Guest post, meal plan, and photos by Natalie Holladay
I didn’t expect the year 2016 to start out with a diagnosis of IBD for my son. A family history of Celiac Disease left me almost hopefully anticipating to hear something familiar as the verdict. I desperately wanted an accurate diagnosis so that we could start working to heal his damage and reduce his symptoms. I knew a few people with Crohn’s Disease, but knew very little about IBD, symptoms, management or prognosis. I’m not sure I had ever heard of – or paid attention if I had – anyone I knew with Ulcerative Colitis.
What I had expected – if the diagnosis had been Celiac Disease – was to manage it with a dietary approach. Generations on my husband’s side have Celiac Disease so we were used to family gatherings having very specific menu items with carefully considered ingredients. When I queried our specialist on what kind of diet to feed my son based on his diagnosis, he suggested little past limiting sweets, carbohydrates and processed meats like sausage. We faced a delay in filling the prescribed medications, which gave me time to consult Dr. Google. The result? SCD.
I didn’t expect to spend the rest of my 2016 glued to my kitchen. I didn’t expect the huge temporary spike in my grocery bill. I didn’t expect the keen social isolation because so much in our relationships revolves around food. I didn’t expect to plant a garden on my tiny city lot, buy a quarter of a cow, track down a local chicken farmer, buy everything I could in bulk and wistfully glance at my pantry space, wishing it could transform into a second fridge. I didn’t expect to vet my dishwasher’s efficiency by running it 20 or more times per week.
Within a few days, though, there were small changes. The screaming upon waking and tremendous mood swings started to let up. Within a month, my then-4 year old produced the very first normal bowel movement of his entire LIFE. (Looking back, I realize now that symptoms were present even in his infancy.) Within a year, all of his lab tests resulted in normal levels. (It’s possible that the lab results would have been different even earlier, but our specialist took a hands-off approach based on his growth and other symptoms improving, and did not order earlier or more frequent tests.)
If you are new to SCD, or considering it, here’s what you can expect: lots of work. (It’s not hard…it’s just work.) A new approach to creating meals. Buying almost nothing that comes in a package with an ingredient list. Learning to appreciate a really good kitchen knife. Mastering homemade yogurt. (I’ll nail down sauerkraut and pickles one of these days…try, try again.) Learning what real, whole food tastes like. Learning that kids really will eat green stuff…and yellow, purple, white, orange and red stuff. Feeling full, nourished and satisfied. Realizing that this way of eating – LIVING – leaves you deprived of nothing.
I put plenty of physical energy into preparing 3 fresh meals a day, but when I’m not in the kitchen, I’m mentally plotting the next 2-4 meals. I don’t formally menu plan, but there’s a rhythm to our chicken-beef-pork-fish and squash-carrot-rutabaga-beet menus. I strive to have at most meals: protein, veggies of at least 2 colors (something leafy, something carby) and, once we had intro’d raw produce, something fresh and crunchy. I tend to avoid complicated renditions of casseroles or “comfort foods”. I try to not overload our budget or our tummies with lots of nut flour baking, although it can be a great way to pack in extra calories when needed!
I was inspired by the call for real-life menu plans in the SCD Families group to document visually everything my son ate for 7 days. I make one meal offering for the whole family (2 adults, 3 kids) and admit I sometimes prepare potato for other members, but overall, we all thoroughly enjoy the food of SCD. I hope you do, too.