I never heard of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis until I was told I had it. A little research had me worried, confused and angry. Like myself, most people never heard of it until they are diagnosed and I’m sure many share the same mixed emotions I did.
Here is my store:
Until age nineteen, I ate the standard American diet (also known as the S.A.D diet, and it is very SAD). I never suffered from any problems other than the common upset stomach or headache. Sometimes I would get a cold, but I thought that was normal. Then the stomachaches started to get worse. I would get colds more often, and I started to worry. I decided to go to the hospital and get checked to see what the problem was. After I was subjected to the doctors’ many tests, they told me I had food poisoning. They gave me some medication and sent me home. I thought the drugs the doctors gave me would cure me, but during the following three weeks the pains kept coming back worse and worse. They got so bad that many times I wasn’t even able to walk five feet without having to go to the bathroom, whether I had eaten or not. I was wasting away. My weight dropped to 125 pounds, and everyone I knew told me I looked terrible. I tried everything I could think of that would put weight on my body. I ate big portions of fatty foods with increasing frequency. Plus, I stopped doing all exercise in order not to burn too many calories. Nothing I tried worked; my condition just kept getting worse. I was willing to deal with the intense pain, but then one night I saw blood in my stool. Now, I was really scared. I went to the doctor, and the lab ran many tests on me. I felt like some scientific experiment. I would have done anything to find out what the problem was, so it could be cured. Up until then, I thought everyone had the common pain I was having. But once I saw blood, I knew the problem was much more serious than I had ever imagined.
Finally, from the doctor, I received my wake-up call. I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), also known as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. IBD is inflammation of the colon. According to many doctors, a person with IBD has an increased chance of getting Colon Cancer, but even if they don’t, it can still be very painful and harmful, and in some cases lead to death if not properly taken addressed. My case was so bad the doctor didn’t know if it was Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s, and said it might even be both.
Although most people would consider this a tragedy, as I also did at that time, now I consider it one of the best things that ever happened to me. When I found out what I had, I remember thinking to myself, “Now I can stop trying to figure out what the problem is and let the doctors cure me.” What a big mistake that was.
The doctors, or the drugs the doctors gave me, did not work. In fact, to this day, with all the technology doctors have, there is still no known medical cure for Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease. The only natural relief from the pain for most people, as it was for me, is to go to the bathroom very often and sit there for about thirty minutes to an hour. I remember when I was in the bathroom, no matter where it was, people would knock on the door and ask me if I was okay. I would think, “NO, I’m not okay, I’m very sick,” but I never said anything because who would understand? How many people had ever heard of Ulcerative Colitis or knew what it was?
In brief, for those of you who still don’t understand what it is, Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease is not an easy illness to live with. The colon is achy and inflamed. With UC there are many ulcerations, often with bleeding. It’s accompanied by spasmodic and frequent bowel movements.
The typically poor diet, increased bowel movements, decreased assimilation of swallowed food, and along with drug therapies, all add up to malnutrition, decreased vitality, stress, emotional unhappiness, not to mention misery and a ruined life.
HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO ME?
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I had everything available to me in excess. My teenage wisdom kept me from making the wrong choices when it came to things like drugs and gangs, but I had no idea what damage I was causing to my body with my diet.
Here are some reasons why I had no idea that I was eating a harmful diet:
- My parents fed me common foods that everyone else was consuming.
- The teachers in school never taught me about healthy eating.
- Stores near my house were selling the foods.
- No doctor ever told me I had to be careful with what I ate.
- And the most obvious reason…
- No one ever told me what food was healthy or not healthy. In fact, no one ever told me that food can cause disease. So I never put any connection between food and health.
When I was young my friends used to say I had a stomach of iron because I could eat anything and not get sick. Girls used to get upset at me because I could consume as much as I wanted and not put on weight. I thought I was just lucky, so this led me to eat whatever food I wanted to, as much as I wanted to and whenever I wanted to. The only time my dad would mention food to me was when he would say, “I’m going to the supermarket, what would you like me to buy you?” And the only time my mom would mention food was “What would you like me to make for dinner tonight?”
Now I realize the only reason I didn’t get very sick when I was younger was because when we are young we can eat just about anything and feel okay; but as we get older, what we consumed when we were younger catches up to us.
Reflecting back I can recall this was the average diet for me:
- 4 frozen waffles toasted, with a load of sugary “syrup”
- A few bowls of cereal
- Donuts or cookies
- Pizza, hotdog or hamburger with soda
- Cookies, cakes, candy, and more soda
- Chinese food, pizza, potato chips, and more soda
After dinner snack:
- Cake or cookies and more soda
- Soda or fruit juice drink (not fresh juice)
Notice I didn’t have any produce at all in my diet. Also notice that this is the diet common to most people today. But back then, I didn’t have any reason to worry about getting sick because I felt great, looked great and lived great.
Then as I got older I wanted to be able to be a winner when competing in sports, so I got involved with working out in a gym and reading bodybuilding magazines. Amongst all my friends growing up, I was the one who did everything to take care of my body. While they were playing sports, I was exercising in a gym. While they were reading magazines about cars, girls and money, I was reading body-building magazines. I wanted to be fit and healthy, and I thought I was. I was able to run faster, lift more and last the longest when up against most of my friends in competition.
