In January, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It’s a bugger as far as diseases go. For some reason which science is not entirely certain of, my colon and rectum are inflamed to the point of developing ulcers. So whenever poop (there’s just no talking around it, I’m sorry) passes through my digestive system, it irritates the ulcers and causes them to bleed. Hey presto, a messy (and stinky, if I’m being honest) toilet. Add to that some extra symptoms like diarrhea and gas and rectal urgency (gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now), and you have a recipe for Curling in on Yourself in Despair.
I’ve tried expensive medications to calm the inflammation. They are not a permanent fix. And they cost a fortune. So when I experienced another flare-up in May, I was ready to try something different. That’s when I made an appointment with a holistic medical community in Lubbock, TX, the city where I go to school (wreck ’em, Tech!).
My first appointment, an orientation, informed me what this place, called Veritas Medical, wanted me to do. They didn’t put me on any medications, they didn’t run any tests. Instead, they gave me a bunch of lists: lists of “can have’s” and lists of “cannot have’s.”
The lists are a bit more detailed than what I’m going to describe here, but what follows is the gist: no grains and no sugar. After that, there are certain foodstuffs, such as oils and fruits, which raise your blood sugar and are therefore also no-no’s, at least temporarily while your body starts to heal itself. You see, according to the founder of Veritas Medical, Dr. Ben Edwards, the source of all the inflammatory diseases afflicting so many Americans is our high-sugar, high-carb, low-fat diet. His goal for his patients is for them to replace all the bread and cookies and fried foods and other greasy, sickly sweet junk we consume daily, without thinking, with vegetables and healthy fats such as avocados and coconut oil. Such a diet will, he claims, reduce the body’s inflammation, allowing it to heal once and for all. Most of the time, without medication.
Now that you have an idea of what my condition and my diet is like, I’ll guide you through how to survive your first week or so of going grain- and sugar-free without feeling like you’re going to curl up and die.
- Go cold turkey. Just do it. There’s no putting it off. If you’re trying this diet, you’re probably doing so because you feel you have no other options. You want to start feeling better? Just bite the bullet, and throw away the bread on your way out.
- Think about the unhealthy foods and drinks you normally consume without a second thought and then brainstorm replacements. For example, many people’s go-to snack is a bag of chips. Okay, let’s replace that bag of chips with a bag of nuts. Or some veggies and hummus. Drink more water or tea instead of a Coke (FYI, you will appreciate the flavor of tea more when the only other thing you’re drinking is water).
- Realize you can replace sugar with natural sweeteners. There are some natural sweeteners, like coconut sugar, which don’t send your glycemic levels shooting off the charts. Use these as substitutes in coffee, tea, and whatever other beverages or food you like to be sweet (FYI: lemons and limes make good flavorings for tea).
- Eat more. More veggies, more meat, more nuts, and more other healthy fats like the ones I mentioned earlier. If you eat a filling meal, you are less likely to get the munchies later. (Pro tip: eat as much butter as you want, as long as it’s made out of as few ingredients as possible – the purer it is, the better. Butter is a healthy fat!)
- Realize you are not perfect. This is important. You are not a perfect human being. You can slip up. But you can also do this. Don’t give up. Remember that there is always another opportunity to get back on the diet at the next snack or the next meal.
- Realize that this diet isn’t forever. I’m not going to be on this strict of a diet for the rest of my life. As I heal, I get to move on to new phases of Veritas’s diet which includes the introduction of foods my body could not previously tolerate. Eventually, I believe I will be able to eat a slice of pizza or one of those big cookies from McAlister’s and not experience any blowback from my colon or rectum. It will just take some time to get there.
- Discover that healthy food is actually pretty yummy. It’s true. If you don’t believe me, go to your local health food store and browse around. Google recipes that consist only of meat, cheese and veggies. And try cooking a few things. Your tastebuds will be pleasantly surprised.
Have you ever gone grain- and sugar-free? Thinking about it? Start up a conversation in the comments below.