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How I Overcame Crohn’s Disease

By May 6, 2013 Posts 27 Comments
All I can do is tell you what I did. I’m not a doctor and although I did a lot of testing and structured experimentation, I didn’t do any official form of clinical study. All I know is that in the end I’m medicine and pain free, and I feel better than ever. If you haven’t seen it, take a look at my talk at TEDxEast on the subject for a quick overview. It’s important to make a distinction between being cured and being in remission. I have received criticism for claiming to have cured myself of this disease, but I stick by it. The definition of cure is the relief from symptoms of a disease. There is no time limit on that definition or an implication of something temporary. More importantly, illnesses like Crohn’s and other inflammatory diseases put you in a constant battle with yourself because everything you do can have a positive or negative effect. It’s really easy to throw in the towel when you have limited information or apparent options. I am cured of this disease because it were to ever rear it’s ugly head again, I would be able to attack it with confidence and I would overcome it again. There is not a single shred of doubt in my mind that any attempt the illness might make to take me down would be completely futile. I have the knowledge and the calm, which means I have the power. This is not remission for I have won.
Testing:
I tried testing everything I could think of with the hopes that it might have some correlation to how I was feeling. My doctor had run lots of blood tests, colonoscopies, endoscopies, barium transport studies, CAT scans, and sonograms (surprisingly the only test that had me weeping on the examination table). Most of these were performed under conditions of inflammation, meaning there wasn’t a healthy version to compare it to. When I started my own testing I started with what I thought was the most obvious, food. The problem with food tracking when you have an illness like Crohn’s is the amount of variety. I know a Crohn’s sufferer who can’t eat chocolate, and another who couldn’t handle ice cream. I was never able to find a specific trigger food for me and the hunt is compounded by the fact that environmental and emotional factors play into your levels of inflammation. So was it the spicy food or the fight with your girlfriend, it was always hard to tell. I tracked sleep, exercise (which was restricted by how weak I felt), mood, bowel movements, and even urine for a little while. Then I went more clinical and had gene testing done, a DEXA scan, semen analysis, and personal blood testing with InsideTracker. The resulting data takes up several hundred pages and I was able to find several correlations that helped me but I also came to the conclusion that no two Crohn’s patients are alike.
Blood-Tests
Fitness: 
I was really weak when I started but I began with yoga thanks to my wife. Vinyasa yoga was a really good mix of strength and flexibility. The overall process was very calming to me which I believe was it’s most important benefit. The best thing you can do for a disease like this is reduce stress. However, it also provided beneficial twists and inversions which massaged internal organs and invigorated the abdominal nervous system. For cardio I tried the Insanity DVD series and lost 24 pounds in just two months. I started Krav Maga, the Israel Martial Art. The level of brutality involved was a very important release for the “internal rage” caused by a constant battle with my own body.  Eventually I turned to triathlon training and found that endurance sports turned my body into a furnace for any food that I might put into it. Ironman France was the hardest thing I ever went through, not even my worst Crohn’s attack lasted 14 hours.
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Nutrition:
We realized that I needed to reset my body and clean it out. I went completely vegetarian for 3 months. I was eating a lot of greens and whole grains. I never went gluten free and I don’t believe there was ever a gluten issue for me. Eventually I reintroduced fish as my main source of protein. Now my diet is pretty well rounded with 95% of my meals prepared at home, almost no dairy (though I don’t avoid milk and cheese like the plague, just limit it), whole grains, lots of leafy greens, a ton of good fat (grass fed butter, olive oil, avocados), and no processed sugar (maple syrup, honey, agave are ok in moderation). Also, I have found that the timing of meals has a big effect on how I feel. I have run the gambit from eating six meals a day to eating two and what I’ve found consistent is that when I try to concentrate my meals towards the center of the day, things go much better. I always work out in the morning before I have breakfast so I usually won’t have my first meal until about 2 hours after I wake up which gives my metabolism a chance to get going. I also try not to eat after 8 at night so my body has a couple of hours to digest before I go to sleep.
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Supplements:
I get a custom vitamin pack made by VitaminsOnDemand.com. It’s cheaper, automatically ships to me, and is neatly divided into daily packs with what I need. You can get your supplements anywhere I just find this the most efficient. Every day I take:
1) Krill Oil 500mg
2) Probiotic Complex 8Bn Units (Lactobacillus acidopholus, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum)
4) Garlic 60mg
5) Ginger Root 1.08g
6) Iron 30mg
7) Vitamin B Complex
vitamins
Lifestyle:
This is the biggest one in my opinion because so many conditions have a stress component to them and many people can attest to having some stressful event result in a pit in their stomach. Sometimes those pits become ulcers, sometimes they become irritable bowel disease, and sometimes they even become cancer. I could get very philosophical right now about how we have one life to live and it’s about the moments that take your breath away, etc, etc…but this isn’t about a bucket list. This is about understanding our bodies responses to stress and then training our nervous system to mitigate those effects. If you don’t think the body can be trained to be more resilient just ask a Navy SEAL. People are not born with the ability to sit in silence in a jungle without moving or speaking for two days, killing an enemy from 1000 yards, then sleeping through the night shortly thereafter. Behavior like that needs to be trained. You’re body can handle nearly any level of stress if it doesn’t consider it to be stress.
In Krav Maga, when you train, even at a beginner level, you will get hit in the face and other parts of your body. The first time, it’s pretty shocking. Honestly, the 10th time is pretty shocking. Then something amazing happens, the next time you get hit you don’t even notice until you’ve delivered your “response” and your opponent is lying on the ground. Only then do you feel a tinge in your jaw, but instead of describing the sensation as painful, you smile because it reminds you of what you just did. The head of my Krav Maga school would say “No matter what happens in a fight, you’re both going to have a medical bill, the idea is for yours to be smaller than theirs.” When I was readying myself for Ironman France, I was incredibly nervous about the swim. I had done the distance many times but it’s a well known fact that triathlon swims are very aggressive and people just keep paddling and kicking no matter who or what is in their way. So when the buzzer went off I started swimming as fast as I could and spread myself away from some other people. 300 yards into the swim I was feeling pretty good and then a guy hit me square in the back of the head with a closed fist just as I was coming up for a breath. In that instant I remembered two things. First, I’d been hit before many times and I was fine, and second, my swim coach had me end every session with hypoxic training, swimming underwater with shorter and shorter breaks to come up for air so by the final lap you were either blacking out or your lungs were ready to pull the eject handle. It made me just swim harder and faster, climbing right over the guy that hit me and possible kicking him in the goggles as I passed.
You can train resilience through stress acclamation, meditation, and heart rate variability training, or just get in a boxing ring with someone bigger than you. Oh, and something has to drive you to want to feel better, pain is enough to do it but it’s nice to have something else too. Behold my three sons.
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What Next?
As I’ve tried to stress, everyone’s situation is different, the point is that there is a way to at least make yourself feel better and I hope this information is helpful. I do work with individuals to plan tracking and testing protocols and coaching throughout the process. Check out my Contact page to setup a consultation.
32 comments
Lez
Lez

