A health update on healing from Crohn’s Disease

This post is an update on how I’ve been feeling since the raw food challenge and eliminating my medication. It’s lengthy, and personal, so I won’t be offended if you don’t read it. Feel free to check out some brownies or cake instead!

It’s been six months since I began the Raw Food Healing Challenge and I can’t believe how much my life has changed since then.

I’ll bet you’re wondering if I’m still eating mostly raw. No, I’m not. I was following a raw diet at the height of summer’s bounty, which made eating effortless and enjoyable. And while the raw food diet was an incredible challenge that allowed me to experiment out of my comfort zone, Jenn and I thought that it might not suit my constitution all year long.

I’m still having my green smoothies for breakfast, and eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables for snacks, but my lunches and dinners are typically cooked. Now that the weather has turned cold, I find myself turning to soups and stews on a regular basis.

What about the medication?

When the 28-day raw food challenge finished, I didn’t quite feel ready to stop taking medication. I felt I needed more time. By the end of the summer, I was confident enough to begin tapering off the meds.

Throughout the fall, I slowly lowered my dose and by November, I finished taking medication altogether. It’s been almost two months since I’ve swallowed my last pill.

So, how do I feel?

That’s a complicated question.

When I decided to try going without immunosuppressive medication, I was excited but also terrified. Would I end up in the hospital again? Would I become malnourished? Would I spend my days running to the bathroom?

Thankfully, most of these things haven’t happened (except for the hospital thing, where I ended up again after a school potluck that involved poor food combining and a lack of chewing on my part. Once again, a painful reminder to chew my food).

Mostly, though, my digestion seems to be chugging along quite nicely. It’s not perfect, but things haven’t changed for the worse.

What I wasn’t expecting was the repercussions of releasing my immune system from its longtime slumber. I was so focused on my gut it didn’t occur to me that there might be any other consequences.

Friends, I have had a cold since September that I can’t seem to shake. It sucks. Until November, my sinuses were so fogged I could barely think. My nose is always running. I cough all the time.

I have tried every natural healing method for the common cold. Problem is, there isn’t actually an infection there – I could lick your face and you wouldn’t get sick. My body is reacting to nothing. I’m like a child again, learning to distinguish between the innocuous  and harmful germs in daily life. Seventy percent of our immune system is in our digestive tract. And my gut, while on its way to healing, is still damaged.

The upside of all of this is my digestive system is rallying, it’s rising to meet the task. And what this has taught me is I need more patience, which has never been my strong suit.

And then the plot thickens…

As I began to taper my medication, I noticed I was developing a dysfunctional relationship with food.

I felt guilty about eating, even if it was something healthy.

I felt an immense pressure to eat perfectly.

I felt like no food was good enough – surely, I thought, there must be a healthier choice I should be making.

I worried that my ability to help people as a holistic nutritionist was dependent solely upon my ability to heal myself from Crohn’s disease. If I couldn’t do that, I was a fraud.

So I visited my medical doctor, who also happens to be a medical intuitive and is very knowledgeable about alternative therapies. She referred me to an energy healer. Now, if you had told me a year ago that I would be seeing an energy healer I would have snickered at you. But the experience was transformative.

As I worked with Georgie, we began to unravel that my obsession with food wasn’t really about food. It was about not feeling good enough. It was about my Type A personality and my relentless crusade to excel at everything. It was about my drive to succeed, which led me to two university degrees and a unfulfilling career.

Over the past year, I have tried to assimilate what I’ve learned at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition through my usual lens of logic, intellect, practicality and reason. And while much of my nutrition education has been evidence-based and scientific, an enormous part of this field is about being intuitive, emotional, sensitive and open. These are all qualities I have not developed, which is why I have been struggling.

What happens next?

Like many afflictions, an important first step is even acknowledging that you have a problem.

Now that I’ve done that, I feel an immense sense of peace. I feel far less stressed about my life and where it is headed, since I have more trust that I will end up where I need to be.

It seems ridiculously simple, but much of my emotional healing has come from actually calling attention to the negative, fearful, self-conscious thoughts that have consumed me. I ask myself, what am I trying to prove? Who am I trying to prove it to? The answer is never about pleasing others. It’s about not believing in myself.

