I've talked some in previous posts about the bitter teas I'm drinking to cure Crohn's and related symptoms—given to me by my lovely doctor at Xiaolan Health Centre in Toronto. I am also on Prednisone (prescribed by my US docs), and going with Xiaolan's recommendation to wean off it with their help, cutting back 5 mg every three weeks with continual appointments. Since beginning their treatment just over a week ago, I can safely say that my guts haven't felt better in a long time.
But how long is long?
With chronic symptoms, it is often difficult to pin specifics—but my curiosity peaked in listening to this great podcast on the "microbiome" with doctor Robynne Chutkan, MD, called "Live Dirty, Eat Clean" (shout out to Lourdes Echevarria Brolly, a friend and wellness coach who brought this to my attention). Basically "microbiome" is code for the critters and bacteria that naturally live in and on the human body, cooperatively breaking down foods and forming natural defenses. How do we get a healthy balance of these things and not the scary germs that cause harm? Well, a lot has to do with exposure, and it turns out that passing through the birth canal is our first, major, healthful introduction, washing us in a healthy culture that learns "what-and-what-not-to" attack. That rite of passage is dwindling with 1-in-3 American children now born through C-section. (**Yes, I was a C-section baby—not that I place any blame over this decision). After that initial burst into the universe and all its flora, we pick up more by playing in the mud, coughing, sneezing on, and licking each other. Ha, tactfully, I'm sure—and I think at least in this respect, I was raised with a healthy amount of dirt and exposure.
Other key timing: the link between antibiotics and the development of Crohn's, Colitis, and Celiac—and these are certainly implicated in both my major health episodes, the one that began in 2003 and the one current. My first round of upset— mind you I'd been complaining to doctors about belly pain since age 16—occurred when I blacked out cold in the shower and was carried by my roommates to a hospital around Halloween. With the key observational features being that I was 20, female, sexually active, and complaining of abdominal pain, I was inaccurately given the diagnoses that I'd developed Pelvic Inflammatory Disease from an untreated/ undiagnosed STD, which I'd let spiral and really throw my body out-of-whack. As if that information wasn't satisfactorily traumatizing, I was put on heavy antibiotics, which had me puking and shitting for days, only to receive an eventual phone call informing me that the tests were negative and that I could stop taking the pills.
Flash forward to late November 2014—I am in Montreal, where I have been living with friends and networking in a failed attempt to escape the US social system. And I am sick. Like sinus-sick, green stuff, foggy head, hit with hammers, barely off the couch for a week sick. And it's not getting better. I am alone across a border, my best friend having left for Europe just days earlier.
I raise my white flag and head home for health coverage, driving 1500 miles through the night in my Scion, stopping only for a few hours to sleep at a rest stop somewhere in Michigan. I arrive. I am prescribed antibiotics. They cure the sinuses. And over the next year sets in another cycle, which has led me to moderate grade inflammation of the last section of my small intestine—the part right where they removed 11-inches back in 2004. (*Some sort of tragic poetry in that this surgery left me with a C-section scar mark.)
So what is it that I'm reflecting on now? I am taking control of the things that I can. Diet for one. And getting rid of all the antibiotics that get into our foods, which means being cautious about animal products. As a person who's autoimmune system triggers easily and lets the wrong stuff pass through, I am doing my best to eliminate pesticides, too, and to follow protocols on food interactions at the advice of Jackie McCaffery, a Toronto-based Holistic Nutritionist who works with performers and people with Crohn's.
I am thankful for the help I am being given to receive this information—to transform what I know and learn to live better. As things unfold, I hope the information I post helps at least one other person. More broadly, though, I am hopeful to get others thinking about our interactions with the environment, and the universal need to rid ourselves of toxins and unhealthful practices.
We are all in this together, let's not forget.