Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Test Results are in!

Good news... bad news... but mostly good news!

I've known that I have some inflammation due to some symptoms I've had with my bowel movements. So for the past ten days, I've been juicing, and have been anxious to get the test results so that I can assess what to do next.

I went in for tests on Thursday. Specifically, I wanted to know my sedimentation rate and hemoglobin. For some people a c-reactive protein test is an indicator of inflammation. However, for me, the sedimentation rate is more accurate from past tests. 

How the sedimentation (sed) rate works is when blood is placed in a tube, red blood cells settle to the bottom. Inflammation can cause the cells to stick together. Because clumps of cells are heavier than individual cells, they settle to the bottom more quickly. The more red cells that fall to the bottom of the test tube in one hour, the higher the sed rate. A sed rate of 0-20 is normal for a woman.

During flare-ups I've had sed rates of 85 upwards to over 100.  Once in the past I had a sed rate of 65 and was able to manage to get it back to normal without medication, but with some drastic dietary and other actions. 

Hemoglobin is the oxygen carrying protein inside red blood cells. Since oxygen is essential to healing, not having enough hemoglobin makes healing difficult. So a high sed rate and low hemoglobin makes healing very difficult indeed. Hemoblobin for a woman my age should be around 12 to 14 gm/dL. 

So I was hopeful to have a sed rate under 65 and normal hemoglobin. I really would like a sed rate of 0, but I knew that I had some level of enervation or inflammation due to my symptoms, and a sed rate under 65 would be good considering.

Well... I got the results late Friday.

Hemoglobin: normal at 12.4

Sediment Rate: 40.

I'm actually thrilled with these results. What this means to me is that I can simply stay on my "healing diet", get enough vitamin D by getting in the sun about 15 minutes every couple of days, and make sure that my nerve energy is ample for healing. I do this by getting ample rest, meditation and managing stress. By doing these things, I will likely resolve the mild inflammation without any drastic action or medication within a couple weeks:) Yay! 

Therefore, that's what I'll do until I have a full week of no symptoms. Then I can loosen my diet to what I refer to as my "post-healing diet". I've posted some details before about my healing diet, so I thought I'd post information about my post-healing diet, which is the diet I will transition to and should stay on to keep in remission without medication.

I posted four requirements of a healthy diet for Crohn's and colitis on my last blog. I've added a couple other important requirement here. I've learned that if I stick to these six rules, I don't get inflammation. When I deviate, I get symptoms that indicate my colon has been irritated or inflamed and that's what will lead to a flare up.

  1. Avoid foods that introduce harmful or toxic substances into the digestive system. 
  2. Eat and drink only easy to digest and assimilate things.
  3. Only eat foods that can be eaten in its natural state.
  4. Intake only those foods and drinks that contribute a broad range of nutrients.
  5. Eat predominantly alkaline-forming foods. 
  6. Avoid any food that is spicy hot.
1. Avoid Toxic Substances:  Foods that introduce harmful or toxic substances include the following, plus much more. Read the ingredients of everything you buy that is a packaged food and if it doesn't sound like a word that describes food, it is often toxic to some extent :
  • preservatives
  • artificial sweeteners or coloring
  • refined sugar or flour
  • msg
  • genetically modified organisms
  • fried oil (BHA/BHT)
  • caffeine
  • trans fat
  • pesticides
  • Olestra (fat substitute)
  • brominated vegetable oil or anything with bromate
Ultimately whole organic foods avoid any of these toxins so you can be certain you're good to go if you stick to plant based whole foods.

2. Foods Easy to Digest and Assimilate:  The easiest food on the digestive system is juice, because it is already digested and therefore is ready for immediate absorption and assimilation. Cold press juice is the best because it keeps most of the nutrients and food enzymes in tact. 

Fruit is the next easiest. It is considered partially digested in its raw ripe form, with exceptions. The skin of an apple for example, is difficult to digest, but the apple meat itself is in a state comparable to a partially digested vegetable. Melons are the easiest to digest. Speed of digestion, doesn't necessarily mean ease of digestion. For example, whole milk exits the abdomen in about two hours, which is the same as most seeds. However, due to casein and lactose in milk, most people cannot digest dairy products as easily as seeds. 

3.  Raw Food:  If you consider this 3rd criteria of eating foods that can be eaten in their natural form, this eliminates many foods.  Although a healthy person will synthesize hundreds of enzymes required for digestion and assimilation, the body is dependent upon the enzymes within the food for the most perfect digestion. Therefore, it is essential that our food have their enzymes intact and that occurs if it is eaten raw.

Cooking destroys not only the enzymes, but destroys almost all known food factors and makes a food’s nutrients mostly unusable.  Depending upon the extent in which the food has been cooked, it reduced to inorganic minerals, caramelized sugars and starches, coagulated proteins, poisonous fats, and it weakens the vitamins and other values. It not only loses most if not all of its nutritional value but what remains can become toxic debris in the body according to Dr. T. C. Fry, and believed by Dr. David Klein and Dr. Herbert M. Shelton to name a couple.

