Today was Day 12 of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and the jury was still out. My symptoms had plateaued. This had happened before, and it was maddening, to get better but not all the way better, over and over. It had happened with a few med regime changes by now.
I was down to two or three BMs a day, no blood in my stools for several days, and only rare pain or discomfort. All these changes were, of course, very welcome. But I still consistently had diarrhea. And I still hadn’t shaken my fatigue.
Proponents of the SCD would say it was too soon to make a judgment, that the diet needed a full month trial. The fatigue might be par for the course: When switching to low-carb diets, a “low-carb flu” is common in the first few weeks, as your body adjusts to getting energy from protein and fat instead of carbs. Fatigue is one of the main symptoms.
Still, after the roller coaster of the last couple months, I wasn’t yet convinced that this diet was fully working.
What I was glad about, though, was everything I was learning. As I had written in my journal, I had begun to appreciate colitis as a learning experience, mentally as well as spiritually.
On the mental side: Forcing myself to give up grains and legumes for a month took away most of the easy meals I used to make. I was gaining a new repertoire in the kitchen, another step toward developing a better relationship with food. I had always wanted to want to cook more, which I knew would foster a truly healthy diet. But up to now, I had been lazy. This disease was forcing me to change and to finally learn. Sadly, I could see that if I had never contracted colitis, I may never have made the time.
I was learning about nutrition. At last, details were sticking that I could never get to stick in my head before. Details like:
- Energy is all about glucose, the simplest sugar.
- Glucose is found in honey, but the body also breaks down other foods into glucose, too. Noodles are basically glucose waiting to be digested.
- Protein, too, can be broken down to glucose. It can also be turned into ketones, our alternative source of energy.
- Along with energy (calories), we need nutrients–vitamins and other molecules that our bodies need to function.
I had heard the term “empty calories” before, but never really understood what it meant. Now I did. Whenever I had eaten a plate of noodles and cheese, a common snack before my colitis began, I had gotten calories and energy but not the other piece, the vital building materials my body needed.
So no matter what happened with this diet, my new knowledge would stick with me. That was something.
And on the spiritual side: I was beginning to see that I’d been looking at my colitis the wrong way. Often, for the last few months, I had felt as though life was on hold, especially motherhood. It is possible to have a healthy pregnancy when you’re not in remission, but my weight and energy were so low that pregnancy didn’t seem safe in my case. My doctors and I agreed on that. I found it ironic and heartbreaking that I had hemmed and hawed for years about being ready for a baby, but now that I couldn’t have a baby (yet), I suddenly wanted one so badly. Each time another friend posted a baby picture or pregnancy announcement on Facebook, I felt stronger pangs of sadness and frustration and worry.
A friend had once asked me why I might want a baby. After listing off the usual reasons–I’ve always wanted kids, I’d love to see Ron as a dad, I want a family to fill out our home, it would be fulfilling–I paused and added one more. “I think one of the main reasons I want kids is to learn from them. Watching a baby be born and grow into a child and become an adult… I would learn so much from that. About humanity. About where I came from and how I developed, about the world. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes–that would be so amazing. And having kids would teach me to be better, more magnanimous and patient, less selfish. I want to learn all those things. I want my kids to teach me.”
I still wanted all that. But in the meantime I could learn a lot, this year, from my colitis. It was like I did have a baby, just a baby of an unexpected kind, this year. Something fussy and needy and challenging to manage. Something all-consuming, that had turned my whole life upside down, but that was forcing me to be better in some ways. I could learn many valuable life lessons, right now, right here. I was having to move slower, slow down, appreciate little things. I was focusing largely on my own health, something I’d neglected before. I was learning to reach out for support from Ron and family and friends. All these things, and the many other lessons, would probably make me a better person. And they would make me a better mother someday.
Again and again, I had read that patience is needed with colitis. I was trying to be patient. This was going to take some faith.