Switching to a Plant-Based Diet Helped Relieve My Pain from Crohn’s Disease
Panagiotis T., had been suffering from Crohn’s disease for 13 years when online research led him to try the plant-based diet. To his greatest surprise, in only two months the abdominal pain was gone. Today he shares his story with the readers of The Beet with compassion and authenticity.
The Beet: Panagiotis, can you share with us the backstory of your illness?
P: 13 years ago, I started suffering from abdominal pain, joint soreness, and tiredness. I was very often stressed out because of work at that time and thought that was the main reason for the pain. I was sleeping 10 hours a night but was constantly tired. After discovering anomalies in my stool a year later, I decided to see a doctor. That’s when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 24 years old in 2009. In fact, I had a very high CRP (C-Reactive Protein) level, which is an indicator of inflammation in the body, produced by the liver. I was also lacking iron, magnesium and many vitamins. The impact on my life was terrible; I was constantly in pain, I had no energy, suffered from abdominal pain after every meal and my girlfriend had to help me get out of bed in the morning because my joints were hurting too much.
The doctors then decided to put me on corticosteroid to stop the crisis episodes, with all the nasty side effects that came with it: Weight gain, hypertension, change in face shape, etc. A year later, after a bad crisis, my medication was switched to twice-monthly injections for inflammatory diseases. Despite being on medication for nine years I was still constantly in pain and the blood statistics were not improving. I was still tired, sore and could not think clearly. I was a multi-awarded web developer respected among my peers but was suffering in silence in the intimacy of my home.
At the time, my diet was very high in carbohydrates, meat, cheese and eggs. I saw seven doctors and two nutritionists in 13 years.
TB: What triggered your interest in a plant-based diet?
P: Five months ago, during a crisis episode, my CRP level reached a high of 17 (the normal maximum is five). The doctor ordered a colonoscopy and the results showed intestinal ulcerations. I was in shock and I had to do something about it. I started searching the internet for recipes to clean the gut and the intestines and came across an article talking about the plant-based diet as a way to relieve symptoms from Crohn’s disease. The seed was planted in my brain. I continued to search and watched many documentaries and interviews of plant-based doctors.
At this point, I figured I had nothing to lose and decided to switch to the plant-based diet overnight. I felt apprehension at the beginning because I grew up in a butcher’s family in Greece and firmly believed humans need animal products for their protein intakes. I was eating meat at least twice a day, and was avoiding legumes and fibers as per all my doctors’ recommendations. I was worried I would be bloated. When you have inflammatory conditions you are told that it is better to eat refined food like white rice, pasta, meat, dairy, etc. In the end, it was not that hard, you just have to reorganize your kitchen and search for new recipes the first week. It is so easy to find inspiration online!
After a week, my body was already liking it, so I decided to extend another week, then another week… now it’s been 5 months. I saw the change and improvement happen progressively but after two months the abdominal pain was completely gone. Two weeks ago, I did a blood test and my CRP level was back under normal range, I could not believe it. I am still on medications but I am super confident that I should be off them very soon.
TB: What are the other benefits of the plant-based diet that you noticed?
P: Switching to a plant-based diet not only helped remove the pain, but it was a wakeup call for me. I started caring for my body more. I made my way to yoga classes to heal. I felt like I did not respect my body all those years, but was now going to make it better. I had never thought of questioning my diet before and I wish I had sooner! I lost so much time eating the way I was eating when an easy inexpensive solution was available to make me feel better. The fact that my diet is not responsible for hundreds of animals dying every year is undeniably a plus.
TB: What would you say to anyone reading that is suffering from a chronic illness?
P: I recommend watching What The Health, The Game Changers, Forks over Knives on Netflix as well as following these plant-based doctors: Dr. Michael Klaper, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Dr. Michael Greger and Dr. John McDougal. Also, becoming plant-based for your health means integrating more vegetables, legumes and fruits in your diet and avoid processed foods as much as possible (i.e. eating Oreos and burgers is probably not the way to go!). I would add that most doctors you see are not educated enough on the plant-based diet as a way to cure chronic inflammatory diseases, so you might face resistance but I encourage you to research, try for yourself and see how you feel.