Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Farewell, chocolate ... it's been nice knowing you!

Today, I savoured the last chocolate bar that I will eat for the next six months (or possibly even longer).  It was a Reese Peanut Butter Cups.  And it was divine!

Last May, I was unofficially diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.  I say "unofficially" because the colonoscopy did not show any signs of inflamation in the intestines, although under the microscope there was evidence of past inflammation.  Hence, the unofficial diagnosis, because the condition and symptoms were not present.  But my doctors told me that it's very likely that is the condition I have.  I was told that this is a chronic, lifelong disease without a cure.  My future and my health looked bleak: frequent flare-ups, steroids and medications (which would wreck my immune system and body in unbelieveable ways), depressed immune system, higher risk of developing cancers and a whole crap-load (pun intended) of other health problems.  I was handed a few pamphlets and it was kind of insinuated that I would be coming back for medicine.

I was really shaken by it.  It hit me: I have a disease.  I was upset and weepy for a few days.  But I was determined that I would not take the medical route for treatment.  It seemed to me, having had a healthy interest in food and nutrition and some holistic practises, that if this is a digestive disorder, whatever I eat must have an effect on my body.  A + B =C, no?  So I began to do some research, and pretty quickly landed upon a few websites and blogs advocating successful treatment (dare I say "cure") of the disease with ... FOOD!

I discovered that certain foods, such as dairy, grains (those containing gluten), and spicy foods can trigger flare-ups.  I decided last July to attempt a gluten-free diet to see if it had any effect on my system.  It didn't.  I then switched to soy and/or rice milk and removed *most* dairy products from my diet (I love cheese and ice cream, so I occasionally ate those).  I noticed a bit of a difference.  I definitely noticed that cutting out spicy foods helped (sigh .... I love spicy food).

For months, I had no symptoms whatsoever!  I felt cured!  Months later, triggered by stress and falling off the health wagon resulted in another flare-up.  I decided to seek out a holistic nutritionist to help me.  The one I contacted was quite booked up and wasn't able to see me for about two weeks.  Within that time, I discovered in my research that certain foods, such as coconut, avocados, aloe plant, and tumeric contain properties that are calming and healing for the digestive tract.  Within a week of eating lots of these foods, cutting out dairy and spicy foods, I had NO symptoms.  I cancelled my appointment, happy to be able to control my symptoms on my own!

However, after a few months, other things began to happen that were bothering me: I had gained some weight (about 17 lbs compared to a year and a half ago) and had developed acne.  I attributed the weight gain to having gotten a job at a call centre, which requires me to sit at a friggin computer desk for 10 hours a day, ~40 hours a week.  I attributed the acne to going off the Pill a few months prior.  But I began to wonder if my Ulcerative colitis may also be contributing to these things - even without experiencing any flare-ups, was it an underlying cause?

Eventually, fed up with my poor skin, heavier weight, and general fatigue, I sought help from the nutritionist again.  It took a long time to finally meet up, but today we had our first meeting and I received my 6-month plan!  My new diet is, essentially, gluten-free, dairy-free, pescetarian.  For the past 3 years, I have pretty much been vegetarian, only eating meat if I go out or go back to my parents house (althought I still eat eggs and fish).  Last week, I decided to declare myself vegetarian (specifically, pescetarian).  This week (and for the next 6 months) I am a GF, DF pescetarian!

I decided that I will attempt to document some of my experiences during this diet-revolution.  I expect it will be difficult, but I am looking forward to noticing the changes and feeling healthier!  Tonight is my last night as an average, Canadian eater (save the vegetarianism).  My goals over the next six months are:

- to heal my body naturally (i.e. no medications, although I am taking supplements as per the advice of my nutritionist ... I have a rather negative view of supplements in general, believing that food should be the only source of nourishment.  However, my body needs to be healed and these supplements supposedly help with that.)
- to lose 10-15 lbs (if I can even get back to my weight from January last year, I'd be very happy!)
- to have clear skin
- to have much more energy
- to become a better cook

I imagine I might completely forget about this blog.  Or I might get really into it and share experiences, ups and downs, recipes, and advice.  So wish me luck!

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