I am now finished my studies at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. A requirement to graduate is a professional co-op placement. I am incredibly excited to be returning to my hometown of Toronto for three months, where I’ll intern with the team at Meghan Telpner Inc. Meghan is a holistic nutritionist who runs a successful cooking school, blog, online store and retreats. She’s also a popular television personality.

I haven’t spent longer than two weeks in Toronto for almost 10 years, and visits are always a whirlwind. Perhaps the most exciting part about returning home, aside from the internship, is the opportunity to reconnect with family and share all that I’ve learned in the last year with them. I can’t wait to cook for everyone! (If you’re in the neighbourhood – want to come over for dinner?)

Then, when I return to Vancouver in the spring, I’ll ramp up my freelance writing career and work on developing my nutrition business.

For the first time in many months, I am excited about what the future will bring. That doesn’t mean that the future is not scary for me, with plenty of unknowns. But I am more willing to live in the moment, be grateful for what I have and appreciate the opportunity to pursue my passions.

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? How do you handle it?

2 Responses to A health update on healing from Crohn’s Disease

  1. sue December 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    great that you are able to get off the meds! i live in a cold climate and as soon as the heat goes on, i feel scratchy throat & stuffed nose…but’s not a cold….it’s becuz it is so dry from the heat…so maybe same for you? I am going to experiment with adding more water to the room, but definitely check the filters in the furnace…they could be spewing unncecessary dust.

    • Sondi Bruner December 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestion! Maybe a humidifier would help me.

  2. Veronica December 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    I might not have read this without the warning, but knowing it was long and personal made me want to read it more–it was like reverse psychology for me or something. LOL! This was so interesting–I hope that with time, you will completely heal yourself and I applaud your hard word throughout, despite the difficulties with your relationship with food, the cold, etc. On a totally random and unrelated note, I was wondering if you have to have a passport to go to Canada?

    • Sondi Bruner December 26, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

      Thank you! I think I’m on the way to healing, I just need to be more patient. And I’m pretty sure you do need a passport or a Nexus card to get into Canada.

  3. amber December 26, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Hi Sondi, sounds like you’ve been on a bit of a whirlwhind lately, but it also sounds like you are finding you’re way. Although you’re food journey is intense, you are definitely the right person to tackle the challenges! amber :)

  4. rachelle December 30, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Amazing Post Sondi! I have so much faith in your future and it never hurts to remind ourselves that we simply have to show up, get out of our own way, and enjoy life as it was ment to be enjoyed!
    Best of luck in Toronto. Time will fly and we will be talking about your experience before we know it.
    Ps. As someone who is at home right now (spending more time that I have in the last 6 years) I can assure you it can be a great experience as long as we are willing to be a bit less hard on ourselves. It has been a great lesson being home and I have as much to learn from my friends and family here as they do from me.

    • Sondi Bruner December 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words, Rachelle. Can’t wait to see you when I get back to Van!

  5. Julie December 30, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Great insight Sondi! A first-hand look at how all these different parts of your body and mind are related. Way to go and good luck in Toronto.

    • Sondi Bruner December 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      Thanks, Julie! You have been supportive of this blog from day one and I really appreciate it.

  6. Patricia Coker January 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Have you ever tried the Celiac diet. You said you loved baking. I do. It have Crohns disease, bt certainly have been sidelined because of my diet problem
    Patricia Coker

    • Sondi Bruner January 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

      Hi Patricia – my diet basically is a celiac diet, since I don’t eat gluten. I’m certainly not as hyper-sensitive to gluten as someone with celiac, since I can have things like barley or rye on occasion, but for the most part gluten doesn’t agree with me.

  7. reciperenovator January 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Hi Sondi,
    Thank you for sharing. I can relate, as I have been a Type A personality my whole life. One phrase that helped me was saying things are “charmingly imperfect.” :) I made myself sick by creating endless to-do lists… so glad to hear that you are on track, and exciting about your internship too! Meditation and yoga have really helped me relax and accept myself.

    • Sondi Bruner January 3, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

      Thanks, Stephanie. I need to do more yoga!

