Cindy has adopted a plant based diet in an effort to help mitigate her symptoms from Crohn's disease. Initially I was apprehensive as I was worried this would be a bad news story, but once I sat down over tea with Cindy I was reassured by the sparkle in her eyes. This was someone who was taking charge of her health. She was done being a bystander to what was happening to her body, she was taking action.
My excitement comes from experience about what happens to someone when they pursue a plant based lifestyle. Even if they've watched documentaries, read books or seen others go through the journey they are normally a little skeptical about what's in store. Then it happens. They lose some weight and as Cindy has already experienced in 30 days they feel more energetic. Usually health symptoms become milder or disappear. Those that are around them will push back, they won't believe, but eventually they'll come around when they witness persistent change.
Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disorder in which chronic inflammation in the digestive tract leads to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue and malnutrition. Think about it sort of like that red inflamed skin you have when you get a bad cut, but occurring up and down the inside of your intestines. There is no cure for Crohn's, rather treatments focus on reducing inflammation, relieving symptoms and addressing nutritional deficiencies. People with Crohn's often have portions of their intestines (large or small) surgically removed. In 2009 Cindy had 24 inches of her large and small intestine removed. Unfortunately her inflammation returned which brings pain when she eats. Her new diet is plant based and low fibre which may seem counter-intuitive as fibre intake is associated with good health but until she can have some reduction of inflammation it's likely the correct course for her.
Cindy loves food, she used to be a professional chef. It is no small feat for her and her trucker husband (as she describes him) to undertake this change. As a former beef loving Albertan her struggle to change very much resonated with me. There comes a time though when you make a decision that health feels better than a steak tastes. She felt that fear held her back from making the change earlier but has found so far that the challenge of adapting her cooking is fun. It doesn't hurt that she feels better after such a short time. Indeed, rather than a sickly person I was greeted by a bright happy person.
So what are Cindy's hopes? Some weight loss (she tells me that she's been overweight since childhood), more energy and hopefully managing her inflammation so she can avoid future surgeries. She knows she can't cure Crohn's, but she's hopeful for remission and a higher quality of life. As a type II diabetic she also hopes for better management of her blood sugars. Her friends and doctors have been supportive of the changes. Her husband (a dedicated omnivore), has recently come around to trying some of her food and has been a loving support. Their family joke is that his plate is usually all brown, nothing green, yellow or of any anti-oxidant rich colour. She hopes that she can inspire others in her Crohn's support group to try a plant based diet, after all it's easier to make change as a community. I'm confident she'll be an inspiration for change.
Our plan is to visit again in 3 months for an honest update on her progress. Will she lose more weight, keep her inflammation at bay and keep her energy high? I guess we'll find out. It's an experiment of one. If you're curious I found two videos on Crohn's and it's relation to plant based diets here and here. I also wanted to point out this very encouraging commentary in the Permanente Journal in regards to plant-based diets and Crohn's disease. As a community we can wrap around Cindy and offer her our encouragement and kindness. I left her with a few book suggestions, encouraged some gentle exercise and we talked about food choices. My sense is that she's committed to this journey and I'm eager to follow along. I hope you are too. We'll check in again in January.
Note: Nothing you read here on this site (or hopefully any site on the internet) should be taken as a substitute for medical advice. Always work with your doctor, dietician etc when considering any changes particularly if you have a medical condition. With that in mind if you're struggling with diet, poor health or weight loss let me ask you this....what have you got to lose? What if you tried 3 weeks on a plant based diet? What if it worked?