Share Your Story: Diet and stress management healed my gut and helped me get pregnant

Thank you to Janine Wheeler-Ristaino for sharing your story with this community. I truly hope that this story inspires all of you to continue working toward optimal health and wellness. Here is Janine’s story:

Based on my own experience overcoming a serious, chronic illness, I am convinced that anyone who is committed to improving their health will succeed beyond their expectations.

My health has dramatically improved since I became interested in Paleo nutrition and holistic medicine over a year ago. I’ve had ulcerative colitis since I was 18, and after a course of antibiotics that I took in November 2010, my illness became more of a problem than it had ever been. I had experienced acute flares in the past, but none that lasted more than a few weeks.

My symptoms were debilitating and unpredictable. I was frequently running to the bathroom, and there was often blood. I had a lot of pain throughout my entire digestive system that also spread to my back. I also experienced chronic insomnia, partly caused by being woken up by the urge to use the bathroom. All of this, in addition to being unable to tolerate most foods and malabsorption of nutrients, led to a general feeling of weakness, fatigue, and nausea.

In addition to experiencing all of the physical symptoms, knowing that my colon was chronically inflamed caused me to have a great deal of anxiety. I was diagnosed with pancolitis many years ago, which means that the entire colon is affected. I knew that if my health didn’t improve, I had a significant risk of losing part or all of my colon and of colon cancer.

Since Western medicine had little to offer me (besides additional, stronger medications), I decided to look for natural treatments.

Holistic, investigative medicine has completely changed my perspective on health. I’ve become much more analytical in my approach to health problems. While I was still having serious symptoms, I read a great deal, listened to podcasts and radio shows, and communicated with holistic medicine practitioners about possible causes and treatments. I also communicated with people in the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and Low dose naltrexone Yahoo Groups, and gradually felt better.

Chris Kresser is one of the people who have helped me the most. I’ve read many of his articles and listened to many of his podcasts and radio shows, and I’ve learned so much as a result. Because of him, I regularly read articles on ScienceDaily.com and PubMed.

His article “Living with Chronic Illness: The Power of Acceptance” offered a balanced perspective early in this whole process. After I read his article “Tribute to Darlene Cohen: Finding Joy in the Heart of Pain”, I read her book, “Turning Suffering Inside Out” and her wise insights and comforting tone really helped to get me through a difficult time last year. Her perspective on dealing with pain greatly influenced my own.

My acupuncturist and holistic gastroenterologist have also helped me a great deal. They have told me about likely causes of my symptoms and about numerous, non-toxic treatments. I am very grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for recommending the wellness center at which these health care providers practice.

Stress management, including qi gong, meditation, yoga, and sleeping regular hours have also been very beneficial in my life. The methods I’ve been using to manage stress have helped me to focus and to become a stronger person. Practicing them regularly has made problems appear to be much more manageable, and has led to a better perspective on life in general.

The only medication I am currently taking is low dose naltrexone (LDN), which doesn’t have any side effects and is much safer than the other medications that are prescribed for ulcerative colitis. For years, I was taking six Asacol tablets daily, and prednisone and Colocort as needed, all of which have disturbing side effects. The gastroenterologist I’ve been seeing for many years was considering 6-MP, but I immediately decided against it because of the serious side effects of that medication.

Because my health has improved such a great deal, I was able to become pregnant three months ago. About a month before I became pregnant, I started following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and Chris Kresser’s recommendations in the Healthy Baby Code. Last week I had an ultrasound and the baby has a strong heartbeat and seems to be very active, so I highly recommend the diet that I have been following.

What has helped the most is the fact that last year, I decided to do everything I could to cure my illness. I also realized that I couldn’t do this alone. After making that decision, the goal of achieving health became my focus and I started applying multiple approaches on a daily basis. Although most of the time I had complete faith that I would achieve this, I did become discouraged at times, but I kept going, and am so glad that I did. I’ve put a great deal of effort into becoming healthy, and it has been completely worthwhile.

I’ve learned so much and feel so grateful for how far I’ve come, that I want to share my story and everything I’ve learned so that others can also achieve much better health. I no longer feel as if I have an illness because I haven’t had any ulcerative colitis symptoms in months. I am so grateful that becoming interested in the Paleo/Primal lifestyle has led to all of this.

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  1. Vanessa says

    Hi Janine,

    Thanks for sharing your story, and congratulations on the pregnancy! I also followed the Healthy Baby Code, and am 14 weeks pregnant. :) Fingers crossed that we both have healthy pregnancies!

    I did not realize that there were holistic gastroenterlogists– is he/she a naturopathic doctor? Can you send me the name of the person you worked with? My dad has an unusual issue that none of the MD gastroenterologists he went to have been able to figure out. Maybe I can convince him to work with a holistic doctor.

    Vanessa

    • Janine says

      Hi Vanessa,

      Congratulations to you too!

      The gastroenterologist I started seeing earlier this year is a medical doctor who practices at D’Arcy Wellness Clinic in Natick, Massachusetts, where I was seeing Betty Woo, L.Ac. His name is Arthur N. Gertler, M.D. He recommended LDN, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and other non-toxic treatments to me during my initial appointment with him. My impression is that he started focusing on holistic treatments in recent years.

      Janine

  2. says

    Congratulations on regaining your health and your pregnancy! I’ve driven by that clinic many times, and stopped by once to check out their supplements, but knew nothing else of the place or the practioners. I love my holistic doc in Wellesley, but I’m so glad to know of another option.

    • Janine says

      Thanks Heather! Your comments are appreciated, and I’m glad to know of another option, in case I ever need one.

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