How I Healed My UC
When I was sick and before I changed my lifestyle and diet, I would typically consume a high carb diet of mainly grains, rice, pasta, fruits, veggies, yogurt, chicken, granola bars, and pretty much whatever I wanted. Changing my eating habits was certainly difficult. But over time, practice becomes a habit. And this particular eating habit will help you achieve permanent remission.
(1) Slowly reduce carbohydrate intake and begin incorporating healthy fats. I recommend dropping your carbs by 50 grams per week so your body can have time to adjust. The purpose of carbohydrate reduction is to slowly wean your body off excess fiber and sugar. It will not only have you feeling less gassy and bloated, it will put less overall stain on your intestines. While lowering the carbs, you will need to add about 25 grams of fat per week. This change of eating will get your body to adapt to fat as its primary fuel source instead of carbs. MyFitnessPal is a great mobile app that can help you track carbohydrates, fat, and protein for the time being.
(2) If you’re experiencing a flare-up, make sure to avoid restaurants temporarily. The extra ingredients hidden in restaurants poses hidden threats to your digestive tract. If you read the timeline of American history with food, you will quickly understand that most restaurants use vegetable oils to cook with. They do this to be cost effective and to cook at high temperatures. In general, you will never be able to know all the ingredients you’re eating at a restaurant. The way I see it, ingredients are variables that can cause a flare-up. It doesn’t mean it will happen. But when you’re actually experiencing a flare-up, this mindset can work wonders for your health.
(3) Have a daily exercise routine. Living with UC or Crohn’s can be beyond stressful. Exercise doesn’t have to be much. Lifting weights for just 10 minutes per day can work wonders for your wellbeing. I try to sweat once per day just as a standard to hold myself accountable to. At the moment, I’ve been big into kettlebells because they merge the benefits of lifting with cardio. And the workouts are rarely longer than 10 minutes. But if you’re not into lifting weight or kettlebells, it’s not a big deal. Going for walks is great for stress reduction, blood sugar levels, sunlight, and exercise. So get your steps in!
(4) Avoid taking random supplements. I learned this the hard way. A year, after my diagnosis, I purchased about $2000 (at least) worth of supplements thinking I could cure my UC. I thought maybe my body was missing a specific nutrient and that’s why I was sick. In general, the body is functions as a system. When it receives a lot of one specific nutrient or mineral, other nutrient and minerals may decrease as a result. The body is a balancing act. When it comes to supplements, I recommend whole food supplements. For example, the only supplements I take are dessicated liver supplement and colostrum. Liver is the most nutrient dense food on the planet, yet it tastes terrible. That’s why I supplement with it. It’s rich in Vitamin A, B, C, D, and K. Additonally, it is great for those who suffer from IBD because it contains highly absorbable iron. Iron is great for managing the anemic side effects of blood loss. Colostrum is especially good for immune health and healing the gut. All-in-all, these supplements are whole foods that are freeze dried to retain the majority of their nutrients and minerals. When it comes to remission, supplements are not necessary by any means. But supplementing wisely can speed up the process, so be careful what you buy.
(5) Get some sun. Vitamin D is essential for your health. Those with symptoms of Crohn’s and colitis are typically Vitamin D deficient so put the odds in your favor and get outside. And do not listen to people who tell you to wear synthetic sunscreen everyday. It can block the absorption of Vitamin D from the UV rays. Did our ancestors ever find a reason to do that? Did Cleopatra (known for her beauty) wear sunscreen everyday? No and no. Rubbing chemicals on your face is a no-go. During the winter, I recommend getting outside for at least 10 minutes per day. It does not have to be sunny and summertime to absorb Vitamin D. Any little bit counts and sunlight is essential to staying vital and healthy.
(6) Surround yourself with people who want the best for you. And hopefully, you have the same respect toward them. These kind of relationships are far more healthy than those with themes of peer pressure and constant stimulation. Hang around people who will genuinely be happy when something good happens to you. And you should do the same for them. This was an incredibly difficult thing to realize and adjust to at 23, but I’m making it happen. And I’m glad. The world is always changing and so should we.
(7) Avoid constant stimulation. When it comes to IBD, stress management is essential to ideal living. Too much stimulation from screens can overwhelm your mind and leave you scatter brained. Whether it’s your cell phone, laptop, or television, your brain needs a break from all of the stimulation. These electronic devices trigger a dopamine response which tells our mind that it has accomplished something. Our brain only has a finite amount of dopamine receptors for the day so it is essential not to overburden our minds. Once you rid your mind of the distractions, you will begin to develop a stronger sense of intuition within your own body.