Most nutritionalists confirm that cooking changes the organic nature of the food and changes its nutritional content and our ability to assimilate the nutrients for the worse. There certainly is controversy to what extent cooking destroys nutritional value, but every source I could find with any credentialed nutritional expertise confirms that cooking kills the foods enzymes which the body relies upon to assist in digestion and reduces the nutritional value to some extent.

Therefore, since Crohn's and colitis creates digestion and absorption problems, it simply makes sense that those with the disease need the food enzymes and full nutrients of food, and hence, raw food is a recommended food state. This is one of the core beliefs of my holistic gastroenterologist, and has become one of my core beliefs based upon my personal experience as well.

4. Nutritional Food:  A very important factor about nutrition is that we must eat and drink in a manner that allows what we eat and drink to be digested and assimilated properly. Meaning, if we eat food that gives us all the nutrients we need, but we eat them in such a way that their value cannot be realized, then this is not healthy. Some foods require acid digestive enzymes and others alkaline, and some neutral. If we eat foods that require acid enzymes with food that requires alkaline enzymes, then the two enzymes cancel each other out and the digestive enzymes are significantly less effective.

Therefore, eating "mono" meals, or combining foods properly allows us to digest and assimilate food properly.

5.  Alkaline Forming Foods:  The human body must maintain its fluids at a slightly alkaline pH in order to survive. Neutral pH is 7.0; acid pH is below 7.0; alkaline pH is above 7.0. The bloodstream pH must be maintained within a pH range of 7.35 to 7.45; blood pH outside that range results in death.

Metabolic waste acids are produced in every cell.  Acidifying factors include acid-forming foods; exercise; and stress, mental and emotional. This requires a sufficient reserve of alkaline minerals in the body for their neutralization. Which is why eating predominantly alkaline forming foods is essential to our health. Under perfect conditions, acid wastes are minimal and easily neutralized and transported to the organs of elimination. However, a chronic acidic condition constantly stresses the body, resulting in physical and mental issues including big problems for Crohn's and colitis sufferers.

Excess alkaline minerals are now problem, however, as our kidneys are adept at eliminating them.

After foods are eaten they are oxidized in the body, resulting in the formation of a residue. If in this residue the minerals are sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, the food are alkaline forming. If the residue includes sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and un-combusted organic acid radicals, they are designated as acid forming  foods. You can see based upon the content of the residue that alkaline forming foods are better for us. Don't confuse the alkaline or acid residue with alkaline or acid enzymes. Enzymes are part of the digestive process and food residue is a result of digestion. That residue remaining in our digestive tract effects the PH balance and a chronic acid PH is problematic for most people and certainly for those of us with Crohn's or colitis.

6. Avoid Spicy Food:  If it is spicy hot to the mouth it will irritate your digestive system. You might like the taste of spicy foods, but your gut does not. Avoid them.

I admit that I don't stick to these six rules 100% of the time. But I do intend to following these requirements most of the time. And the times that I don't, need to be spaced a part so that I don't stress my colon for an extended period of time. These requirements are not only good for the colon, but for the stomach, small intestine and entire digestive tract.

I realize this is a lot of information so future blogs will break down the six requirements for remaining in remission in more detail. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Going in For Some Tests

I've not been very good sticking to my diet lately, and have some symptoms that lead me to believe that if I don't take control of things quickly, it could end in a flare up.

Beginning with a motorcycle trip to Orlando for the  Memorial Day weekend, I've not gotten the proper rest, and definitely have varied from my diet that has kept me in remission. I've eaten too much Mexican, and spicy foods are aggravants. Additionally, I've had alcohol too frequently. I've not given my system time to correct itself between each situation in which I've enervated my colon.

It's not surprising that I am having some symptoms that concern me as it relates to my bowel movements: color, smell, mucous, frequency, etc. The good news is that I don't have any other symptoms, so I'm hoping I've caught this early enough. Symptoms of this sort are usually a precursor to a flare up for me. So I've gone to "my healing diet" over the past week. Basically, this means I've been eating only raw fruits and vegetables that are alkaline forming and easy and quick to digest. 

I've only been eating partially digested foods, that are easy and quick to digest. As it relates to fruits, most are naturally partially digested other than things like the skin of an apple. So I'll peel the apple or juice the apple so the peel doesn't aggravate my GI tract.In regards to vegetables, they are either very lightly steamed, or juiced. 

Raw food is the richest in nutrients and enzymes. The enzymes within the food help digest the food. Food that is cooked over 108 degrees, lose their enzymes and much of their nutrients. So raw, easy to digest, fruits and vegetables, are the most gentle on the GI tract because the enzymes within the fruits and vegetables facilitate most of their own digestion. The nutrients are assimilated quickly and the waste, which is little, passes easily and quickly as well. This gives your GI tract a break.

