If there's one thing I have learned--again and again--over the past few years, it's that I'm the proverbial canary in the coal mine in the presence of mold. Don't get me wrong--I'm no clean freak. I have been know to eat dirt on purpose and pay handsomely for quality fecal bacteria. Mold is just a different type of microorganism with a different kind of agenda.
If you followed my blog last year, you know I had high hopes for FMT and that I responded very well during my two-week treatment in England. The ensuing year simply flew by and I also just needed a break from blogging. I wanted to focus on myself, my projects, and my adventures. It was a great year and--if it's up to me--just the beginning of the next exciting chapter.
The blog gets better traffic than I'd expect, considering my gross neglect--but FMT is a hot topic. I suppose a treatment so taboo (and sometimes also miraculous) is bound to attract attention. A few people suffering with Crohn's and colitis have reached out over the past year and I hope my replies were helpful. If you are on the fence about FMT for yourself or a loved one, I hope you find my health update an honest (and perhaps even empowering) datum in a vast quagmire of differing opinions.
As far as ruminants go, lamb is just luscious. In England, this tasty meat is not relegated to the back corner of the case for consumption only on the occasional holiday or on the blog of some fanciful food geek. No, here, this finely flavored foodstuff gets its very own section in the meat department.
I love flavor and, for me, lamb has it. You will understand, then, why acknowledging my sensitivity to lamb was hard for me. My skin, of all things, dries and cracks when I eat it, and my gut doesn't feel great either. It is an experiment I tried several times in years past, without promising results. At the British market, the brimming shelves of lamb call--but their call I must refuse.
Tonight, it is with great excitement, that I announce an alternative: venison. While less abundant than lamb, venison is still easy to find in a British market. It offers more flavor than your typical supermarket beef--whether that beef is supposedly grass-fed or not--and spares me the skin and digestive distress.
Prepare to fill my hotel room with savory scents and delight my palate with hearty flavors (all without the accompanying immune dysfunction). Tonight, you will contain venison and you will be delicious.
The eighth day of my stay in Hitchin coincided with a British bank holiday. When I took a walk around lunchtime, the town was hopping. Vendors and artisans filled the town square and I browsed for a bit, enjoying the sights and smells. When I headed out later, on my evening shopping excursion, things were different--Hitchin was a ghost town. In spite of my diligent efforts, checking the Waitrose's hours on multiple websites, it was, in fact, closed.
It was a funny thing, though. On my way to Waitrose, for no conscious reason, I crossed the street earlier than I had on any day prior. Thanks to this spontaneous variation in routine, I stumbled upon the most marvelous dandelion patch in all of Hitchin.
After my serendipitous harvest--following the foragers' code, of course--I ventured off toward another store. Sure enough, the Sainsbury's was open and had plenty from which to choose. It was actually a larger market than the Waitrose I had been frequenting, albeit with a slightly more blue-collar feel. No pastured British pork spareribs here...but if I can make do in Tampa, Sainsbury's would work just fine.
It was my seventh night cooking dinner in Hitchin and the middle of a bank holiday in England (we would just say three-day weekend back home). It was also the point in my trip at which I started really longing for home.
Admittedly, I had also been rather aggressive with my new microbiota, consuming lots of raw vegetables, sometimes with lunch and dinner. This was a big departure from my digestive norm and, therefore, not one promoted by the clinic. I was supposed to eat well, but also take it easy. When my microbes asked for a break, I had just the solution.
Hitchin is a lovely place full of friendly people, ancient cobblestones, beautiful gardens, and many supermarkets within easy walking distance. I could hardly imagine a better place for a low-stress therapeutic treatment. While, in some ways, it feels like I just got here, I am quite ready to go home. I have received nine fecal microbiota transplants at the Taymount Clinic--only one remains.
Slipping into a routine and having fun with the blog helped me pass the time and provided more of a purpose than just therapeutic relaxation. (Two full weeks of that would probably get me committed.) While I blogged consistently about my quirky cooking shenanigans, the main reason for my trip was not to photograph food in my hotel room. This trip was about me. It was about taking the necessary steps to be as healthy as I can be. I was on a mission to right wrongs from long ago. I escaped my downward health spiral years ago when I committed to a therapeutic diet and then improved my regimen in the years that followed. The groundwork was laid--it was time for a therapy that would target something closer to the root cause of my ulcerative colitis, maybe even the root cause.
That was a big steak I ate yesterday. Granted, it was my choice to prioritize quality (grass-fed) over appropriateness of portion size (most of the custom-cut meats were conventional). In the end, some combination of my standards and my American appetite won out, and I enjoyed every bite. For what it's worth, I chose the smallest ribeye I could find.
In an effort to balance my diet a bit, I thought I would cut back on meat today. I had initially set my mind on protein fasting, but when I started feeling weak and instinctively stalking the birds in the garden out back, I decided otherwise. A protein fast is simply a period of time when one avoids eating all protein. As Dave Asprey discusses in The Bulletproof Diet, there are certain health benefits of doing so. If the topic of protein fasting interests you, check out his blog post about it.
...But tonight, my body--microbiota included--asked for meat and I intended to heed their call. Luckily, I had just snagged a can of Scottish pilchards to have on hand, just in case. What was a pilchard, exactly? I wasn't quite sure. Suffice it to say, I spared that pheasant out in the garden for one more day.
I received my fifth treatment at the Taymount Clinic and my gut felt good. Lunch had already turned into a culinary adventure (in a good way) and I was eager to continue eating well, for the benefit of my microbes, of course. This meant seeking diversity of colors and flavors, eating some of my vegetables raw, and including some high-quality animal protein.
I often hear culinary herbs spoken of as if they are something altogether different from vegetables--as if we need a sanctioned reason to use them. Tonight, basil was not held to a different standard. While it may be chock-full of plant medicine, it's also just an edible plant. I'm a real rebel.
It was day four of my two-week FMT stint in Hitchin, UK. I was feeling good and I was cabbage-rich. In revisionist hindsight, the advance cabbage purchase wasn't so much an impulse as it was a sound investment. I had just finished reading about the benefits of leafy greens, specifically those of the brassica family (of which cabbage is a member). I also don't see tall green pointed cabbages like this back home. Clearly, I just struck while the iron was hot.
When I first started cooking in hotels, I went small, placing a high emphasis on convenience. This often meant I ate sardines with lunch and with dinner. If I was feeling adventurous, I might eat meat not out of a can. It was not long, though, before I tired of the canned-fish-for-days routine, realizing that empty sardine cans actually smell worse than spent meat wrappers. With daily housekeeping, what difference does it make anyway?
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.