"You could try but I doubt it'd make much difference"
These words, spoken by my gastroenterologist sixteen years ago, just keep swimming around and around in my head.
I had asked him if I should consider changing my diet to help with my Crohn's Disease. I had already had life saving emergency surgery to remove a section of my diseased intestine that had ruptured as a result of undiagnosed Crohn's. I had a stoma with an ileostomy bag over it, and my weight had plummeted from long term malnutrition and the severe peritonitis. I was due to have my stoma reversed and have my intestines stapled back together once they had healed significantly.
Now, the world was a different place back then; the supermarkets didn't have whole aisles dedicated to gluten free food, no one had considered quitting sugar, and we didn't think anyone else was more of an expert on gut issues than a well respected doctor who had dedicated most of his adult life researching and studying it. With medicine. The idea that food could make ALL the difference hadn't reached popular culture, let alone western medicine. I still find it incredible that with all that study on the digestive system, food and nutrition are not the main subjects taught in gastroenterology. How could they possibly be ignored?
To be fair, I was delighted at his response. I was 25. The last thing I would have considered doing was changing my diet. All I had to do was pop a pill or two every single day for the rest of my life and eat whatever I liked. Too easy.
I can't help but wonder what would have happened if he had been the first to inform me that i could heal myself through my food. Or even before that, when i first started having gut pains, if the recommendation from the first doctor had been to cut out gluten at the very least. Would I be sitting here writing this story? All I kept hearing from doctors was that Crohn's Disease is incurable, and that I'd have to be on immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of my life. The fear, which was very well communicated, was that if I didn't take the drugs I'd be risking another flare up. So I did just that for a very long time.
The psychological side effect from taking a pill every single day is that you are reminded that you are sick. Incurably sick. You are weak. It takes away your responsibility for your own health. If you feel good, it must be the drugs working, and if you feel bad, it must be your disease. I was completely unaware that I was the one causing my state of mind and level of health by every single thing I put in my mouth. And, evidently, the doctors were unaware also. As a side note, if you are having regular gut pains and your doctor cannot find the problem, make a diet change yourself and try to cut out (down on) gluten, lactose , and refined sugar. Don't wait for your doctor to give you this advice.
It really wasn't until I moved to Queensland four years later and met my naturopath neighbour, that I started learning about my disease and how I could heal myself. When I hear about others who are just at the beginning of their health crisis, I find myself trying to hold back and not blurt out things like, "You can heal yourself, you know", or "Don't trust your doctor, trust yourself". These comments won't mean anything to a person who is scared shitless, feeling the worst they've ever felt, running from specialist to specialist and being prodded and poked. They will assume that the docs know best because "They've studied all this haven't they?"