Tom’s medical prep before traveling…

Years ago, when our kitchen was being remodeled and we had literally no kitchen for six months, Tom began to suffer from a variety of severe intestinal symptoms.  He rapidly lost weight, running back and forth to the bathroom dozens of times each day and night.

One may assume that this was due to the fact we were eating fast food, processed food, or pre-made food products while our kitchen was being remodeled.  It was not. 

During this time, around 2004 our dining room table became our food prep area with various George Foreman grills, an electric skillet, an electric griddle, a toaster oven, two microwave ovens, cutting boards, seasonings, plates, and silverware, which we washed in the bathtub (we don’t like paper plates). 

During this period, we ate that which we perceived, at the time as “normal” meals; a protein, a vegetable or two, a starch, and a salad.  It was winter.  On warmer days, above 30 degrees, we cooked on the outdoor grill.  These were the same type of meals most of us prepare when cooking at home.  Why was he getting so sick?

When the symptoms exacerbated over time, months after the kitchen was done, we made an appointment to go to the Mayo Clinic for a week while poor Tom experienced every gastrointestinal test known to man, many gruesome, uncomfortable and embarrassing.  He didn’t eat a morsel of food for five days.

Diagnosis:  irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS, treatable (they said) by avoiding cruciferous vegetables, too much or too little fiber (which is it?), and medication to calm the digestive track taken three times a day.  Also, he was told he had Barrett’s Esophagus, which required the proton pump inhibitors, now being touted by some researchers as causing serious side effects.

Following this treatment was relatively easy with Tom’s little interest in cruciferous vegetables, general aversion to fiber laden foods, and desire to eat “white” bread, potatoes, and doughnuts.  I must confess, in a desire to please him, I cooked and baked his favorite foods while he faithfully took the medication.  The symptoms continued relentlessly. 

Our lives revolved around pacing our activities in order to be close to a bathroom or, by his not eating at all.  No food.  No symptoms. It was frustrating for him and for me, the official cook in the household, feeling responsible for feeding him foods that caused him severe illness. Its treatment wasn’t so clear cut at the time since we were following a recommendation made by the medical profession.  Could they possibly ill advise us?

After hours of researching online data, the advice was always the same; low fiber, medications, low stress, lots of water, all of which he followed meticulously. 

In 2008, four years since the onset of his symptoms, I stumbled across some information on Celiac disease.  Many of the symptoms suffered by patients with Celiac had symptoms similar to Tom’s.  What did we have to lose to try?  Much to my amazement, Tom agreed to go totally gluten-free for a one month trial.

Filling our cupboards with gluten-free mixes for desserts, coffee cake, doughnuts, and pasta, we began the process of living a gluten-free lifestyle.  I avoided many of these products since they were often filled with high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, which I had “given up” many years ago.  Tom gained weight, eating these high carb sugary foods.

Most of these treats were palatable and he didn’t complain.  Over a period of about three weeks, his symptom improved by about 75%.  We were satisfied with this result and continued along this path for a few years.  With few symptoms of his condition, he gradually incorporated gluten back into his diet. 

Surprisingly, his symptoms didn’t revert to the state they’d been a few years back.  Apparently, without gluten for a while, his intestinal tract healed to a degree and although he wasn’t symptom-free, it was manageable.  He was willing to suffer some problems in order to eat an occasional coffee cake and doughnut.

His weight ballooned to almost 240 pounds, all in the belly.  At barely six feet tall, he was rotund.  My guy, rotund.  During this period of time, the news was filled with stories on the dangers of visceral fat (fat surrounding the internal organs) causing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and of course, digestive disorders. 

Tom shrugged off the risks, relying upon the longevity in his family while refusing to try any type of diet including gluten-free.

In August 2011, after years of severe full-body pain (which I wrote about in a prior post), I decided to try an anti-inflammation diet when a specialist explained that I’d require a total spinal fusion at some point as my spine continued to deteriorate.  It was August 2011. 

Tom attended my doctor’s appointment with me, for the first time seeing the degree of damage to every disc in my spine on the multiple MRIs from C1 to L5 hearing the doctor extol the virtues of a low inflammation diet. 

However, he suggested going one further step to enhance the possibility of extraordinary results; low carb (keeps blood sugar under control, thus reducing inflammation, according to many researchers at Harvard) no wheat, no grains of any type (no rice), no starch (no corn, no beans), no sugar (no fruit), no chemicals, high-quality grass-fed meat, free-range chickens, limit dairy to butter and hard cheeses, organic produce (when possible).

Miraculously, Tom agreed to follow along with me. He had read an article in the newspaper about the rapid increase in the incidence of Celiac disease over the past 60 years.  Here’s the link to the article that influenced him in going along on this path with me.

We eat eggs and nitrate-free bacon for breakfast, grass-fed meat, organic vegetables, and salad with homemade dressing for dinner every night.  We nibble on nuts and hard cheese and an occasional sweet treat made with Stevia sweetener. 

Now 18 months later, Tom has lost 44 pounds, has NO symptoms of IBS, has quit smoking, has stopped taking seven pills per day, and had stunning blood test results (better than ever) a month before we left Minnesota, as I have done as well. 

I am pain-free (except for that darned shoulder!).  Already slim, I didn’t lose weight during this period.  Nature has a funny way of taking care of its own when we respect the body, feeding it nourishing clean food.

So, this is why we eat the way we do, which we’ve mentioned here before.  Yes, cruises will be hard, especially the “sweets” tables.  However, we would not be able to go on this adventure if we hadn’t followed this way of eating.  Tom was too bulky to haul that luggage.  I was in too much pain to go anywhere, let alone around the world.

Upon the recommendation of our Minnesota physician, amazed at our results, Tom is having a final endoscopy and a colonoscopy next week after having seen a local gastroenterologist yesterday, here in Scottsdale.  He too was amazed by his improvement.  He explained an important point.  One may not have Celiac disease (which Tom will be further tested for next week) and yet be sensitive to gluten. 

A few years ago, he had a DNA test for Celiac Disease, which stated “he had a likelihood of Celiac disease” but was not conclusive. We’ll apprise you of his result after the tests are completed next week.  The only conclusive test is a biopsy of the small intestine, which he will have.

For those of you yet to have a colonoscopy, please follow along with us. (You can sign up to receive an email when we prepare a new post by entering your email on the right side of our site.  You will not be further solicited). 

You may discover that this life-saving test is not painful, difficult, or embarrassing.  The only sacrifice is one day of a clear liquid-only diet and the drive to and from the facility.  IV medication makes this pain free leaving you with little or no memory of the test itself.  You are completely covered up during the procedure. 

I had put it off having this test myself, for almost 10 years, only to be pleasantly surprised at how relatively easy it was.  This will be Tom’s third procedure, required more frequently due to his past bowel issues.

Please understand, we are in no manner, trying to prescribe, diagnose, or claim to have any medical knowledge or experience other than that of the average layperson.  We simply want to share our experience with you, as we will as we travel the world.

Next week, we’ll post the results of Tom drinking the two little bottles of the prescribed,  SUPREP BOWEL PREP KIT, drinking one small bottle at 5 PM, the night before the procedure, and then again at 5:00 AM, the morning of the procedure. 

Once these two tests are completed and, providing the result is good which we expect, Tom will have no further testing until we eventually return to the US. Of course, if he has any new symptoms, we will do so wherever we may be.

His tests are next Thursday morning, December 6th.  We will begin a “blow by blow” description on Wednesday, his prep day, and he what eats and drinks, and his reaction to the two little bottles. Perhaps, not suitable for the squeamish.