Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
22 Feb

I Am Finally on the Right Path to Optimum Health and Happiness

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!


Whenever someone asks me about my history with Ulcerative Colitis I respond with something along the lines of, “It feels like a bad dream that will forever be imprinted in the back of my mind.” It was 2006, my senior year of high school, everything was going fairly well. I was a healthy (or so I thought) 6’3″, 180 lb. 18 year old about to graduate high school and head into the next stage of my life: college. However, life had different plans in store for me. Around my second semester I began to feel consistently nauseous.  It felt like anything I ate (S.A.D. mind you) would just pass right through me as though I hadn’t absorbed any energy/nutrients. I figured it was a relatively normal side effect from consistent partying that year, though it persisted. Bouts of nausea would come and go, as would horrible abdominal pains that would make even the toughest man curl into the fetal position. I decided it was time to get checked out. I had my first colonoscopy done within weeks of my first symptoms.

“You have Ulcerative Colitis,” the doctor said. I remember my mother and I looking at each other absolutely confused. Neither of us had heard of this illness before. He proceeded to inform us that Ulcerative Colitis is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which is an inflammation of the colon. I remember pondering for a moment about what all of this could mean. I finally looked up and asked, “So what do I do?” He responded with, “Well, we can treat it with different medications depending on which one you is most beneficial to you.” “Treat?,” I thought. “You mean I have to live like this for the rest of my life?” I remember the doctor’s face vividly…it was an expression of reservation, confusion, and sadness, as if he were trying to formulate the wisest, yet least alarming way possible. “Not necessarily. A lot of people go into full remission with the right medication.” I carefully considered his response and asked, “How is this disease caused?” He looked back at me regretfully, “Unfortunately we don’t really know.” I didn’t know what to say to that. Still completely shocked and puzzled at what I was told, I continued through the next few months now under the supervision of a gastroenterologist and given several medications to take daily.

Sadly, things only got worse from there, I missed my college SAT tests on three different occasions due to having virtually no energy, constant joint and abdominal pains, as well as never-ceasing nausea. My friends and family would wonder where I was, why I wasn’t answering their phone calls, and why I would never leave the house anymore. My attempts to eat were pitiful, and as a result I was losing weight fast. Fast-forward two years later…After several failed medications and treatments from pharmaceutical to alternative, I ended up at a emaciated weight of 127 lbs only sleeping perhaps 2-4 hours per night.

Before surgery and the Primal Blueprint

I’ll never forget the feeling I had during this period of my life. It was as if I was on the brink of life and death, a sort of limbo. Nothing seemed real anymore. After stubbornly refusing to go to a doctor (due to my strong distaste for the medical field at that point), my father more or less forced me to our family clinic. My family doctor looked me over with noticeable concern, checking my blood pressure/pulse three separate times. He looked up at me and said, “You need to go to the hospital immediately.” My dad quickly rushed me to the E.R. and within an hour or so I was wheeled into a room and pumped full of pain-killers and fluids. I remember my father telling me what the doctor had told him, which is something I’ll never forget, “If you would have brought him in any later, he could have died.”

The good news is I stabilized, albeit only temporarily. Through the following months my weight shifted like crazy, the medications stopped working, and I was back at square one. All of the false hope I was getting from each new medication I would try and ultimately fail was taking its toll on me not only physically but mentally as well. My only other option to consider was surgery, in which I finally agreed to. My doctor recommended a three-step surgery. My first surgery was a total colectomy (removal of the entire large intestine) resulting in my need to wear a colostomy bag for nine months while my surgery site healed. My second step was to construct a “J-pouch,” which is basically the conversion of part of your small intestine into a a “J” shape to form a make-shift colon. Step two lasted a few months to let the J-pouch heal up while I still used the colostomy bag. My third and final step was to reconnect the plumbing, so to speak. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I don’t regret it for a minute.

My symptoms decreased to a manageable level, allowing me to eventually become independent, living and working on my own. Though the actual Colitis was at a stand-still, I was constantly bloated and sick, and my J-pouch would develop chronic pouchitis (infection of the pouch) which would be temporarily resolved by very powerful antibiotics such as Flagyl and Ciprofloxacin, but would eventually reappear. All of these chronic infections I was getting didn’t make sense. I was cured right? This shouldn’t be happening.

Still bloated and sick

Well that’s when I really began analyzing my diet, which eventually  brought me to your book, The Primal Blueprint.

