Instead of wondering where I’d be going out for the weekend, much of my twenty-first year was spent wondering “Why is my hair thinning so much?” and “Why am I having diarrhea every day?” The last thought on my mind was a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease – an incurable inflammatory bowel disease. Now unfortunately, even amidst trying to finish college and plan a wedding, the word Crohn’s, as well as its bodily effects, are on my mind every single day.
On a quest to find true health, I became very invested in learning all I could about natural living and healing about two years ago. Ironically, around the time I began to become proactive towards my health, I noticed my health begin to deteriorate in a number of ways.
What I had assumed to be due to the normal stress of college life, a tumultuous relationship and the fast-paced life of a nanny, I began suffering from chronic fatigue, night sweats, consistently cold hands and feet, unexplained weight loss, and now chronic diarrhea to add to my laundry list of health concerns a person my age shouldn’t be having. Could my adrenals be worn down? Am I eating enough? Drinking enough water? Do I have a thyroid issue?
My family has a history of issues with hypothyroidism – my mother and maternal grandmother both struggle with maintaining correct hormonal balance. When my mother suggested this as a possibility to me, I figured after two years of wondering, it was time to investigate.
At a local health expo I attended last fall, I went to an informational seminar on thyroid health – all of the symptoms of poor thyroid health resonated so deeply to me. I was convinced, at this point, that this was the missing piece to my healthy body puzzle. I went out and bought an iodine supplement, but decided to hold off on taking it until I got official bloodwork done to confirm my self-diagnosis.
I cashed in on a general physical as an excuse to get some bloodwork done with my pediatrician (regrettably, I have not found a general practitioner yet). I requested a variety of tests: a full thyroid panel, a check on my adrenals, selenium, iron, vitamins, DHEA sulfate and more. Fully expecting my test results to come back saying I had poor thyroid function, much to my surprise I received a rather concerned phone call from my doctor.
Vitamin Deficient, Iron Deficient, Protein Deficient
“Your thyroid panel came back normal, but your iron is dangerously low; you are severely anemic and you need to begin on iron supplement immediately,” he said. I had not been anemic since I was four years old, but I recalled craving crushed ice when I was anemic, and I had not craved this in years. This news was shocking to me, but even more shocking was his further explanation. “You are also extremely deficient in vitamins C and D, as well as showing signs of malnutrition, such as not enough protein. Your white blood cell count is also concerning; it is what we call ‘immature,’ which shows that your body is fighting something.”
Dumbfounded, I had little clue as to how to process this information. How could I be showing signs of malnutrition? I eat all the time, and eat meat every day. The diagnosis made no sense to me. My doctor expressed concern of an irritable bowel syndrome, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, as his suspicion was that I was not properly absorbing the nutrients I was consuming.
The Diagnosis: Crohn’s Disease
Following a colonoscopy, an endoscopy and further bloodwork, my diagnosis was confirmed – Crohn’s disease.
My doctor explained Crohn’s to me as my immune system attacking my own digestive tract, supposedly without explanation.
Tacking the word ‘disease’ on the end of any diagnosis is devastating, to say the least, especially at the age of 21. But when a professional can’t seem to articulate a probable cause to your chronic disease, perhaps the most overwhelming sensation is confusion. With all of my efforts to live consciously and support my immune system, the news of having an autoimmune disease has been especially emotional and frustrating. While I am grateful my hormones are in balance, at least for now, my body is experiencing constant inflammation, and all I know for certain is that this is not normal.
After having a pity party for myself on the ride home from the doctor’s office, I resolved that I refuse to believe that nothing can be done for my condition, despite being told that diet will have no bearing on my inflammation. I have spent the last two years taking responsibility for my health, and Crohn’s cannot shake that philosophy.
I am currently taking steps to heal my gut through the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, and while I am on an immunosuppressant steroid drug for eight weeks, I am determined to remain drug-free for this condition after this period. I am determined to achieve remission through a total transformation of my diet, and with the help and guidance of other doctors I am pursuing who have experience treating Crohn’s disease along with other autoimmune issues.
In light of this, I urge any and all who suspect that something is just “off” in their body to look seriously into the problem. And when doctors tell you what the problem is, but offer no solution, dig even deeper. Seek out a Functional Medicine Doctor; get to the root of the issue. Most importantly, take charge of your health, whether it’s your hormones, your gut, your mind, or something else. We cannot function properly as a whole when one part of us is out of balance. Keep searching for answers in your quests for true health, too, and do not let a diagnosis shake you – even if it’s Crohn’s.