Hello! I'm Leslie from the Philippines. I got Crohn's disease when I was 22 years old. This kind of disease is really rare in my country. It's so rare that it took my doctor a long long time before he finally diagnosed me with this disease.I was on Salofalk and prednisone for more than 1 year. The most disappointing thing is that my 1 month of maintenance for Salofalk costs more than my salary. I have very limited access to medical advances regarding this disease. I want to try other ways as I don't have enough money to buy Salofalk. I hope Cat's claw is available in my island. I haven't heard of it before.

jaskap
jaskap

hello ari, i got diagnosed for chron´s four years ago and i´m on 250mg of azathioprine every day and in remission. i take folic acid, vit d and b, magnesium, probiotics, curcumin every day. my diet is rich in vegetable, fruits, low fat and no sugar, little grains, i also exercise every day mix of strenght and aerobics. my doctor at a specialized ibd clinic in the univ of miami advises not to go off meds even though the inflamation is gone and tolerance of most foods has been achieved. personally i think she is right, meds work well, and its been a gradual easing off meds that has worked for me. of course i now have liver issues now (fatty liver 2nd degree) and had my gall blader removed two years ago, but i monitor the situation with periodic sonograms. what can you tell me about low dose naltrexone as an alternative med treatment?

Moirajw
Moirajw

Reading your post, I was thinking that many other people suffering with other conditions, not only Crohns disease, could improve their conditions by following your lead here.  It seems that you improved your situation through focusing on getting stronger your body stronger through fitness, improving your nutrition through better eating habits and adding supplements and vitamins, and through learning how to handle stress better so as to improve your lifestyle. 


