Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Crohn’s Story

Let me tell you a bit about myself.

I am a Canadian artist who created a style of painting never before seen in the world. It is called Line Painting, and if art is your thing, give it a Google. In the ‘art scene’, it is what I am known for. I also paint public murals in my hometown of St Andrews, and along with my wife, have a successful studio and gallery. We now have a 4-month-old daughter.

For balance, I love sports, and am super-active at many levels within my community. My favorite personal pastime these days is mountain biking. I am now riding at the expert-class level, and train about 15 hrs a week to maintain that level of fitness.

If I sound like I’m bragging a bit, I am. I’m proud of my accomplishments, and love my family, and the lifestyle we have created for ourselves.

That is why when I found out I had Crohn’s, I thought my life was over.

I am 39 years old and was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2004. I became very sick very suddenly, although, looking back, for years prior to my diagnosis, I was “not quite right”. My first Crohn's symptoms began with a tooth problem. An abscess tooth led to large doses of antibiotics. I had no idea how harmful this was to my intestinal flora. It wasn't long before I had a food poisoning, and my imbalance was complete; I was in the vicious cycle. It came and went mildly, at first, but after half a year of on again, off again symptoms, I went for a colonoscopy. I was told I had Crohn's. I am an active, athletic guy, so when I was diagnosed, and told there was no cure, I really felt it was a death sentence.

In the beginning, I followed the advice of my doctors. I ended up on heavier and heavier doses of medication, including immunosuppressants, and became sicker and sicker. My wife searched frantically for any information she could find about the disease. She heard an interview with Lucy Rossett who claimed to have cured herself by following a diet called the specific carbohydrate diet.

My wife tracked down Lucy online and called her to speak with her. She also tracked down Elaine Gottschall and phoned her. Both women told my wife that I could be cured. Although the doctors told me (over and over again) that my illness had nothing to do with diet, these two women insisted that it did. The premise is that Crohn’s sufferers have an imbalance of intestinal flora and by removing foods that feed “bad” bacteria; you can heal your gut.

All of this convinced me to try the diet and it literally saved my life. I haven’t had a flare since August 2006. I consider myself cured – which is amazing considering how sick I was. When I was sick I experienced extreme weight loss (20 –40 pounds each flare), extreme arthritic pain, anal fissures, an anal fistula, cramping and diarrhea (up to 20 times a day). I experienced 4 bad flares after finding out I had Crohn's, and all of them happened after having my teeth cleaned at the dentist. Considering how things began for me ( with an abscess tooth ), this was no coincidence. I cut out all dental visits.

However, today I am the healthiest I have ever been ( and my teeth have never been better!)

The diet does take time and there were definitely set-backs along the way. For me, sometimes it was very difficult to continue on the diet. I had to be rushed to the hospital twice within the first year of being on the SCD—once for an anal fistula ( with life-threatening infection), and again for arthritic pain throughout my body so severe, I could not breath. Through both hospital visits, Andrea brought SCD food from home, so I could maintain the diet. Her love and support made a huge difference.

I also had to slowly reduce all the medication the doctors had me on; you can’t just stop that sort of thing.

Doctors had me on:
  • 4000 mg of Salofalk per day
  • 40-60mg of prednisone per day
  • Imuran (various doses at different times)
  • Flagyl (various doses at different times)
  • Keflex (various doses at different times)
  • Cipro (various doses at different times)
  • Antispasmodic meds (various doses at different times)
  • 9mg Entocort per day
  • Morphine (various doses at different times)
Today, I’m medication free. Also, my fistula has healed—completely. Even the surgeon is amazed.

Many people were very encouraging to me when we started out on this. One of those people was Elaine herself. She told me that if I had some sort of relief within the first month of starting the diet, then the diet would work for me. She said that if the diarrhea and cramping became less, those were the small signs to look for. It is not uncommon for there to be some complications during the initial die off of bacteria. Also, many people experience a nasty set-back (another bacteria die off) at the 3 to 4 month stage. I did. This often discourages people but if they stick with the diet things will improve.

This is the advice Elaine gave me before she passed away:

1.If you do the SCD, do it completely. Do not stray, no matter what.
2.If you experience success on the SCD during the first few weeks, then it will work for you. Be patient.
3.Expect setbacks during the healing process. Healing takes time. Do not be discouraged.
4.If you eat foods that aggravate – then do not eat them, even if they are “legal”.
5.If you require medical intervention, then take it. (my anal fistula, for instance).
6.Sometimes you will require heavier forms of medication to pull you out of a flare.
7.Don’t throw away your medication until you are well on the way to healing.
8.Have patience, it will get better.

I have been symptom free for 2 years now, and considered myself cured. Many great things have happened since finding the SCD. The greatest, of course, is the new addition to my family. Andrea and I have been married for 11 years and have always wanted a child. Despite our “best efforts”, we just didn’t think it was something that would happen for us. Turns out, as soon I got well, Andrea was pregnant! This I attribute solely to the SCD.

I have never been more productive artistically. The clarity with which by mind and body are functioning is nothing short of amazing. In the last couple of years I have created many world-class murals, and launched a large exhibition at a public arts centre. On top of that, I create work every year for our studio. I also am an art instructor at a public gallery.

