m rotating my meats on a 3-day cycle, so at least there’s that. At the moment I’m doing the ostrich, as well as lean mini steaks and boiled chicken (skin and bone in, but I don’t eat the skin). Nutritionalists, as well as the SCDLifestyle guys themselves, recommend rotating all your food at least every 3 to 4 days to avoid developing intolerances. Once I’m further along in the phases I’ll start changing up my breakfast and banana-lunches as well.

Today’s exercise

I felt like I had much more energy today, and I really think it was a state of mind. I got home from work late and wasn’t in the mood to exercise. But realising I was about to bail on my routine sparked this sudden inner outrage that I can’t explain, and I jumped into my workout gear and got going. It was much easier today (I also nommed a banana beforehand) and I felt GOOD.

I never really experience those ‘feel good’ endorphins after exercising that people rave about. Generally, I need to get a new piercing to feel those. BUT I do feel a very satisfying sense of achievement which I love, and which is soooo worth it.

So 10 days in, how do I feel?

Proud, mostly. Proud that I’ve decided to do this thing and I’m sticking to it. Proud that I’m not cheating, not dead, and still functioning as a member of society and exercising person.

Happy that I’ve lost a little weight and am feeling less sluggish and bloated (for the most part).

Frustrated that I still feel like I lack energy and am not getting enough food and natural nutrients. But I know it’ll come…

A little sad fact that so many delicious treats are still so far away, or out of bounds completely.

And resigned to the fact that cake is dead to me. Yesterday, I mistook a large book on someone’s desk for a chocolate cake. For real. I miss cake the most, especially my dad’s (he’s an amazing baker).

But overwhelmingly, I feel happy and pretty chuffed with myself.

How are you feeling?

do a little more each day than you think you can copyits-neve-rtoo-late-to-change-lifeYouCanDoThis1

Day 9: I started exercising again. Here’s how THAT went

I didn’t work out last week due to intro – I felt I just didn’t have the strength. And thanks to the intensity of the workouts I do, I often feel like I might puke afterwards. I definitely didn’t think I could handle that on top of the nausea I already felt!

Oh Jillian, how I missed you.

Since about May last year, I’ve been doing the Jillian Michaels DVDs. I love the exercises, I love the intensity, and I love Jillian. I think that has a lot to do with how hot she is. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to work out with this every day:

jillian-michaels-600x800jillian_michaelsjillian-michaels

She doesn’t often work out in heels, but when she does, it’s awesome 😉 Okay I’m kidding… but wouldn’t that be amazeballs?

She’s also hugely motivating – I really agree with so many of the things she says, like how we’re much stronger than we think we are, and how we can do anything we set our minds to. I really need to be reminded of that every now and then. Here are two of my favourite Jillian quotes:

Quotation-Jillian-Michaels-motivation-motivational-inspirational-effort-day-change-inspiration-Meetville-Quotes-98902 Transformation-isnt-a-future1

I’ve done the whole of Ripped in 30, 30 Day Shred, Yoga Meltdown and 6 Week 6-pack. I’ve also attempted Extreme Shed and Shred but that was just crazy!

A few weeks ago I started Body Revolution, which is supposed to be her most intense workout series yet, and spans 3 months. During the first week, you can boost your weight-loss/toning by doing the 30-minute workout video PLUS the 30-minute cardio video… which I did. I had THAT much energy.

How I felt working out on SCD

Today… not so much. It’s been 10 days which is a fairly long hiatus from exercise, but I’m pretty fit and I’ve taken breaks before (though not usually this long), and never found it so hard to get back into it. I felt much weaker today, and struggled to do things I usually find manageable, like planks and lifting dumbbells. I think I need to eat more – even if it’s just more of what I am eating. I think my body is really feeling the effects of a total carb black-out and it still needs a bit of time to adjust.

But I’ll never give up on the JM workouts – I just love her too much 😉 And also, there are some other benefits besides the eye candy (I know – who knew?!).

Why exercise is good for UC

Apart from all the obvious advantages we know about exercise – helping to stave off dire diseases, keeping our weight in check, boosting brain function, improving circulation and every other good thing that exists for the human body – it also really, really helps the gut.

I immediately felt things shifting and working inside my belly, and after the workout, I had a fairly normal BM – my second of the day which makes me REALLY happy. No more constipation!