Mother Of Crohns Teen
Mother Of Crohns Teen

I just saw your story on Fox News in Australia.  What an amazing journey you have had!  I'm going to get my son to read your website.... he is 16 years old and was diagnosed with extensive Crohn's Disease a few days before he turned 13.   Your knowledge will definitely be beneficial to him during the next few years as his study loads rapidly increase.


Thanks to an incredible doctor, Professor Tom Borody, my son is now in complete remission, clinically, visibly and histologically and has been completely free of medication for over a year.  His treatment was FMT (Fecal Microbiota Transplant).  I would love you to read his story when you have some spare time :-)  http://www.fecalmicrobiotatransplant.com/2013/07/crohns-disease-fmt.html  and http://www.fecalmicrobiotatransplant.com/2013/11/crohns-cure-fecal-transplant.html

tobrother
tobrother

Is there any contradiction with Steroids with Garlic? and Why Garlic?

DDaaNN
DDaaNN

Hi Ari, is that 60mg Garlic or 600mg? I don't see any 60mgs online! Thanks!

Sean
Sean

You are an inspiration to me and I believe I will beat crohn's.


Quick question.  Does eating whole grains mean eating just the grains like quinoa/millet or bread?


I know you said that gluten didnt seem to be an issue for you, so I will try however I think it may be an issue for me.  I sure found out that eating more fruits and veggies is doing my crohn's wonders.  However, i'm losing a boat load of weight.

fixyogurt
fixyogurt

Why not just set up a protocol for us Crohnies to follow?

lindreid
lindreid

How have your iron levels been, especially during racing and training? My 15yo son has UC and is a triathlete--a lot in common with you and this is his biggest issue. The eating plan you have is a lot what he has done intuitively, but adding the red meat for his iron. Thanks much!

burton1064
burton1064

Hi Ari, can you please inform why you choose to use krill oil over fish or cod liver oil?  Also, do you have any insight on the legitimacy of the neg environmental impacts of using krill oil?

LessDoing
LessDoing moderator

@tobrother  some people have reported joint pain, but you don't want to use garlic long term (or steroids for that matter) because it's very powerful stuff. I used it to kill h. Pylori which is how I got off of prilosec and stopped having acid indigestion.

LessDoing
LessDoing moderator

They are more of a support for whatever you want to do, stay on meds or wean off them. Cats claw is a anti inflammatory and smooth muscle relaxer.

LessDoing
LessDoing moderator

Since Krill oil contains mostly phosphatidylcholine it is better absorbed by the body then fish oils so you get more bang for your buck plus it's a superior anti-inflammatory based on C-Reactive Protein levels. It's nearly impossible to consume truly sustainable biological products, someone or something is always getting the short end of the stick.

MaeOliverWorth
MaeOliverWorth

I watched the live interview you did on the websem and saw you used garlic. What length of time is reasonable, if not long term? I use Nexium and would like to get off of it. What time of day and time frame concerning meals, works best?

tobrother
tobrother

@LessDoing

I want to get rid-off from medicines thats why I'm consulting with you. Because  we are in same conditions of crohns problems. 

Right Now, my crohn's condition is in flare-up mode so, my doctor has started prednisolone 30 days back. Taking other medicines Mesalamine, Azathioprine, Iron Folic. 

Reading your battle with crohns I'm just inspired and want to leave medicines. So, right now can I start taking supplements which you suggested along with medicines? Or shall I stop taking medicines and start supplements?

burton1064
burton1064

@LessDoing awesome, I really appreciate the info Ari.  

There is a large variance in the quality of supplements from company to company but I have to assume that you are happy with the quality of vitaminsondemand since you don't seem to skimp when it comes to your health.  If there is an affiliate link you can share for them, I'd love to support you.  ~Scott

LessDoing
LessDoing moderator

@MaeOliverWorth  I took it once in the morning, you have to experiment yourself, you may not have h. pylori, you may need to take digestive enzymes like Digesttech or something alkalizing like lime juice. The only issue with taking garlic long term is that supposedly it can effect some of your deep brain waves but that research is pretty spotty.

fixyogurt
fixyogurt

@tobrother You've got to chec´k out the Bulletproof Diet. I've got Crohn's and follow this ketogenic, upgraded paleo diet and overall my symptoms are smaller, and I have more energy but Im not cured, as I cant have coffee, chocolate, butter and the things I love. YET. :)