When I finally ditched the SAD diet and started living primally, (eliminating processed foods and most importantly, GRAINS and adding more healthy fats, plants, and animals) I noticed the pain had been reduced to a minimum, my weight stabilized, and I had no more bloating which would usually appear after a good carb/grain-dense meal. This seemed to be working for me, so I stuck with it. After several months of living primally, at the age of 24, a stable weight of 182 lbs, and a height 6’4″ I can safely say that I am in the best shape of my life and feel better than I ever did pre-Colitis. My energy levels are stable. In fact, I hardly ever get mid-day crashes unless I eat something I shouldn’t (which only reminds me that I’m moving on a path towards the dark-side and I better recalibrate.) I lost over 30 lbs. of fat and gained a significant amount of lean muscle mass, but most importantly, is that I feel healthy. While I may never be “normal” again, I know that I am finally on the right path to optimum health and a life full of happiness. Thank you Mark for the selfless wisdom that you have imparted to myself and many others that have conquered their trials and tribulations via The Primal Blueprint.

From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

Kyel - After Primal


You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Awesome Job! Amazing!

    Matt wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • Great message to read, as I begin the journey.

      Steph wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • What an awesome story, I’ve recently been diagnosed. Your story was not only informative, but inspirational, thank you! You look great, so glad to hear you’re feeling better!

      Laura wrote on May 31st, 2013
  2. Honestly, I just want to hug you. That had to be horribly difficult to face, and especially at the age you faced it.

    It’s great that Primal has helped though. :)

    Crystal wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • +1 I had the same reaction! He was starving, poor young man. He fixed THAT!

      Joy Beer wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  3. Crazy wow! Like three different people in each pic. Glad you’re feelin better man.

    Gotta love “what causes this?” ” we don’t know” Take this.

    Did anyone ever address nutrition prior to all this or just something you only stumbled upon yourself? Glad to see you’re feeling better man!

    Luke DePron wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • +1

      mars wrote on February 22nd, 2013
      • Yes, Luke is right – you really do look like three different people – the last one healthy. Good job hanging in there Kyel.

        Vanessa wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  4. Amazing, just amazing :)

    Michelle wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  5. That’s fantastic. You better send Mark & Co. a Christmas card this year :)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • +1

      Tina wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  6. Will you marry me? Congrats, you look great! So inspirational. Paleo all the way!

    Rebecca wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  7. I’ve wondered since I started this diet what would happen to a person with UC if they went primal. My dad had UC and his calcium deficiencies got so bad that his spine was deteriorated to the point of being comparable to that of an 80 year old woman when he was 37. After a brutal surgery, he died in an accident after not being able to kick the pills when he was 41. I’m glad this information is in the public domain now because hopefully some people, yourself included, won’t have to go through what he went through. Thanks for this story.

    Shawn wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • Shawn, I was touched by your comment. Very sorry to hear your dad’s story.

      Violet wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  8. now THAT is a success story. thank you!!

    primal aly wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  9. Fantastic. My wife had ulcerative collitus from the age of 16 to 36. The drugs they gave her were pretty bad and the next stage was steroids. That was when she saw a nutritionist who put her on a grain free diet. The improvement was immediate and all bleeding was done in six months.
    In those 20 years not one doctor though to look at her diet!
    We now eat a pretty much primeval diet, my IBS has gone as well. Thanks Mark for putting all the information in one place.
    ROG (my primeval name!)

    Roger wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • Can I tell you how mad it makes me that not one doctor in 20 years thought about her diet? I am SO glad you found that nutritionist and that both you and your wife are well now! Keep spreading the word.

      Tina wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  10. Kyel: Thrilled you found the PB and it helped! But it makes me sad to hear a story like this because what if the first doctor you met at 18 had put you on a PB diet?

    Colleen wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • Yes, reminds me of that saying; The line between a serial killer and a surgeon is a very fine line indeed. Creepy world sometimes.

      Stoked for you Kyel. : )

      Madama Butterfry wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • I wonder that as well, but to be honest it might not have made much of a difference. I was diagnosed with UC as a freshman in high school, and I immediately started trying different diets to get rid of it. Within the first 6-9ish months I was paleo, and I stuck with it religiously for almost 3 years until I finally had to have my colon removed as well. I still STRONGLY believe that diet has a huge influence on both the cause/development and the treatment of the disease, and I don’t think it would be possible to heal something like UC without a huge diet change. Unfortunately, though, it’s not always enough!

