Within minutes of entering the Taymount Clinic two days ago, I had an inspiring message sitting in my lap. It was an inscription on the inside cover of a book, apparently donated by a former FMT patient.
I'm already all-in with the food as medicine idea, but one part of this message really caught my attention: "Take your mind out of your gut, check out of it and focus on living..."
With those simple words, this former patient exquisitely captured my why; I felt so completely understood. The why to which I refer is my reason for pursuing FMT. My gastroenterologist tells me I'm fine. My C-reactive protein--a common biomarker of inflammation--is low. I have strategies for eating, sleeping, stress reduction, and travel that let me live an outwardly normal life (well, mostly). So why take two weeks from home, work and family to spend thousands of dollars on this treatment? Because I don't just want improved digestive health--I want my mind back.
I am in Hitchin, UK, dedicated to my mission of optimally nourishing my new gut microbes. I have a bad track record eating at restaurants, no matter how diligently and politely I communicate with the chefs and wait staff. That is why I no longer eat at restaurants. My health is too important to squander on social eating (usually of dressed up industrial food). At a time when I'm especially focused on minimizing inflammation and maximizing nutrition, I have no desire to play around with pub food, gluten-free or otherwise.
Hitchin is a quaint town, offering many lovely places to stay, but I really wanted to be within walking distance of the clinic. I could not find affordable accommodations in town that offered a kitchen, so I booked my room and bought a hotplate. I share this information not to brag, but to inspire anyone struggling with the social pressure of eating on the road or the sense of overwhelm that comes from being out of your digestive comfort zone (at least, if you live with IBD). Travel need not mean a constantly rumbling gut. With a little planning and a modest disregard for social norms (i.e. self-advocacy), you too can be a hotel gourmet.
This is what I ate on day one of my FMT treatment. I am here for two weeks and I am on a mission. Let us begin.
Yesterday I chose the doorway to health. I chose this door because I have a larger mission in life than managing a disease, because I deserve it, because I was ready, and because it would have been really weird to walk into Bradshaw Johnson Chartered Accountants and ask for a fecal microbiota transplant.
The truth is, I made this choice a long time ago, and not just because I already paid for my treatment. I chose health the day I vowed to never eat gluten again. I chose health the day I finally opened Elaine Gottschall's Breaking the Vicious Cycle with the intent of reading it cover to cover. I chose health when I later customized my version of The Specific Carbohydrate Diet because my body needed more fat and carbohydrate. I chose health when I told my amazingly supportive wife (then fiancée) that I was going to defeat this disease, no matter how long it took.
Sickness or health? Scalding hot water or ice cold water? Today, in the quaint town of Hitchin, UK, both of these choices are mine.
My first of ten FMT treatments at the Taymount Clinic is this afternoon--less than one hour until launch! I’m excited about this--not necessarily the things going up my butt part, but the getting and staying healthy part. Just the preparation protocol for this treatment revealed how delicate the balance of my health really is. I have no regrets, though. It is all part of my journey to achieve that next level of health--a level where I’m focused on positive things, not fretting over every gurgle in my gut.
FMT stands for fecal microbiota transplant and it's a hot topic in the health world right now. While different clinics have different methods, the idea remains the same: take fecal microorganisms from a healthy person and implant them into a sick person. For those suffering from chronic Clostridium Difficile (C. diff.) infection, FMT is life-saver, in many cases offering almost immediate recovery from a potentially deadly overgrowth.
It turns out that gut health is critically important to a whole bunch of the diseases of civilization and many--if not all--of these diseases involve some dysfunction of the immune system. (I'm looking at you, colitis, Crohn's, celiac, heart disease, thyroid conditions, cancer, MS...) Because most of our immune system resides in our guts, FMT has shown promise for treating many of these conditions and is being actively studied in the US and abroad.
As someone who has lived with ulcerative colitis for many years, I realize the importance of food on my health. Why is The Specific Carbohydrate Diet so effective for those with active inflammatory bowel disease? Because it modifies the microbes that live in the gut. Why do antibiotics often trigger C. diff. infections? Because they dramatically skew the microbial balance in a patient's gut.
I'm Ethan, a guy whose life used to be controlled by ulcerative colitis. As I systematically tested diets, treatments, and all types of health advice to heal my colon, I learned a lot about my own biology and also how to cook without compromise. I'm here to share the best (and sometimes worst) of that journey with you.