Last night, I experienced the worst flare-up of my Crohn’s Disease yet; the third instance of 2018. The kicker? All of these were following my revelatory dietary changes via the Whole30 Elimination Program. And no, this is not an attempt to correlate the two, but only to shed light on how Crohn’s Disease can strike no matter how much one arms themselves with preventative measures.
Read along as I describe these flare-ups (two of which occurred on film sets) and general tips on how to best prevent them, and ask YOU, the reader, about some of your worst Crohn’s battles.
The discovery of my Crohn’s Disease started in the fall of 2014 when my diet and a course of antibiotics left my stomach defenseless against attack. Prior to this moment, I was unknowingly fighting a sinus infection, and my energy levels had reached an all-time low. After an alarming few months of rigorous tests and procedures, slowly but surely, my gut regained its helpful bacteria levels, and the flare-ups ceased for the immediate future.
Flash forward three years, and I had since uprooted myself from Maine and moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry, where I was a Production Assistant (PA). My weight had always fluctuated over the years and my acid reflux had reached new heights, and so, I was ready for a more permanent change. My energy levels were still suffering, and I knew that I needed a reboot. Beginning in January of 2018, I tried the Whole30 Program as a way to combat these hovering issues of mass and energy.
After the thirty-five days (I had to restart five days in due to an accidental slip), I had lost over twenty pounds, and my energy was through the roof, my acid reflux disappeared, my brain fog symptom of Crohn’s had cleared and as an added benefit, my skin had been freed of acne.
My world had forever changed.
After the course, I continued eating mostly the same while reincorporating each restricted food element individually to determine which affected me the most. I won’t bore you with the details as you can read about it here, but I did resume eating the foods that the diet prevented to an extent.
Following a trip back home in March/April, I decided to start another course of the Whole30, only this time I would extend it to a Whole60 (that’s sixty days without dairy, alcohol, grains, legumes/peanuts, or added sugar). It sounds crazy, but I knew that I could do it; I had felt the benefits from the previous attempt, and welcomed the focus on healthy eating once more. But then during this excursion, I had my first Crohn’s Flare-up in over three years.
I was working on the set of the Jim Carrey Showtime show, Kidding, and during a day of shooting at the Pickwick Ice Skating Rink in Burbank, I doubled over with stomach cramps. I spoke with the medic and took some Prilosec and ibuprofen, but I had to go home early. No matter what my diet was at the time, I was destined to get this particular flare-up.
The next instance occurred months later on the set of my other show, 9-1-1. We were shooting at a “cemetery” the set decorators had designed in a park during an overnight shoot. My brain fog had interfered with my concentration, and I should have felt the warning signs. The brain fog, the “drunk” feeling, and then, my cramps became as debilitating as they once were on the set of Kidding. I, once again, left early to recuperate. And I hadn’t been on the Whole30 for over two months by this point. I knew I had to jump in once more.
It’s important to note that the way I partake in the Whole30 isn’t how it’s exactly designed. It’s an elimination diet meant as a jumpstart to your immune system and a way to allow your body to heal itself from the inflammatory effects of certain types of foods. It’s not designed for repeated attempts, nor is it meant to be permanent, but it absolutely does change your relationship with food for the positive.
And now, onto my third flare-up of 2018: December 29th. This one hit me hard. I ate a hearty breakfast of eggs, avocados, onions, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, and coffee – a normal breakfast during the Whole30 – but I wasn’t on any diet. I had become incredibly gassy after this meal and light cramps began a few hours after. I didn’t help things by going to the gym and working out my abs. I will never have washboard abs because my sensitive intestines will never allow it.
Hours later, I tried eating again. Plain chicken with tangy ranch (ranch and mustard), peas & onions, and a rooibos tea. The heat of the tea scalded the ulcers within my small intestine, and the pain hit its pinnacle. I was lying in bed for hours praying the pain away but to no avail. I, eventually, remembered to take Prilosec and ibuprofen to limit the acid activity and the inflammation, respectively.
Finally, I walked to the nearest grocery store and bought a rare tub of yogurt to reintroduce healthy gut flora and to soothe the pain. The combination of all of these elements finally tamed the beast.
I’m preparing to commence another round of the Whole30 on the first of January, and I’m excited, except this time, I’ll be eating Quinoa (NOT Whole30 compliant) because I found out that some grain (not wheat) helps with my body’s absorption of nutrients.
Now, finally, I turn to you, fine reader. Who amongst you suffers from one of the most damning gut conditions known to man? Well, I’m with you, and while I don’t experience the worst parts of Crohn’s I’ve heard (surgeries and medications to name a few), I want to hear your tale. Comment below with your coping mechanisms, and let me know what foods trigger your flare-ups and what foods soothe the churning fire that is your stomach acids. It’s different for everyone, but it’s important to battle this together.
Here’s to everyone’s continued health and prosperity. I look forward to hearing from you all.
When Jamie doesn’t participate in the Whole30 or in severe pain, he can be found writing scripts and his novel. Learn more about them here.