      But Kyel, I was so thrilled to see your story on here!! While I thoroughly enjoy the weight loss transformation stories, stories like yours about digestive diseases (especially UC!) truly resonate with me. I’m SO happy your J-pouch is working out for you and you feel great!!! I hope we can spread the word to other UCers and J-pouchers (:

      Alyssa wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  11. I’m so happy for you, Kyel! You look teriffic.

    Cindy wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  12. Well done Kyel – first for asking all the right questions (although sadly not getting any decent answers) and second for transforming your body and life on the PB. You look great!

    Grokesque wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  13. I personally don’t trust most doctors, too many cases of where they missed diagnoses. They just do not get the right education. Glad your finally on the right path Kyel!

    John wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  14. Wow, you look great! Congratulations on your new lifestyle, you look so happy!!

    Kathleen wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  15. So glad your life is saved. Great job! Both my brothers were almost to where you were. I’m happy to report that they are both onboard the Primal path since about 6 months ago and both are now doing great. This stuff works folks.

    Nocona wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  16. Wow good job there.

    I feel really happy for you. :)

    Onge wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  17. Glad things turned out the way they did for you and you found the primal way… Can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if you discovered it sooner! The SAD really can do a number to our bodies.

    Bjjcaveman wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  18. With all the anecdotal evidence that now exists, why doesn’t “somebody” conduct a formal study on ulcerative colitis and grain-free diets? The medical community won’t listen up without the formal study. Mark, Robb, Chris??? You guys have the background to pull this off. Please consider it.

    Ara wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • It’s pretty simple why the medical community won’t get on the wagon about diet controlling health. It’s called “follow the money.” There’s no kickbacks from saying, “Clean up your diet, eat more organic fruits and vegetables, ditch the polluted drinks for water and stop eating grains.”
      heathier w/o doctors

      Sandy wrote on February 22nd, 2013
      • I agree with you totally, Sandy! “Follow the money” is right on! I get so angry at doctors who never question diets or lifestyle behaviors but are so quick to prescribe medications for everything. “Here, take this pill and go away. Hope it works.”

        Also Healthier w/o doctors!

        Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on December 5th, 2013
  19. Mark you remind me of 2 close friends who suffer from Ulcerative Colitis. They have yet to accept the fact that food can both heal and destroy your body. I will be sending along your story to them in hope of inspiring them. Congratulations on beginning the healing process — you are looking amazing!!

    Lindsay wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  20. I have had UC for three years, and going primal was by far the best thing for me. I was misdiagnosed for months until I had to be hospitalized. I remember being on so much medication and feeling like crap. About a year after my diagnosis I found Mark’s site, and since then I’ve had to take no medication at all and my weight has stabilized. Thank you Mark!

    Rob wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  21. If you haven’t read “Wheat Belly” it goes very in depth into the topics of wheat and grains and how they can destroy the human body! It is a little on the technical side but a great read!

    Congrats on your success!!!

    Paul wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  22. you have to check out this. He is an intestinal transplant survivor. His story is pretty amazing, too. It took forever for the site to come up but:

    Heather wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  23. Congrats on taking the initiative to find your way to good health! It is pathetic to see our medical community be so quick to push pills and surgery rather than suggesting dietary changes when they have patients facing GI issues with “mysterious” origins.

    Myra wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  24. Wow, that is absolutely incredible! Many congratulations for making it through such an ordeal!

    Brent wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  25. One of the first things I noticed after starting to eat primal was the major improvement in digestive functions. It was almost immediate. No more heartburn, acid reflux, etc.

    Congratulations. I love these stories.

    DuncaN wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • I hear you, brother! I’ve been eating primal for just over three months now, but have noticed immediate results. Just this morning I was looking for something in our medicine cabinet and noticed a giant bottle of antacid tablets – which I used to need at least once a week. I haven’t touched them since I started the primal diet. I also used to have a lot of belching and passing gas after meals, and that is also a thing of the past – thank heavens!

      Hungry Canadian wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  26. Thanks for sharing your story!

    @Shawn: The specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) was published in 1987 as a book titled ‘Food and the Gut Reaction’ and long predates Loren Cordain’s book. It is very similar to paleo/primal and the point of it was to attempt to solve bowel problems through diet. As far as I can tell, it was revolutionary at the time. I was on SCD for 5 or 6 years and it was the best thing for dealing with my UC (diagnosed at the age of 2) but unfortunately it wasn’t a ‘cure’, for me at least.