If you’re having a flare, it’s a really bad idea to work out vigorously – or even at all in some instances. Be guided by your doctor.

I didn’t know this during my first flares, and pushed through relentlessly, which probably made things so much worse. I don’t know how I did it, but I was defiant. The only days I didn’t work out were the few days when my feet were so sore I could barely walk . Do any of you get sore feet during a flare?

Anyway, light exercise is always recommended, and the guys at SCDLifestyle.com say that it actually aids in the healing process. So go for walks or bike rides, or whatever else you enjoy. I think even a bit of Jillian is okay – I certainly don’t want to give it up. But do bear in mind that super vigorous exercise is never really recommended for UC patients. Here’s why, explained by Jordan and Steve at SCDLifestyle.com:

“Strenuous exercise (sprinting, performing work where you are so out of breath you can’t talk) breaks down your muscle fibers at a micro level and causes inflammation requiring the body to repair these muscle fibers and clear out the inflammation to make them bigger and stronger. In the SCD
diet we are trying very hard to reduce inflammation throughout the entire body, so creating excess inflammation can be counterproductive. Also if your body is busy shuttling nutrients to your muscles to repair them it will not be working on repairing your intestinal injuries.”

So there you have it. Don’t kick the exercise, but maybe take it down a notch. I might have to, lest I undo all this good work. I know my limits but I push through them anyway. Everything in excess with me – another of my challenges. And getting stuck in ruts. I’m STILL doing mostly intro food which means I MUST introduce a new veg tomorrow.

Speaking of challenges, it’s been 9 days on this diet – which also means 9 days without any booze, coffee, juice, sugar – everything! Where are you on the diet? Give yourself a damn good pat on the back. Freaking rockstar!

To congratulate you on how well you’ve done, here’s a little gift from me: A few more Jillian pics 😛 And if you’re not a Jillian Michaels fan… go google some pics of Ryan Gosling 😉

JillianMichaels jillian-michaels jillian-michaels-30-day-shred-workout jillian-michaels-68378

Day 8: Are you using Krill oil?

Recently, I met a girl whose sister has Crohn’s, and apparently swears by krill oil. She said that before I do anything else, I should get my hands on some. I’m not one to take the advice of real-life people when it comes to my health (I prefer the thousands of strangers on the internet 😛 ) – unless of course they’re qualified in some way – so I sort of pushed it to the back of my mind.

Yesterday I was in a health shop and I spotted some – plus it was on sale (relocation sale, not because it was off!). Why not, I thought, after checking the ingredients and seeing that it was safe. If you don’t know (I only had a vague idea), Krill are little shrimp-like creatures, and they provide an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which the body needs to perform a whole lot of vital functions.

**NOTE: Do not use krill oil if you’re allergic to shellfish or using blood thinners. In fact, don’t use krill oil on my advice – speak to your doctor or nutritionalist first!

According to this article on CNN, the benefits of krill oil include an antioxidant function, cholesterol reduction, relief of PMS symptoms (yay!) and of course, the boost in brain functioning that Omega 3 acids are renowned for. Plus, it may also aid in pain relief for ailments such as arthritis. I suffer from terrible joint pain when I’m having a flare, and occasionally in between too, so this is great news.

I’ll start taking it tonight and let you know if my Einstein gene kicks in 😉

How I’m feeling

I’m more than a week in, and getting to grips with the SCD. Yesterday my diet of apple puree, eggs, grilled steak, pureed carrots and bananas seemed to suit me well, though I’m going to take it easy on the fruit and start phasing in some veg instead. I know that it’s not a great idea for me to overdo it on the fruit and I’m loving the feeling of not being bloated.

jester-cover-72dpi1

I had a satisfactory BM this morning and it’s amazing how something so simple can really put you in a great mood for the day. For people like us, our BMs are one of the the most crucial indicators of our intestinal health, so when they’re good, we feel good too.

What veg to phase in this week? Hmmm. I’m trying to decide between zucchini and butternut. I love them both so I guess I’ll see what the supermarket shelves offer me 😉

Looking at this colourful image below makes me so excited for what lies ahead on this diet. Okay, not all of those items are legal, but many of them are, and I’m soooo looking forward to reintroducing many of them. Which is your fav?

fruit-vegetables-rainbow-609214