My wellness journey started in 2017, if we’re being real. However, my Crohn’s diagnosis and struggles with my health began way before that. I was diagnosed in 2007, a year after I graduated from high school, and shortly before I would go away to university. It was a struggle to even get that diagnosis — what started as stomach pain, a symptom anyone with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis likely knows all too well, would lead to a spiral of other health issues.
The stomach pain was the one constant in my life at that time though. It was so debilitating that I wouldn’t sleep, instead, I would lay curled into a ball with a pillow pressed tightly up against my stomach, as if to push the pain the away. I looked “healthy enough” on the outside that I was constantly dismissed by doctors, or else, I was told to simply “write down what I ate.” Everything I ate caused my stomach pain, so this was a fruitless endeavour. One of the doctors I ended up seeing finally had me take a blood test, to surprising results. I remember the day clearly, I was in class when my mom called me in a panic, she asked if I was feeling okay, was everything alright. Apparently my iron levels (Crohn’s can prevent proper absorption of nutrients, thus resulting in anemia, although my anemia was beyond the pale) were so shockingly low that the doctors had no idea how I was even standing up, let alone living a “regular” life and walking around. I was told I could pass out at any second, and I was to rush to the emergency room of the hospital. It’s there that I was finally able to get a referral to a gastroenterologist, and I was tested for both Celiac’s and Crohn’s– of course, the answer was the latter.
Following my diagnosis, I began trying different medications. I was on Prednisone, and saw my face inflame (although at the time, no one would tell me I looked like a balloon…thx guys…), but nothing was strong enough. Nothing was helping. I was asked to be a part of a trial for a new medication to treat Crohn’s at the time– the brand name was Humira (Adalimumab). The medication was costly, but as part of the trial, I would be able to get it for free.99! I began taking it, with monthly visits to the GI’s office to track my progress. It was helping, and I was finally getting my life back, and well, my SELF back. Once the trial ended, I stayed on Humira, now shelling out the big bucks ($$$) to afford this expensive biologic.
I went away to university, and I would transport my Humira medication with me on the plane in a little insulated lunch bag . For most of my university career, I was okay— Humira kept the disease at bay, and I mostly lived “my best life” like any young college student would. I was both oblivious and ignorant to my health beyond the fact that I had Crohn’s disease and I was using Humira, meaning, I was not conscious of what I ate (or what I didn’t eat), let alone other aspects that affect one’s health: exercise, stress. When I entered my last year of university, it appeared that my lifestyle choices (or lack thereof) caught up with me, as I began to experience symptoms of the disease again. Slowly but surely, stomach pain returned, until it was even worse than before. Not only that, but I began developing other issues, which, initially, I did not know were actually caused by my Crohn’s– I had an abscess, I would find out eventually. I won’t go into the nitty, gritty details, but essentially, I felt like I had a urinary tract infection ALL. THE. TIME. On top of constant stomach pain…well, you can only imagine. I quickly started to lose weight. I wasn’t able to sleep. I wasn’t able to go to class. I wasn’t able to hang out with my friends. I wasn’t able to work.
Eventually, I would have to fly home to see my GI. I was a very good student in school, so luckily, my professors were understanding and I was able to still finish out the semester from a distance and graduate on time. When I finally saw my doctor, it was too little, too late. I attempted Remicade very briefly, but it didn’t work at all. At this point, the only real option was surgery. Not only that, I found out the amount of diseased intestines that would need to be cut and re-sectioned was so large that the doctor would not be able to go in microscopically– I would end up with a massive scar that took up half of my stomach, essentially.
Surgery was not fun. I’ll leave it at that. However, I recovered well enough (there were a couple of bumps along the way, like my stitches opening up), and I was in remission! I was put on Methotrexate following my surgery, in order to stay in remission. After taking Methotrexate consistently for 7 years or so following my surgery, I finally managed to get off it in 2018, following a conversation with my doctor and my own initiative. I can’t say this enough, but I took the initiative to better my self— I started exercising consistently in September 2017, for the first time IN. MY. LIFE. I went gluten free (not yet grain free, then), something I had attempted begrudgingly in the past (while still consuming loads of store-bought “gluten free” breads, cakes, cookies). I started taking CBD.
As my journey into health and wellness continued, I discovered the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I read the book, by Elaine Gottschall, quickly, and I was hooked. I began the Intro diet in November 2018, after experiencing a brief period of stomach pain. To this day I am not sure if the pain I experienced then was the beginnings of a Crohn’s flare, but I do know that after I did the Intro diet, I was feeling 100% better.
I went to my GI and presented the facts: I’m on the SCD Diet. I’m exercising. I feel good. We did a colonoscopy. It was my BEST-looking colonoscopy yet. I could not have been more proud of my colonoscopy (Crohn’s People Problems, amirite). He agreed I could get off Methotrexate, and even gave me a referral to start getting CBD oil medicinally as my sole treatment for Crohn’s (although, he was skeptical at best about the SCD Diet, as most Western practitioners are. Still, he admitted if it works for me, what’s the harm?).
I’ve been happily following the SCD Diet since then, while being off any medication for Crohn’s. I’ve continued to take CBD oil daily, and I exercise daily, on top of maintaining my diet.
This turned out to be a much longer spiel than I intended. All I really wanted to say was, I started my @grainfreee Instagram page shortly after starting the SCD Diet in order to help myself. I wanted to hold myself accountable, and I thought this might be a good way to do it, on top of the fact that I needed some support– I needed to find like-minded individuals on the same SCD journey, not to mention, I needed recipes!!! As I progressed through the Stages of SCD, I began experimenting more and more with baking and cooking some of my favourite recipes SCD-style. I always loved to bake and cook prior to this, but of course as anyone knows who is already on the diet– the amount of time you spend prepping and cooking in the kitchen is insane. Luckily, I’ve always found being in the kitchen relaxing and enjoyable. So it’s become a fun hobby to constantly update my Instagram page with my latest kitchen creation, while getting inspiration from those around me.
I hope to pass along that same inspiration, and to be both a tool and source of hope for anyone else suffering with gut issues, or anyone who is looking to begin their own journey to wellness and gut happiness.