    I think everything falls on a spectrum and for some people it might be enough of an effect to clear up their problems without surgery. I eventually had surgery and spent 6 years with a colostomy. I was basically eating SAD for a few years after ‘step 3’ and realized that gluten and refined sugar really bothered me. I eliminated them and basically started eating gluten-free, sugar-free. After finally discovering paleo through my girlfriend and Crossfit, I’ve had similar changes to what you see in the pictures above. Having half of a gut really emphasizes the need to put real food in the body methinks.

    Ivan wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • Don’t forget to compare the SCD- with the FODMAP-concept. There may be different causes for the same symptoms (be?) at work.

      Cheers, guzolany

      guzolany wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  27. What an inspirational story!

    Lisa wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  28. This story made me angry, doctors condemning a kid to go thru what you did. Makes me wonder how many aren’t as lucky.

    Moshen wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  29. I hate that you had to go through this, but I love these kinds of stories. I was diagnosed with UC as well when I was 20. I had two flare ups; the second of which landed me in the hospital with the same exact conversation as you had with your doctor. I have never been so scared my entire life.

    I was on medication for a year or two, but eventually decided I didn’t want to take it. Although I still have issues luckily nothing as horrid as that first year. But I always believe it could come back full force, because I feel like it’s lingering. That’s why I finally dumped the grains and switched to Primal. I strongly believe it will help me live a longer, happier life than I would have otherwise.

    Congrats on getting through your journey a stronger and happier person.

    Stephanie wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  30. This is a really fantastic story, thank you for sharing.

    Shereen wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  31. @Luke DePron

    Nope no one had addressed anything related to diet as a cause for concern.

    I also remember my second gastroenterologist asking me himself if I had thought diet had anything to do with my illness. This floored me.

    Thanks so much for the kind words everyone. My hopes are that anyone that is currently suffering from this disease may find hope in the primal blueprint. Give it 100% of your efforts and I can confidently say it will be 100% worth it.

    All the best,

    Kyel wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  32. All i can say is you look wonderful now and congratulations on new found health!

    Gayl wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  33. I think this is the most intense success story so far. What an astonishing transformation, and a vivid example of the disconnect in medicine, that doctors don’t look to diet when there is a problem with intestinal disease. Thank you for sharing, Kyel, and congratulations!

    Alice wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  34. Congratulations! I really like how your story doesn’t dwell on “what could have been”.

    Joshua wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  35. Kyel,

    I dealt with UC for 4 years and then finally underwent the same exact 3 part surgery that you did. It’s tough for people to understand how difficult it is to live with UC especially trying to maintain a social life. Looking for a bathroom the second you go anywhere just in case is brutal. The colostomy bag in itself was an adventure changing it, keeping it concealed, and then emptying in public.

    Like you, I lost a substantial amount of weight going from 230 to around 160 and had my family and friends frightened.

    Since having the surgeries completed, I found this site and been implementing the nutrition into my life and things have been great as you described. Weight is staying the same, energy is a contstant, and actually sleeping through the night is a blessing.

    Congratulations on your transformation and success Kyel and keep it up!

    Kyle wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  36. So sad to read about your illness, so angry to read about what your doctors did and didn’t do for you.

    I believe there is an epidemic of digestive system illnesses in our culture right now, and no one is noticing it. I have a couple of friends going through similar illnesses now, one just had her appendix and gall bladder removed and is being treated with chemotherapy for autoimmune disorder. She refuses to believe diet could cure her and instead relies on the doctors. She is scared and confused. So sad.

    Finally I am so happy you found the Primal Blueprint. You saved your own life.

    Pure Hapa wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  37. What an amazing transformation! I hope you can share your knowledge with other UC patients! Have you considered online forums or patient support groups? You could give a lecture or motivational talk your transformation is so inspirational!

    It makes me sad when the comments turn to doctor-bashing though. There’s medicine, and there’s nutrition, and while there may be overlap, there are limits to both. Furthermore, it is only with a sound knowledge of both that you would be qualified to comment on which disease processes are curable by diet alone that are not curable by medicine.

    Tapsticks wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • @Tapsticks – Someone’s doctor-bashing is someone else’s thoughtful criticism and genuine frustration.

      Good health and nutrition completely and utterly overlap. Some strong constitutions can ignore it for awhile but time always reveals diet issues.

      The issue is not personal to Docs, but a systematic training failure. The designated “caretakers” of health should be trained in nutrition first, drugs next, and surgery last. Currently the opposite is true: everyone is trained in anatomy and drug interactions and nutrition is left to another field altogether.

      There is a lot of room for improvement. :(

      Amy wrote on February 22nd, 2013
      • Have to agree.