(8) Stop drinking alcohol. If you can do this, it will be the anchor to your remission. I stopped drinking alcohol completely at 22. It was the summer of 2019. My brother and I were both living together for the summer working internships. We had some drinks one night with my brothers’ cohorts and I ended up eating a bag of gummy worms and Oreo cookies. It’s not a big deal, but the alcohol eliminates my discipline.
(9) Implement some form of intermittent fasting. Fasting is great for its healing effects. For those who suffer from IBD, it’s especially beneficial because it allows the gut to heal. Fasting also boosts ketones, which are great for your brain and for mitigating inflammation.
(10) Eat mainly animal foods. You will see the logic behind eating animal foods when you scroll down and see more specific about my diet. But to keep it short and sweet, I like to follow the 80/20 rule. It’s when you eat 80% of your calories from animal products (eggs, raw cheese, butter, ground beef, steak, bacon, or chicken). The remaining 20% of the calories come from “safe carbs” like raw honey and organic berries. I consider safe carbohydrates to be whole food sources that are naturally low in antinutrients and fiber.
(11) Get comfortable in the kitchen. This way, you will know anything and everything you put into your body. Stressor foods will become easier to identify. Obviously you’re human. You’re going to eat out. When you do, I would recommend you pick a protein and stick with it. Also, I would mention to your waiter/waitress that you are deathly allergic to vegetable oils and that your prefer they cook your food with butter.
Having been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I have been very meticulous with the food I consume and how it effects my digestion. I’ve attempted numerous diets and I will share what has worked best for me and others in the auto-immune community. There are basic principles that help one achieve remission for life. First and for most, it is essential to:
(1) Eliminate vegetable oils, processed foods, and refined sugars
(2) Reduce carbohydrate consumption significantly
(3) Start fueling your body with healthy fat and moderate protein
As a rule of thumb, all processed foods should be eliminated from your diet. The following is a sound structure to a balanced diet :
- Low fiber (<10 grams daily)
- High fat, moderate protein (1:1 ratio, for example: “200g fat/100g protein per day”)
- Low carbohydrate intake(<50g daily)
To make this process easier at first, I recommend downloading a free app like MyFitnessPal to track these daily macronutrients [fat, protein, carbs]. After a few weeks, it will become second nature and you can ditch the app.
The human body has two available energy sources. It can be either fueled from carbohydrates (glucose) or fat (ketones). Carbohydrate rich diets tend to be either high in fiber or sugar. Both can cause issues for those prone to IBD.
From my experience, a cyclical ketogenic diet works best for my energy levels, mood, and maintaining remission. By cyclical, I mean that I implement carbs here and there. Typically, no more than 50 grams.
When consuming carbohydrates, I generally assess two criteria:
(1) antinutrient content
(2) fiber content
For those who suffer from IBD, the combination of fiber and antinutrients in plant foods can wreak havoc on one’s stomach. Vegetables tend to have the most antinutrients and fiber so I avoid them completely. Cooking the vegetables does substantially reduce the antinutrient load and fiber content.
My favorite low-risk carbs to implement are:
- raw honey
Fruit and unpasteurized honey tend to be a lot lower in antinutrients than vegetables. I highly recommend cutting out veggies completely if you suffer from excess gas and bloating.
Similar to animals, plants do not want to be eaten. Animals have claws and teeth to fend off predators. On the contrary, plants have chemicals to defend themselves. These chemicals are known as antinutrients. Antinutrients help plants steer away insects, rodents, and other animals.
Some common antinutrients are gluten, lectins, oxalates, salicylates, among others. Every single plant food has antinutrients in one form or another. In the auto-immune community, these antinutrients can cause anything from skin issues to bloating & gas. I’m not writing off vegetables completely. But if you do suffer from chrohn’s or ulcerative colitis, it is important to test what works best with your body.
For example, I eat coconut products and dark chocolate. Coconuts contain salicylates, which are an antinutrient. But it doesn’t cause any extreme reaction from my body personally. So that’s why I include it in my diet on occasion. The same goes with dark chocolate. It does contain oxalates, but I make sure to be moderate and enjoy chocolate on occasion.
Like I mentioned, these antinutrients accumulate in the human body. So find what foods can work. And implement them cyclically throughout your diet. Moderation is an essential habit to staying in remission for life. Overeating plant foods will without a doubt put stress on your stomach. On the contrary, overeating animal foods will leave you satiated (without the bloat).