Athletically, I have never been stronger. The anti-inflammatory nature of the SCD allows me to recover from hard efforts quicker that ever before, and the nutrition the body receives from a well-balanced SCD diet is second-to-none. Many athletes, seeing the results I’ve had, have taken up SCD for its recuperative health benefits; athletes that think I have an edge over them being on the diet.( how about that!!) A bike shop in Florida is even looking into starting a SCD friendly restaurant attached to the shop, so riders can get healthy, anti-inflammatory meals.

My goals at this point are simple. I want to live a long, productive, and healthy life. I want to exist at as high a level athletically as I can, for as long as I can. Thanks to the SCD, I’m on that path. Had I not got sick when I did, who knows what illness may have fallen on my lap, eating a diet high in refined wheat, sugar and processed crap. Both my father, and my father’s brother died of renal cancer (at 39 and 45 years of age respectively), as a direct result of what they exposed themselves to, both internally and externally. Could this have been my fate as well? You bet it could have. I was on that path. Getting Crohn’s forced me to take my health into my own hands. It went from the abstract to reality. I know more about my body, and what I put in it than I ever would have had I not been sick, and in a strange but very real way, I’m thankful for it.
I am also now a fantastic cook!

I plan on introducing more complex carbs in a few months, like whole grain rice, and potatoes. I’ll see how that goes. I’ll never return to a diet high in refined grains and sugars and processed foods. My reasons are simple: since my little brush with mortality, I now realize how precious life is, that I only have this 1 body; one kick at the can – so to speak! I think my daughter and wife deserve to have me around awhile longer yet!

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going biking!

Geoff Slater

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Jan's Pea Soup (SCD Friendly)

This is a soup from the 'old country'!!


2 packages of dry split green peas (soaked overnight - see below)
2 cups of chopped carrots
2 cups of chopped onions
2 cups of chopped celery
2 cups of chopped broccoli
1 package of sugar free low salt bacon

The Peas

To prepare the peas, soak them overnight. In the morning, boil the peas for 1 hour in a large pot (2 gallon).The water should fill the pot to 3/4. Remove the thick foamy 'scum' from the top as they boil.

The Soup

Add all veggies to the boiled peas and water. Add 3 strips of bacon on the top with some salt and pepper. Turn stove to medium heat, and let cook for two hours. Remove the bacon strips.

The Bacon

Cook the rest of the bacon until crispy enough to break into bacon bits. Add two large spoonfuls of bacon grease to the soup. Mix soup with hand-mixer until the peas and veggies break up. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Serve soup with bacon bits on top!

Recipe copyright Geoff Slater

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Superbowl Ride On St George Island

I thought that turning out a few 'intervals' before the game might be a good idea, so I took off this morning for a ride out to the park on the end of the island.

I left the knobbies on to take in the sandy trails of the State Park; you would never get anywhere on road tires!

The first 10 km I cruised at a 3/4 effort pace to warm up; this took me to the gates of the park, where I fumbled around in my pockets to find the dollar bill that gets you in. Once that was done, the interval work began.

I do intervals on or off road, about twice a week. They drastically increase your 'horsepower' if you are honest with yourself about what is 100% effort. They give me the 'gas in the tank' on the trail to put in hard efforts when I need to, and then recover quickly. Today they went like this...

From the gates of the park to the campground trails is about 6 km. During this time, I ride 30 second intervals that alternate between 100% max effort, and half effort spinning. You start out strong, but trust me, half way through it becomes mental. This is where it is important to stay the course if you want to see improvement.

When I got to the campground, I took a break from the intervals, and cruised the sandy trails of the park.

The 10km out-and-back trail system isn't as easy as it sounds. It is all loose sand, and requires some power in spots to keep moving. It is a nice mix of tall pines with dense underbrush. A lot of 'birders' take these trails at a walk, and are usually pissed when you come up on them. They are never a very happy lot!

Back in the campground, it's a spin passed the campers to the main road, and then more intervals until the park gates. From there, it is a nice 3/4 effort spin for the last 10 km back home.

Make sure that you give the body time to recover after hard efforts like intervals. Remember that rest is an equal partner with effort, on the trail to getting stronger!

Game on...


Superbowl Wings (SCD Friendly)

Wings are a must for the Superbowl. Here is how to make them SCD friendly!!

You need:

Chicken wings or drumsticks (fresh, not spiced)
Baking tray
Tomato juice

The Wings

Bake wings on tray in oven at 390 degrees until crispy and brown. (about 20 minutes)

Honey garlic sauce

Chop 4 cloves of garlic and 1 onion into small pieces. Cook on stove with some salt and pepper until it starts to brown. Reduce heat to low, then add i cup of honey. Let simmer for 2 minutes, then remove and let cool. Serve in dipping dish.

Barbecue Sauce

Reduce 1 can (10 fl oz) tomato juice, 4 tablespoons of honey, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, salt and pepper it the microwave until thick. Add Tabasco to taste. Let cool. Serve in a dipping dish.

You can serve wings in two ways. Mix them together with the sauce of choice... or dip the wings one at a time.



Recipe copyright Geoff Slater