This diet over the past week hasn't made as much improvement that I had hoped for. Things haven't gotten worse, but they haven't returned to normal. I've only seen mild improvement in my bowel movements.

So I've scheduled an appointment with my GI Doc on Thursday morning so we can take some tests to help identify how radical I need to react. I've not had to see my medical doc for over a year. 

I'm certain that the tests on Thursday will show I have inflammation. The question is to what extent. I have learned that if my sediment rate is 65 or lower, I can manage things by simply sticking to the healing diet for a while, as long as I'm not too anemic.

I've also learned that if it is 85 or higher, that I must take radical action which may or may not work. And it may result in me temporarily taking medication. 

What I have learned from Dr. Azar, my holistic GI, and Dr. Klein, a nutritionalist specializing in C&C, is that I can help speed the healing of both if I give the colon a rest. Meaning, I'm to keep the environment in my digestive system in the best possible state for healing: 

  1. Avoid foods that introduce harmful or toxic substances into the digestive system. 
  2. Eat and drink only east to digest and assimilate things.
  3. Only eat foods that can be eaten in its natural state.
  4. Intake only those foods and drinks that contribute a broad range of nutrients.

The reasons behind these four criterion, I'll review on my next post.

Once healed, then the trick is to keep it from getting inflamed again, and that's when I transition to a "post healing diet" that is not near as restrictive as the "healing diet."

When I first began to manage things this way, I was on Mesalamine and Budesonide. I got in remission on the meds, while on the healing diet. Then I weaned myself off the meds by reducing the quantities weekly over a couple months. Only after having no symptoms for 90 days, did I slowly begin to introduce other foods and transition to a post healing diet. 

Any ways.... This is what I do whenever I feel symptoms of inflammation. Once I get the test results I'll post an update, but until then, I've gone to a juice diet only to hopefully expedite healing the inflammation. 

This is basically what I'm doing.

Apple and carrot juice twice daily (cilantro too)
A green vegetable juice twice daily 
Watermelon juice twice daily

Apple and carrots have pectin in it and pectin protects and cleanses the colon. I drink 8-16 oz first thing in the morning and again in around dinner time.

The Green vegetable juice is to make sure I keep my iron levels up: Bok choy, cilantro, basil, cucumber, zucchini, red bell pepper, celery, and carrots with a little bit of Himalayan salt. Kale, collard greens and spinach, I avoid at this time because they contain oxalic acid which will irritate the GI tract. I drink 16 mid morning and again in the evening.

Watermelon juice is extremely alkaline forming, and helps neutralize the acidic environment. I drink this throughout the day.

This juice diet I use is specifically when I'm trying to avoid a flare up. It seems to give me what I need to control my inflammation, supply a reasonable amount of nutrients, and allows me to have enough energy to go through a typical work day.

I know this is a marathon post, and I hope I haven't bored you all.... I hope this information.

I'll be back in touch after my test results.

Monday, June 10, 2013

It Takes Guts!

I've "liked" a FaceBook page about IBD since about a week after my diagnosis, back in 2011. I was amazed at how many people truly suffer with Crohn's or colitis (C&C) and I consider myself blessed to have found a holistic way to manage my disease. The symptoms and medication that most people with C&C have to deal with the majority of their life is sad, and due to the lack of good available information on how to manage these diseases without mediation, many don't even know where to start.

I have come to the conclusion, however, that many people with C&C don't want to have to change their lifestyle to manage their disease. Many are wanting some medical cure to take care of everything. It's much easier to take medication than to change your lifestyle for some. So even if a holistic approach exists, many will chose not to take it. But for those that wish to take a holistic approach, there simply aren't many sources available to educate yourself on the topic

These days, when I visit this FB Page, I tend to do so to give me the motivation to continue on my current path. When I am tempted to go back to my old way of eating and drinking, I visit this FB Page and read of the issues that others have, so that I can see the repercussions of reverting back to my old ways.

Recently, when visiting the page, one of the Admins posted a request for an additional Admin. They were looking for someone who had a  lot of experience with different medications so that they could help field questions from their members in that regard.  Clearly that would not be me, since I've only had one medicine regimen out of the many available to C&C sufferers.
Regardless of my completely different approach, I inquired if they would be interested in having an admin that is managing their disease holistically. After a couple of emails back and forth inquiring about my knowledge with one of the current admins, Aaron, they agreed to add me as the "holistic" admin for their page.

I'm a little excited about the possibility of helping others who want to attack their C&C naturally. Wish me luck. It really would be awesome to be able to assist others who have a desire to manage their disease naturally.

Feel free to visit the page and like it if you have one of the diseases or have a loved one suffering: Guts