  8. danielavelezlaris January 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Great entry. You are absolutely right. The biggest problem now is that we have turned eating and the food experience into a mechanical, scientific affair. Reconnecting with food and with out selves is what I advocate for, because at the end of the day it’s all about the power to self heal. You are doing awesome and that is inspiring.

    Check out my blog, though quite raw it’s on its way- http://www.danielavelez.com

  9. Natalie January 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Just wondering… how often do you include probiotics in your diet? Things like kefir, yogurt (plain!), cottage cheese, sour cream, water kefir, kombucha, saurkraut, etc. My husband has Crohn’s and, while I’m not sure it will ever ‘go away’, eating probiotics at every meal (especially those which contain hard-to-digest foods with lots of fiber) has helped more than we ever expected. We drink a glass of water kefir (I make it at home) with dinner every night and, because the bacteria helps to digest the food, it has improved his post-meal symptoms incredibly. Just wanted to throw that out there, in case it might help you as well. :)

    • Sondi Bruner January 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      Hi Natalie, thanks for the suggestions! I do take probiotics every day, I have a powdered one that I mix in water in the morning and before bedtime. Dairy doesn’t agree with me, so kefir or yogurt aren’t an option, but sauerkraut and kombucha are great ideas. I do like sauerkraut a lot, and should eat it more, or try to make it on my own. I also take digestive enzymes, which helps immensely, too.

  10. Terri February 22, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Bravo! What an amazing journey you’ve been on. My husband has Crohn’s and had a bowel rupture when our first daughter was 4 months old. I became a nazi with our nutrition and journeyed down a road involving many alternative therapies and practitioners. I’m easing up now after letting go of the fear of losing him. But 3 kids later, nutrition and health is #1 in our house. Our resources in Calgary are not as good as some areas, but we’ve found some amazing help. Slowly people are realizing the importance of nutrition and eastern medicine.

    • Sondi Bruner February 23, 2012 at 7:04 am #

      Glad to hear that you have been able to get the help you need. I hope your husband is doing okay! Bowel ruptures are scary enough to deal with on their own, much less when you also have a newborn.

  11. Relish SCD March 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    I also have Crohn’s Disease. I am on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. have you ever heard of it? It’s been about a year now and I am feeling immensely better. I blog about it and SCD friendly recipes. Check it out if it may be something you are interested in.

    • Sondi Bruner March 16, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      I have heard of the specific carbohydrate diet, but it’s not one I’ve tried yet. Kudos for trying to heal your Crohn’s naturally and I’m glad the SCD is working for you!

  12. Nikki March 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Such a great blog. Its great information to hear about things you are tryingto improve your Crohns and I will definitely be trying some of this! I was also diagnosed with Crohns at 18 and have been on meds ever since. Im currently on Remicade which keeps me in almost complete remission but I fear what the future holds by staying on this drug. You are right when you say that we are told to stay away from raw foods….it has always been a fear of mine. But I sure do love them! I look forward to trying your ideas and recipes. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Sondi Bruner March 28, 2012 at 6:07 am #

      Thanks for reading Nikki! I hope you find some good recipes on here to try.

  13. Carrie August 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    You might try eating Paleo. My family and a few friends of mine have gone to a Paleo Diet and one of those friends has Crohns and has basically healed herself with eating this way. She’s never felt better in over 12 years after being diagnosed with Crohns. You can still have some baked goods as well, just use almond flour (super fine ground).

    • Sondi Bruner August 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

      Interesting. I’ve heard the same thing, too. The thing I would find difficult is giving up beans and grains, especially since I don’t eat meat. I don’t eat a ton of beans or grains, though, so it may be worth a try.

  14. Jaime March 27, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    Sondi this post is so inspiring. Over the past eight years I have transitioned from pescatarian – vegetarian – vegan – raw and alkalizing eating. I’ve learned so much about myself during the journey, but as you so poignantly described I wanted so badly to perfect my eating that I ended up feeling guilty eating something healthy if it didn’t fit in my strict parameters. I’m excited to read more about your spiritual journey. I’m just on the brink of posting my journey on my own blog , feel free to follow me there. Thank you for this post, it’s as insightful as hell :)

    • Sondi Bruner March 28, 2013 at 9:50 am #

      Thanks for your supportive words, Jaime. I really appreciate it.