Our ancestors have thrived on animal foods for millions of years. It’s only been in the past 100 years that vegetable seed oils, refined sugar, and the overconsumption of carbohydrates/fiber has infiltrated western society. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, they always prioritized animals foods over plant foods. Humans have thrived off of eating meat for millions of years and our brains have grown exponentially because of that.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe plants have a purpose. Many have benefits, but they come wih drawbacks. Many pharmaceuticals are derived from plant compounds. That’s why there symptom relief tends to occur along with side effects.
If you don’t believe me, try eliminating all plant foods for a week and see what you think. It can’t hurt to try. The modern food system (which is predominantly high carb) has led you to your current situation so why not try something different.
For my current diet, my primary fat intake comes from:
- grass-fed butter
- beef tallow
- pasture raised egg yolks
My diet is simple and these fats are what work best for me. If you noticed, all are animal based. This is because none pose any risk toward my ulcerative colitis. Other people see success with fruit-based oils like avocado and olive oil. I have nothing against them, but there is a lot of fraudulent products on the market so I steer clear of them altogether. A lot of these products you see at grocery stores are cut with cheap industrial seed oils like soybean and safflower oil. Ever since industrial seeds were introduced into the United States, obesity and auto-immune diseases have skyrocketed.
When it comes to fats, it is incredibly important to pick them wisely. Contrary to popular modern beliefs, the healthiest fat are saturated. Saturated fats are generally found in animal foods and are condemned by modern society. We blame saturated fat for the sins of sugar. Sugar-funded studies in the 1960s can back that statement up.
The second healthiest fats are monounsaturated. They are found in cooking oils like avocado, macadamia, and extra virgin olive oil. But as I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of unethical behavior going on in the food industry. So I rarely eat these kinds of oils.
The final fats to consider are polyunsaturated fats. There are two kinds of polyunsaturated fats. There are omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3s are found in fish and have anti-inflammatory effects. On the contrary, omega 6s are incredibly inflammatory and are found in industrial seed oils. It is essential to avoid the following oils at all costs:
- soybean oil
- safflower oil
- sunflower oil
- rapeseed oil
- canola oil
- corn oil
- sesame oil
- rice bran oil
- peanut oil
- cottonseed oil
Anyway, I’m sure you get the point. If it’s not animal based or fruit-based, it should be avoided entirely. Our ancient ancestors never had access to these oils in abundance and now that we do, it has led to a widespread epidemic of obesity and disease. Most restaurants cook with these oils to be cost effective so if you’re choosing to eat out, I personally would ask that they remove these oils due to an allergy.
As you will continue to notice with my successful dieting approach, most of the foods I eat are animal-based. The same concept applies with protein.
I typically consume the following regularly:
- raw cheese
- wild-caught fish
Animal protein has significantly higher absorbability than plant protein. From my experience, I always encountered gas and bloating after eating high-protein, plant foods. All the foods I mentioned above work great for me and others in keto community, especially when it comes to minimizing gas and bloating.
Not to sound like a broken record, but I would avoid plant based protein. Generally speaking, this would include:
Nuts have always been promoted as a health food. But unfortunately (unless they are sprouted), they contain antinutrients, insoluble fiber, and a heavy dose of polyunsaturated fat. If you suffer from IBD, the cons outweigh the pros.
As mentioned earlier, plants have defense chemicals to protect their seed. They want to continue to grow their species and thrive on earth. Similar to nuts, seeds have copious amounts of antinutrients, fiber, and polyunsaturated fat. All of those factors negatively impact an individual who suffers from IBD.
For legumes and grains, the fiber content will most likely contribute to gas and bloating. I would also experience a lot of brain fog when consuming these foods.
All-in-all, these foods are delicious and hard to avoid. But if you are truly committed to healing, it should not be a big deal to cut out these food groups. You will no doubt feel better in the long-run.
- Slowly make the adjustments. It is going to be difficult at first. Lowering carbohydrate and sugar intake will likely result in cravings for about a week or so. Slowly reduce fiber intake to around 10 grams daily. Don’t go cold turkey with carbs altogether. It can make the process more unbearable than it needs to be. So buckle down and be strong.
- It will get worse before it gets better. In the first few weeks, you may feel worse before you feel better. Many report feeling lethargic and experiencing brain fog. This is thought to be due to an electrolyte imbalance. When you’re body begins using fat as it’s primary fuel source, your body will retain less water. It is important to maintain adequate hydration by consuming enough minerals. Salting your food can remedy headaches and bone broth is a popular fix toward this “keto flu.”
- Stay motivated and remember why you started this journey. This diet will likely lead to your remission. The beauty of this diet is that it works synergistically with time. It takes weeks (maybe even months) for the body. It is important to remain patient and to know that time is working for you rather than against you.