It started with illness and roast chicken
My partner in crime, Rick the Webinator, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in early 2005. We ate the Standard American Diet – fast food, delivery pizza, cereal, and boxed dinners. When you are young and are told what you eat doesn’t matter, who gives a crap? It took the progression of ulcerative colitis, from left-side colitis to pan-colitis to change both of our perspectives. If you aren’t familiar with UC, I’ll keep it brief(you can google for more details if you’re curious). It’s a gnarly disease. It’s auto-immune in nature, meaning that the body of the person with the disease is attacking its own tissues. With ulcerative colitis the body is attacking the colon, or large intestine, to the point of causing ulcers. In many, if not most cases it’s very painful and life-altering. At it’s worst, Rick could barely leave the house and he was unable to work as he would need constant access to a bathroom, needed to sleep up to 12 hours a day, and was plagued by painful cramps and bloody stools.
First he tried different medications. After several changes he found one that helped take the edge off just a little. What we found strange was that we were repeatedly told that dietary changes didn’t matter. There hadn’t been any studies that his doctors were aware of that showed any consistent food triggers for people with his condition. This didn’t make a lot of sense. If one had a digestive disease such as ulcerative colitis one would think that foods could in fact impact symptoms. Truthfully, we felt lost and more than a little let down. Each time he tried to pursue better options the answer was the same – they could remove his colon. Ulcerative colitis is a progressive disease, they said. What that inferred, was if the symptoms were this bad now, they would most likely only get worse. This was heart breaking to say the least.
During the time when Rick was feeling fed up and a little desperate, I decided to learn how to cook. I had grown up on mostly homemade meals and missed them terribly. I talked to my mom and spent a lot of time comparing recipes online and finally learned how to cook a decent roast chicken. In this process I fell in love with cooking – it gave me a creative outlet as well as tastier options than store brand Ramen. So the quest for good homemade food began.
SCD, Gluten Free, and AIP
Starting in 2008, Rick started to test out different dietary changes. We gave the SCD diet a go for a few weeks, but it was hard to stick with it as he didn’t seem to make much of an improvement.
In early 2009, after one of the scariest winters where he lost his job, medical insurance, and we had to leave our apartment, he found a nurse practitioner and a gastroenterologist who worked well together and made a couple more actually meaningful medicine changes. About a month after, on Valentines Day 2009, after eating a bowl of shredded wheat made him feel horrible, he decided to try the gluten-free thing. In less than a week many of his symptoms improved. The few times he accidentally ate gluten after that he would feel terrible and would have a flair for a couple of days. He did great for awhile but reached an eventual plateau.
Then finally, in November 2013, after the suggestion of one of my collegues, we took the plunge and did paleo auto-immune protocol (AIP), and it worked. It was amazing! Finally getting rid of dairy, nuts and a few other things allowed his gut to heal more than either of us ever though possible. Rick was able to work his way toward becoming a functional human being again.
The other quiet health battle
During the years of our dietary experiments, I started out “fine.” Well, I thought I was fine, though in fact I was not. My symptoms were more subtle – nothing like the uber painful, life-disrupting symptoms of Rick’s ulcerative colitis. I assumed the symptoms were due to how much stress I’d been under for the previous few years. But as he got better, I got worse. At my worst I was needing to sleep up to 12 hours a day to function at home and work. I was bloated to the point of looking pregnant and was always very tired after a meal. Hello post meal naps! I struggled with cystic acne, multiple chemical sensitives, eczema, general aches and pains most of the time, and tiredness, oh so much tiredness. In some ways I did feel better with the dietary changes I made – no more greasy sick feeling after crappy food. But I felt so much older than 25 – I felt decades older.
Paleo GAPS to the Rescue!
Prior to my diagnosis and the symptoms listed above, I also gained weight, was always hungry – no matter how much I had actually eaten – had chronic headaches, blood sugar issues – highs and lows that made me either tired or “hangry” , and had constant gas, oh so much painful gas. It gave the gas a name – triangle gas – it bounced through my belly with all of it’s points, sometimes taking my breath away.
What lead to the first part of my diagnosis was a low-carb challenge, which I took on in January 2014, to help my blood sugar regulate and to loose body fat. My blood sugar instability did improve but I didn’t loose any body fat. However, my symptoms from trying to eat sweet potatoes after I finished my challenge pointed my doctor to SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial over-growth. She treated me with herbal antibiotics for a month and instructed me to choose either the GAPS diet or SCD diet to follow for two years to allow my microbiota to repopulate properly. Currently I follow a GAPS/Paleo type diet. I’m not perfect, there are still things to work on but it was a huge success in healing my own body.
Long story short, Nosh Nerd, has grown out from experience, trial and error, and my complete refusal to be stuck with boring recipes. Life is too short to feel sorry for oneself and the foods that can’t be included in one’s diet. Instead, on this site, everything is focused on tasty food that we can eat.
Currently I am finally taking steps to further my education and hopefully end up with a fancy-shmancy piece of paper allowing me to speak authoritatively about nutrition. (Read giant nerd going back to school.) I’m sure along the way I’ll share some of the technical and super awesome things that I learn. Knowledge is power!