“This diet is just too hard to do” said the high-caliber gastroenterologist as he explained to me that, while he believes the diet can help, he will not recommend it to his patients. I wish he could meet Anna and her family. They believe that when there is a will, there is a way. Anna meets challenges with resourcefulness and determination, and her efforts are worth it!
Dr. Elizabeth Gardner, who practices internal medicine, shares her daughter Anna’s journey:
My daughter Anna was diagnosed with UC a year ago at age 14, soon after going off to boarding school. She was having 30 to 40 bloody and mucous-covered stools daily accompanied by bloating, pain, and fevers. Her colonoscopy showed severe pancolitis and she was placed on 60 mg of prednisone daily with the plan being to taper her slowly over a 3 to 4 month period. She was also started on Lialda, a form of mesalamine.
One of my patients with UC came in to see me the week after Anna's diagnosis. She has had a mild disease course for over 30 years and she attributed this to following a diet called The Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I immediately called my daughter to tell her what I had learned. Interestingly, she had been reading about SCD online and wanted to give it a try. We had already been following a “mostly Paleo” diet at our house for several years so the diet was not foreign or strange to us at all. The challenge would be to help our daughter execute a similar diet 100% of the time. At boarding school.
Her advisor took her to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for the famous chicken soup and yogurt and she got to work in the student kitchen. Her bloody stool came to a screeching halt within two days of beginning the diet. I cooked and froze a month of meals and delivered them to school in a massive cooler. Within a month, she was off prednisone and completely asymptomatic on SCD and Lialda.
She has been in complete clinical remission with normal fecal calprotectin levels for ten months now. She is 100% SCD compliant, including during a two week mission trip to India and a one week trip to Mexico. Anna starts her day with a smoothie made of homemade yogurt, fresh fruit, and avocado. Her boarding school has been supportive -- they make sure she has legal meats and vegetables for lunch. I continue to make and freeze her dinners. When she is home we make SCD treats together like date nut bars and almond meal and fruit tarts. She says adhering to the diet is not a problem as long as she is always prepared!
Her doctor was impressed by her health and dedication to therapeutic diet at her follow up last month. She is of ideal weight -- 5 foot 7 and 130 pounds. She is the star of her cross country and soccer teams. Her only other health issue is allergies -- hay fever and anaphylaxis to bee venom. She takes monthly immunotherapy shots for both.
She plans to continue the diet indefinitely and Lialda for at least 2 years. We are thankful that research is being done on therapeutic diets for IBD. Most of all, we are thankful that she is a healthy, happy teenager. We understand that IBD is a variable disease, and that she may face relapse and remissions in the future. But we also proceed with confidence that her therapeutic diet has improved her disease course thus far.
I asked Anna if she had any advice for a teenager with IBD considering following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. She had a few thoughts. First, she said that having a stash of SCD treats at all times is critical. When she is invited to a party, or to a friend’s dorm room for a movie, she grabs something from the freezer and does not feel left out or deprived. She also said that she tries to remember how sick she felt when she was diagnosed and this motivates her to do everything she can to stay well. Finally, she said that she accepts that there will be times when SCD compliance is difficult, like in foreign travel, but that this will not keep her from getting out and doing what she wants to do. She admits that she missed a few meals on her trips this year because there was simply no SCD legal option. She says that was a small price to pay to see the Taj Mahal! I agree.