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.
We have all had that moment of panic, whether it be from food poisoning, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or too much Taco Bell, where we frantically plotted our route to the nearest toilet. Time slowed down. Feet felt like miles. We even gained a sudden interest in mathematics, calculating, in real-time, our statistical probability of reaching the can.
In the movies (Bridesmaids, Dumb and Dumber) this stuff is funny but, in real life, it is just awful. Imagine that your gut was always one trigger event away from that state. How calm would you feel, for instance, sitting in traffic? How would you enjoy navigating the long customs line at an airport? How would you enjoy sitting down to dinner with family, or perhaps the person you are dating?
IBD was a constant reminder that I was unwell, that things could change in an instant, and that there was no margin for error. Being present and engaged in a moment was a lost sensation from a previous life. My mind and my gut were not checking in with each other periodically--they were constantly and neurotically negotiating who was really in control.
People with IBD don't really talk about this stuff for a few reasons. Colon-talk is definitely not sexy, not generally socially acceptable, and not something ongoing IBD sufferers are proud of. We would all rather forget about it--we just can't. Maybe we even think that by ignoring the problem it will eventually rectify itself. (I tried that strategy for a while at the onset and it worked miserably.)
I spent the last few years fine-tuning food, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, and various other lifestyle changes. I regained control of my body weight and I got my energy back, all while ditching my prescription medicine. I could have continued on this path longer, hoping to finally escape the clutches of disease, but I missed my mind and I was tired of waiting. I missed being present, hanging out, relaxing, and just being me. I was ready to focus on living.
As I lay on the clinic table today, I began working on my FMT affirmation. If the concept of affirmation is new to you, consider it a positive, secular, prayer-like thing I say to myself in order to encourage a more positive outcome. Several books I have read lately strongly encourage the practice of daily affirmations and I find them a useful tool to support positive goal setting. I offer this affirmation freely to anyone who chooses to pursue a similar treatment. If you know others to whom it may be relevant, please share. If you reprint it, please cite the source. I hope it reaches many others.*
Ethan's FMT Affirmation
I unconditionally receive this implant as the seed for my new intestinal microbiome.
I am here, today, because I believe in my unlimited potential and I am ready to achieve vast gains in health.
I trust my new microbes to lead the redevelopment of my immune system, to act respectfully toward my body's cells, and to act aggressively only toward those that would do me harm.
I acknowledge that there is only a semantic distinction between the microbes and me; I depend on them for digestion and immunity, and they depend on me for mobility and nourishment.
I will feed my new microbes only the highest quality food because that is what we deserve. I will intuitively honor their feedback and, in turn, they will help support my goals.
Together, we comprise one whole being, mutually striving for health, happiness, and vitality.
I am grateful to the sample donor who shared part of him or herself so that I can become whole.
I am grateful to the lab staff who carefully prepared this sample to maximize its strength and viability.
I am grateful to the Taymount Clinic for rising above the taboo of fecal microbiota transplantation, and for their ongoing research and leadership in the field.
I am grateful to the practitioners who compassionately administered the implant with skill and grace.
I have the courage to be here today, receiving this transplant, and I will carry my courage far beyond the walls of this clinic.
Today and all of my days hereafter, I will use the gift of this therapy to live an extraordinary life, to take positive action, and to share my gifts with others.
It's bedtime for my new pets and me--I hear rebuilding an immune system is exhausting. Thanks for being a part of my journey!
In good health,
*Blogger's note: I slept on my affirmation, recited it to one of the lovely Taymount staff members today, and made a few minor tweaks. Maybe one day it will grace the walls of the clinic, helping others, just as that heartfelt inscription helped me.
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.