I was sure my diet in my teenage years was much better:
- Bagel with bacon and cheese
- Scrambled eggs
- Orange juice
- Protein shake and muffin
- Pasta with meatballs, French-fries with soda
- Ice cream or cookies
- Steak or some other meat with soda
- Fruit juice
So that was my healthy diet growing up. Look familiar? I was feeling great, so I had nothing to worry about. It seemed like I had more energy than ever and was able to do more than anyone else.
Other than my diet, here’s how I was living when I was nineteen years old:
- 5:00 am – Wake-up and take the train to New York City to the gym.
- 6:00 am – Arrive at the gym and work out.
- 7:00 am – Arrive at work.
- 5:00 pm – Leave work and take the train to college.
- 6:30 pm – Arrive at college.
- 9:30 pm – Leave for home.
- 10:30 pm – Arrive at home and eat and watch TV.
- 1:00 pm – Go to sleep.
Everything was fine, I felt great, and I had so much energy. I never did like coffee so I knew it was not stimulation keeping me going. Oh, did I mention that all that soda I was drinking was called “Jolt!”? Just in case you’ve never heard of that, that’s soda with like five times the caffeine of regular soda.
At age 20, my health hit a brick wall. I started moving slower; my 30-inch waste was now 33 inches (but I was able to hide it well with my clothes). My stomachaches became so severe I knew there was a problem. I decided to seek medical advice to find the answer.
WHAT CURED ME CAN CURE YOU
The doctor told me there was no cure for my illness. At 20 years old she told me I was at a high risk for colon cancer and I had to take drugs for the rest of my life.
I took the drugs and did everything the doctor told me, but I wasn’t getting better – I was getting worse. So I figured she wasn’t a good doctor. I went to other doctors and did everything they told me to do. Still I was getting worse. I experienced side effects from the many drugs I was taking and that was worse than the illness I was trying to control. Finally, I realized that the doctors didn’t have the answers I was able to deal with, so I had to look elsewhere.
I read somewhere that diet had a lot to do with my illness, and the disease can be cured. I thought this couldn’t be my cure because I was already eating a great diet. When I saw the list of foods to avoid, I realized that was my diet! As I eliminated those foods from my diet, I felt better and better. I still was not completely cured. I replaced all the foods that I eliminated from my diet with what I thought were healthier choices. This was my new, healthier diet:
- Tofu pancakes with organic syrup
- Orange juice (not fresh squeezed)
- Soy or rice milk
- Organic cookies or soy muffin
- Frozen soy pizza or soy burgers
- Fruit-sweetened soda
- Soy ice cream
- Pasta and wheat bread
- Snack before going to sleep:
- Soymilk with organic cake
A big improvement? Today I know many people who add the word “organic” or “soy” to the same foods they were eating before, and think they are now living healthy.
I thought the same thing, until I started getting colitis flare-ups at different times throughout the year. Every time I went to the doctor, she told me to stay away from dairy foods until I felt better. Then, she increased the dosage of steroids she was giving me. After a few weeks, when I would feel better, she said it was okay to eat dairy foods again. I would then eat foods that contained huge amounts of dairy. Sometimes this would be a whole big pizza. Then the flare-ups came back.
Finally, I recognized the pattern and removed dairy products altogether. I was very pleased with the results. I got sick less often. After that, I began to eliminate whatever the doctors told me was okay to eat: eggs, meat and sugar to name just a few. I told my doctor, “I feel better without these foods.” She told me, “Food has nothing to do with your condition.” After hearing that from her, I knew I was on the right track. I said to myself, “If she’s such a great doctor, why do I keep seeing the same people in the waiting room every time I come for a visit? She doesn’t heal them, that’s why. If she did, they wouldn’t need to come back.”
To reduce the stress in my life, at 23 I moved from New York to West Palm Beach, Florida. I relocated not too far from a place called Hippocrates Health Institute. It’s a natural health spa where people with all types of so called incurable diseases go to learn about holistic healing with an emphasis on diet. Immediately, I did their program, switching my diet to a vegan diet consisting of 100% raw, ripe, fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and I stopped overeating.
I called my doctor in New York City to make sure it was okay. When she told me “No, it is very bad for you to eat that way” I knew I was on the right track.
Most doctors believe eating a raw-food diet is difficult to digest and could cause more problems. But raw foods are necessarily the problem; it’s eating them in their whole form that creates difficulty with digestion. When a person is suffering from IBD, whole foods can cause problems, however, consuming raw foods was the answer. Most people and doctors have not learned about the benefits of eating blended salads and vegetable juices. The key I found was to give the body the nourishment it needs, but at the same time, allowing the body to rest in order to heal. A diet of fresh, raw juices and blended foods, in my opinion, is the answer. Not just for me, this program works for EVERYONE who does it correctly.
I was amazed at how quickly my health returned. I was completely healed in no time. This led me to simplify all areas of my life. With my new understanding of “less is more,” I left my office job and began writing books about my story and the Hippocrates Program. Now I spend my life traveling, giving lectures about health and living simply all over the world.
Since making wiser choices about my diet and lifestyle, I completely overcame IBD and did fine eating raw foods in their whole form with no problems, and I felt better than ever.
Don’t ever get too comfortable…
The rest of my story, coming soon.