As a kid, I had a sensitive digestive tract. I carry a lot of stress gastrointestinally, and my childhood was characterized by physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; I carried that inside in so many ways. I dealt with excruciating gas cramps, constipation that made appendicitis seem like a dream, etc. I was suicidal throughout my teenage years. Also notably, my family has a hefty and vibrant history of bipolar disorder, ADD, alcoholism, and addictions.
I went to college, and I became a vegan. This was over a decade ago, before it was “cool” to be a vegan. I was a college athlete (cross country, track). But really, I was bloated and injured all the freaking time. Somehow I managed to piece together some surprisingly decent seasons in between injuries, but I now wonder how amazingly I would have done if I at the very least had not been vegan, much less been all-meat. My complexion was total shit, my depression was intense, and I thought I was eating in a way that was good for the environment.
After college, I became an elite athlete in another endurance sport, and I thought, “F#$k it!” for veganism. It did not matter how much I supplemented with iron, B vitamins, etc., I was anemic ALL THE TIME! I began eating oysters and other fish, game meats, then beef. I also began to suspect some major sensitivities to gluten and sugar, but it was tough to remove those from my diet as I was also quite accustomed to emotional eating, food addictions, and binging.
I went to graduate school for a biomedical PhD and at the same time managed to remove gluten and grains from my diet. I got married, and early in my marriage, I became pregnant. I experienced hyperemesis gravidarum in my pregnancy (severe excessive vomiting of pregnancy). My doctors begged me to eat, and my non-gluten, non-sugar ways went out the window as I struggled to survive. Chocolate ice cream got me through pregnancy. After my daughter was born (healthy weight for her, btw!), it was a long haul to re-remove gluten and sugar. And, as a result, my mood was unstable, my hands hurt like freakin’ crazy (I was doing hand-intensive laboratory work), and I overall felt like a zombie.
My gastrointestinal health deteriorated. My doctors tried to determine whether I had Celiac disease. They weren’t in agreement, but I stopped eating gluten again anyways. It helped, though I was in a shit marriage, and my ex-husband would do things that would contaminate my food with gluten sometimes, and it was really awful.
After I was done breastfeeding, I was diagnosed with ADD. I am quite sensitive to most pharmacological agents, and most ADD medications resulted in suicidal ideation. I would take very, VERY small doses of amphetamine salts, and that helped me focus enough to finish my dissertation.
I finished my PhD, got a job, and moved to a new state to start the position. One night, I ate some pork loin that I had roasted earlier that day and asked my ex-husband to put in the fridge when I was at work. That loin sat on the counter for 9+ hours, unbeknownst to me. I ate it for dinner that night. I got food poisoning like you would not believe (15 vomits in under 12 hours, muscle aches that were paralyzing and unlike anything I have ever experienced, thank all things good in the Universe that my daughter didn’t try any of that spoiled food).
Six weeks after that food poisoning, I had gastrointestinal pain like nothing I had ever experienced before. I was in so much pain that I was delirious. At that point, I had moved forward with divorce proceedings, but I didn’t know who to turn to for help. So my ex-husband gave me a ride to an ER. I was wearing a robe and jammies and looked like shit, and they thought I was a crazy homeless lady, and they kicked me out when I couldn’t stay in a wheelchair in the lobby but instead collapsed onto the floor from the pain. I installed Uber on my phone and got a ride home (weirdest Uber ride ever, probably).
At home, I tried to manage the pain with a hot bath. I collapsed getting out of the bathtub. My daughter called 9-1-1. My ex and I were still under the same roof, and he helped me get jammies on before the paramedics came. I was wheeled into the ER and barely had enough strength to whisper, “Someone, please, help me.” They gave me morphine, and OMG it worked and after 14+ hours of horrifying pain, I just lay there, going in and out of consciousness. A CT scan revealed that a long chunk of my intestines was so inflamed that it was totally and completely closed. No thru traffic. The surgeon came in and held my hand and told me that he was going to let me rest for 6 hours and then would be operating to remove part of my intestines. It was around 1 AM. I didn’t really care. I was glad he held my hand (all the doctors held my hand that first 24 hours. I don’t know why they did, but holy crap that was soothing).
I got wheeled up to a room in the hospital and sort of passed out (remember, the morphine). Several hours later when the surgeon came by, miracle of miracles my intestines had opened. Still, I was kept in the hospital for 3 days before being released.
The rest is a story of struggling to get reasonable or useful or any sort of information from GI docs as my new life with Crohn’s unfolded. On my own, I began eliminating entire food groups. First to go were dairy and grains, and I felt better. Then alcohol and all fruits, and I felt better. Then alliums (garlic, onions, leeks), cruciferous vegetables, and nightshades, and I felt better. Then I went keto-low-FODMAP-AIP, and I felt better (basically, meat+olives+coconut stuff+avocado). Then one day I ate hearts of palm, which are high in fiber. To say it felt like a scouring pad through my intestines is an understatement. After that flare-up, I went all-meat.
I still struggle sometimes with relapsing into a binge if I am stressed (a beloved family member died in the fall, and I ate a lot of chocolate and cheese, for example). And it’s been a process to figure out what works for me (anything from pig now gives me nocturnal diarrhea, and rendered fat and too much fat makes me feel super nauseated). I also recommend for anyone with Crohn’s NEVER trying to “re-introduce” plant foods. I ate a couple of those nut-based “Perfect bars” 6 weeks ago and had a HUGE and painful flare-up.
I am now in my mid-30s. I exercise regularly (CrossFit, yoga, hiking, running, lifting, etc). People confuse me for someone in her 20s. Here’s what has improved or been cured since going all-meat:
- Crohn’s disease (hugely improved)
- Severe carpal tunnel syndrome (cured)
- TMJ (cured)
- Hidradenitis suppurativa (cured)
- Depression (hugely improved)
- Complexion (hugely improved)
- These weird and sudden stabbing abdominal cramps that are sudden and knock me to me knees for about 30 seconds… WTF were those? (cured)
- ADD (cured, and I do also meditate daily)
I didn’t go all-meat because of you, Dr. Baker, but I sure am glad you are around to lead this and help it build momentum. And the momentum is gaining. To wit, I work in biomedical consulting, and one of my new hires for my company is a young man also with a biomedical PhD. As we got to know each other better, he said, “You should try an all-meat diet.” I freakin’ loved it.