Gruen admitted that the first time he tried the diet, he couldn’t stick with it. The body’s adjustment to the diet during the first two weeks is extremely painful, and many patients, like him, can’t get through it. But Gruen said that his Crohn’s symptoms were so serious that he was forced to try the diet a second time, and now knowing what to expect, he succeeded.
Gruen’s doctor was skeptical, but he didn’t try to stop him. However, he urged Yitzy to stay on his medications while on the diet. One key to Yitzy’s success the second time was careful preparation. His wife learned how to cook a variety of foods which meet the strict requirements of the diet. It felt strange giving up eating challah on Shabbos, but defeating Crohn’s was worth it. It also helps when other members of the family are eating the same things, so the patient doesn’t feel deprived. Yitzy learned to take his SCD foods with him wherever he went, and to eat an SCD meal immediately before going to a party or a dinner, so that he wouldn’t be tempted to cheat. It also helps to have another Crohn’s sufferer as a partner on the diet, a sponsor to help support one another at times of weakness.
He emphasized that with the SCD diet there is no margin for error, no tolerance at all for cheating. But the benefits were worth it. After getting over the initial period of extreme pain and discomfort, Yitzy started to feel stronger and healthier. After six months on the diet, he felt confident enough to stop taking his medication, and doing so caused no ill effects. The next time he was examined by his doctor, who pronounced himself satisfied with Yitzy’s progress, he told him that he had stopped taking the medication. The doctor shrugged, unimpressed. Yitzy continued to improve. After another few months on the diet, Yitzy started to cautiously work his way back onto regular foods, one at a time.
When his doctor examined his intestines with a colonoscopy, he could find no signs of active disease. The blockages had cleared up. Long painfully thin because his body could not properly absorb nutrients, Yitzy started to put on weight. Eventually, he came to believe that he was fully cured of the disease. He was able to start eating dairy foods, with no ill effects, even though he had suffered from lactose intolerance since he was a child.
Now, seven years later, promoting the Gottschall diet to other Crohn’s sufferers has become one of Yitzy’s missions in life. He and his wife meet with Crohn’s couples to give them advice and encouragement. There are more like Yitzy, throughout the US and in Israel, who credit the SCD diet with curing of Crohn’s. Today they provide support and resources for those who have tried the traditional medical treatments, and are still looking for something that will work better.
One resource which provides all kinds of raw and prepared foods and ingredients for people the SCD diet is an on-line site: www.digestivewellness.com, It was started by a Crohn’s sufferer named Rochel Weiss, whose personal experience and success with the Gottschall diet parallel’s Gruen’s, and she, too, feels like she is on a mission. Operated with the assistance of members of her family, the on-line store offers a full range of SCD compliant-products, including baking and cooking ingredients, snacks and beverages, condiments and sauces, as well as lots of advice and encouragement for those trying to stay on the diet for the 2 years it typically takes to cure them, if it works.
The SCD diet doesn’t work for everyone. Some Crohn’s sufferers try it, and stick to it, but see no improvement. According to Dr. Stuart Ditchek, who is one of the few doctors in Brooklyn who actually recommends the SCD diet, it seems to work with about 80% of his Crohn’s patients who can stick with it long enough. Apparently there are significant individual variations among those who suffer from the disease, and factors which determine whether the diet will or will not work for them.
There are other types of diets and unconventional treatments that are available for Crohn’s sufferers, but they do not have the successful track record of the SCD diet, nor, in Dr. Ditchek’s opinion, an equally sound nutritional and scientific basis.
Ditchek notes that it is very hard to do a traditional double-blind scientific study of how a diet works, because no two people follow a diet exactly the same way. That is why many doctors are still skeptical of the SCD diet’s effectiveness. But it is hard to argue with the successful results that many patients have had with it, avoiding surgery, and being able to stay symptom free with medication. Even though the results are still considered anecdotal, they are impressive.