        Madama Butterfry wrote on February 22nd, 2013
      • I am a doctor, and I have to say that it feels a lot like doctor-bashing! :S
        I completely agree with you that
        there is a lack of training in nutrition for doctors. This may be why some hesitate to comment about the ability of nutrition to fight disease.

        As a doctor you can’t give advice on things that are out of your field of expertise. You also can’t really suggest that patients try a treatment that is not proven in clinical trials to be effective. In the UK we are bound by best practice guidelines to treat medical conditions. If I stepped outside these guidelines to give advice based on blogs and anecdotes, I would be a dangerous doctor.

        Don’t get me wrong, I will suggest my patients try good nutrition and lifestyle change, but as an adjunct to a proven treatment not instead.

        I have personally used nutrition and lifestyle change successfully to treat depression, as I thought I better take a long hard look at my lifestyle and fix what was wrong before resorting to medication. HOWEVER if a patient came to me with severe depression, I wouldn’t dare recommend that they ditch proven and tested medicines and try to treat this with diet and exercise alone. What if it failed and they committed suicide? It is a gamble I would be unwilling to take.

        Tapsticks wrote on February 24th, 2013
        • “What if it failed and they committed suicide? It is a gamble I would be unwilling to take.”

          What if you gave them a proven medication, but ignored the “gosh, try you can try this but it won’t work” diet advise and the symptoms got worse, and they committed suicide anyway?

          I know of stories about depressed teenagers who committed suicide right after starting therapy because the drugs made the symptoms worse before they got better.

          Life doesn’t present any easy choices, especially in the field of medicine. There are society approved choices, in so much society doesn’t punish them directly if you offer them. But that does not make them 100% safe.

          There probably are clinical trials surrounding diet and almost every imaginable topic. However, because of the endless factors surrounding diet (and the lack of drug money), they will almost never be definitive. The “rock solid” evidence you’re looking for regarding diet choices does not and will probably never exist. It’s much, much easier to design tests for 1 drug for 1 condition and then let those results be known.

          And yet, proof exists. You own one of these things call the human body. Although total body reactions do vary somewhat, science tells us that results of chemical reactions do not vary. Too high of a carbohydrate load is problematic for every mammal, including the ones that files tax returns.

          At any rate, most people, in my opinion, are going to look you in the eye and say “I can’t give up bread” and take the drugs anyway.

          But what of the others? Will you not give them the choice of trying to clean up diet first that you made for yourself? If they clearly understand the risks then trying a diet change before trying drugs *is* the safe option. No drug therapy is without risk.

          And honestly, I consider nutrition to be completely inside your area of expertise if you are a Primary Doc. “I’m not an expert in that” is a cop out if you are making a living healing people.

          Phew! I guess I’m saying all this because I think if you strive to be the absolute best Doc you can be, then the “Doc bashing” won’t worry you. You know you’re doing your best an imperfect world. You’ll have the patient smiles and thank yous to prove it.

          Amy wrote on February 24th, 2013
  38. @Tapsticks Oh don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything the doctors have done for me, and I don’t regret the surgeries at all. I blame the lack of education in nutrition these doctors get which is very minimal. I know in the most personal sense, these doctors were doing their best, and I appreciate that more than words can describe.

    @Kyle it sounds like we went through some very similar trials. I am glad you are feeling better as well. Keep it up!

    Kyel wrote on February 22nd, 2013
    • I didn’t think you were doctor bashing, I rather meant the comments!

      You’re right about the minimal part- a handful of lectures in 1st year med school is about all we get…

      Wishing you all the best, your story is truly inspirational.

      Tapsticks wrote on February 24th, 2013
  39. SOOOO happy to hear this Kyel. As someone who suffered with UC for YEARS I can totally relate. Although my weight loss/malnutrition wasn’t as severe as yours (I never got surgery), the abdominal cramps and diarrhea were so bad I was often in the bathroom (and numerous times on the floor) around 20x a day, missed work all the time and found myself isolating at home for fear of being out and needing a bathroom (missed a few times…always so hot as an adult to pooped yourself!!!).
    I went through allopathic medicine, naturopathy, acupuncture etc but the only thing that helped were the Specific Carb Diet and a great book called “Listen to your Gut”. Now i’m a recent convert to primal…it just clicked.

    There is no gift like being able to live your life. I am thankful every day that I consider myself “normal” now (well physically anyway). Thanks for submitting this!!

    melissa wrote on February 22nd, 2013

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