Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Death of Glenn Frey and Ulcerative Colitis


When news of Mr. Frey's death came through my news feed, I took a deep breath and looked for the cause of death, certain that cancer had claimed yet another victim.

Not this time. The words "bravely battled cancer" just weren't there. Instead I caught my breath while reading that the cause of death included rheumatoid arthritis, pneumonia, and ulcerative colitis.


Two years ago, a colonoscopic evaluation lead to the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.  I sought a colonoscopy after experiencing bleeding as a result of following a course of strong antibiotics for an infection. Although I had the bleeding before the procedure, I didn't experience  an actual flare until the colonoscopy with biopsy.  After that the bleeding increased, the pain was nonstop and I continuously felt that I had to go to the bathroom. It was a miserable time.

At my first office visit after the colonoscopy, my GI specialist prescribed an expensive medication (at $400/month) and told me that I would need it for the rest of my life. I couldn't believed it.  So I did some quick research and discovered that modifying my diet might take care of this problem for me. 

I'm not the only one who has looked for a more natural approach to successfully treating ulcerative colitis.  Popular blogger and New York Times Best-selling Author Danielle Walker had a more dramatic experience. 

I was diagnosed with a very severe form of ulcerative colitis at the age of 22 in late 2007. Ulcerative Colitis is an autoimmune disease similar to Crohn’s disease that attacks the colon. Before finding Paleo, I had been on a 3-year path to total destruction as the disease was wreaking havoc on my body. During 2007-2011, I was seriously ill and incapacitated 6 months of the year and bordered death more than once only to be saved by multiple blood transfusions and iron infusions.
Because the disease causes malabsorption and the fact that I would be in the bathroom (using both-ends….) 15-20 times a day, my weight would fluctuate drastically with each flare-up and I would often lose 20-25 pounds within a 4 week period. The vast weight loss would trigger an arthritis type pain, ridiculously high heart rate, hair-loss, and over-all malnutrition.  I was regularly on a huge 100mg dose of prednisone steroids which resulted in debilitating side-effects like 100% sleepless nights, unbearable joint pain, and insatiable hunger.
My doctors refused to speak to me about diet and only wanted to continue prescribing medications. Through my own research and seeking out others who had seen relief through food, I realized I had two choices – continue spending 6 months of the year seriously ill (and the other half recovering) and go on an  immunosuppressant drug that would be administered for 5-hour periods once a week, or radically change my diet and pray that it would help me as I had read it had helped others. I had previously tried gluten-free, unprocessed foods, and the SCD, but none had eliminated my symptoms as I had hoped.
So I took the plunge and  went ‘Paleo.’Although at the time I didn’t even know what Paleo was, but my diet practically mirrored the basic guidelines of Paleo, so that is what I became. I worked with a naturopath to find trigger foods and eliminated them all for a long period while we worked with supplements to heal the trauma that had been caused to my gut from being sick so long. Specifically, I cut out all nuts/seeds, eggs, dairy, and legumes. After we saw progress, I slowly started adding them back in, with the exception of legumes and most dairy which I have purposefully continued to avoid as I know my system cannot handle them.

The idea that the food we put into our digestive systems doesn't affect or intestines and colon sounded absurd to me. It did to Ms. Walker as well. And changing the diet must work for a lot of people, because Ms. Walker's first book (Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great) first book did so well, she came out with a second one!





Which brings us back to Mr. Frey.  He suffered from rheumatoid arthritis as well as UC. Rheumatoid arthritis is another auto-immune disease. I can't help but wonder if he had had a chance to work with a natural nutritionist who was aware of the havoc grain proteins works on the body, would he have been able to avoid surgery and the complications (including death) that come from such a big surgery.

The scariest part is that because Mr. Frey probably had the best in health care,he probably never had the opportunity to explore anything other than the standard Western medical options. And now he's gone too soon at 67.


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