Crohn’s Conquered!

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!

real_life_stories_stories-1-2This is not a weight loss story, though I’ve been immensely impressed with the numerous weight loss success stories here on MDA! If anything, this is a weight gain story. It is a war story about a fight against inflammation and auto-immune disease. It’s a story about how a chronically tired, shy, uncompetitive, wimpy (though smart and artistic) teen began to grow into a chronically tired, shy, uncompetitive adult…and eventually into deteriorating health.

joshua 1I was always that scrawny kid growing up. At 16, my first driver’s license had my height and weight at 5’10” and 135 lbs. Looking at old childhood photos, I had a classic, distended “wheat belly.” Constipation was normal for me right up until, at age 24, stool habits gradually transitioned from once every few days to several times per day with severe cramping, gas, diarrhea, etc. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.

Over several years I saw numerous gastroenterologists and had most of my colon removed. Never was I told to follow any particular diet other than “avoid what bothers you.” The SAD diet was normal, and I was told that many vegetables made Crohn’s symptoms worse. Even the hospital dietitians were ignorant on all things dietary, except for fats, carbs, proteins, calories, and their ratios. As hard as it was to get good nutritional advice, it was even harder to find advice tailored to a person with a full colectomy and ileostomy! At my lowest point (I wish I had a picture of this) I was down to 119 lbs…at 5’10”!!!

Fortunately, my crazy, hippy aunt Joyce (don’t we all have a crazy hippy aunt or uncle?) was kind enough to encourage me to explore diet more on my own. She was mostly vegetarian at the time. I also had enough of a scientific background and enough love and respect for my hippy (and also very healthy aunt) to understand that she was right. After all, why wouldn’t diet play a role in gastrointestinal disease??

I had been pre-med in college, but as a result of my discontent with the medical community, I finished my biology/chemistry degree and went into industry. In 2005 I left Toledo, Ohio and moved to Portland, Oregon. WOW! What a cultural shift, and definitely for the better! I discovered a “thing” called Naturopathic Medicine. Of course, it’s more than just a “thing,” but it was hard to convince my parents of that! After an appointment at the student clinic at the National College of Natural Medicine, I enrolled in the Naturopathic Doctor program which I completed in 2012.

What a shift in paradigm! Not only was I feeling better than ever before with fewer Crohn’s related bowel troubles, but the whole philosophy of naturopathic medicine fit perfectly with my own beliefs that I was just starting to form. Studying to become an ND got me about 80% towards excellent health, but even in ND school, paleo eating is not the norm. Gluten free was all the rage, especially for desserts, and the anti-inflammatory diet was a treatment to be prescribed, but paleo? That didn’t sit well with the vegetarian nutrition professor that taught half of our nutrition program.

joshua 2Fortunately I came upon MDA in my own private study. THIS was THE TICKET! It was The Primal Blueprint that finally allowed me to dial in my nutrition to the point of being completely pharmaceutical free, inflammation free, symptom free, and up to a normal weight! I’m now 5’10” and 170 lbs and at almost age 40 I feel better than I have ever felt in all of my life! The ileostomy will always be a part of my life, but I dare to say I am Crohn’s free – permanent remission!

Now, as a physician, I get to help hundreds of people per year improve their health. Almost all of them get a printed “Definitive Guide” depending on their unique situation, and a recommendation to read The Primal Blueprint.

Thank you to this entire community!!! It was YOUR SUCCESS STORIES that motivated me to dive into a Primal way of life—your stories that convinced me of it’s legitimacy, feasibility, and effectiveness.


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58 thoughts on “Crohn’s Conquered!”

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  1. Excellent story, Joshua. So many think this is just a weightloss regimen and while the miracles of weightloss are important testimonies for those looking for that solution, this Primal solution is about so much more. Your story really drives that point home.

    I arrived here while looking for a fix to my chronic knee pain and happened to enjoy some weightloss as a side benefit.

    I hope many viewers read your testimony and see their potential fix in it. Thank you for taking this message into the realm of medicine. One by one, the change is happening.

  2. One of the best stories I’ve ever read on this site!
    Thank you for pursuing your education for the purpose of helping others.

    1. Ditto, excellent, my daughter is healing from multiple issues with Primal, so good to read the stories that are about inner healing as much as weight loss.

  3. Excellent story, Joshua!

    It’s heart-wrenching that so few gastroenterologists – and as you mention, even hospital dietitians – have good nutrtiional advice to offer patients like yourself. It’s definitely causing a lot of unnecessary suffering for a lot of people. Glad you’ve chosen to become a physician and help change the system for the better.

  4. I am so impressed with this story Joshua. More folks need to realize that we have to take ownership of our own health. When I tell friends about my N.D. they look at me like I have 2 heads.
    I am so pleased that you found a way to solve your own health problems and that you also became a N.D. Congratulations.

  5. Joshua,
    What a great Success Story!! Congratulations to you. I immediately forward this to a fiend who is struggling greatly with Crohn’s.

    Thanks for Sharing!!

  6. WOW! I’m blown over by your story. Glad to hear you’re passing the word on . . . hopefully to patients who are interested.

  7. Yes!!!!!! I’m so excited for you! Team paleo! Paleo gave me my health back too! So big hugs and keep rocking!

  8. I had Ileoanal anastomosis surgery (commonly called J-pouch or IPAA) 25 years ago when I was fifteen due to aggressive colitis. A low gluten paleo diet is the only livable diet in terms of quality of life and freedom from a toilet for me. It’s a pity it took me nearly fifteen years to discover on my own.

    Great story mate and I’m glad you’re preaching the paleo word.

  9. Awesome story! I, too, became an N.D. after becoming angry wih the shortcomings of conventional care for my own health issues. Luckily I discovered grain-free eating and the paleo framework before I began the program, but the doc who taught my clinical nutrition course also promoted paleo! We had very few vegetarians in my program at NUHS compared to the other schools. I briefly considered going to Bastyr, but when I learned that their school cafeteria was all vegetarian, I knew it would not be the right place for me! I am glad we have savvy docs like you in our profession. I’m sure your patients appreciate you very much.

    1. Yes, Bastyr’s cafeteria is a little off on nutrition, but my school, NCNM, didn’t even have a cafeteria. Well, we had a food cart outside and they DID offer meat, including bacon! …Unfortunately, one of our clinical nutrition professors was a vegetarian. I am happy though that there were fewer vegetarians in my class at graduation than there were when we started the program…lots of converts to eating meats…but not necessarily paleo. That program could definitely use an overhaul. Most ND schools are like that, but the 4 quarters of nutrition they get is a heck of a lot better than the “elective” nutrition class offered at some MD or DO schools…sigh…

  10. So great. For you and all those you are touching. I tell everyone around me, nothing is more important than dialing in your best version of real food.

    The fake stuff won’t work. For most it seems some version of high fat low carb which is a natural outcome of no grains and moderate fruit.

    But even I have some higher carb, cellular carb, days.

    But food is THE foundation of everything: health, mood, energy. Keep getting healthy everyone and spreading the word.

  11. Joshua. Wow, Just wow. Great story on every level. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Great story, Joshua.

    It’s sad that you got such poor if standard medical “help” in your past but wonderful that you were able to turn things around with a major improvement in your health and fitness and the expertise and commitment to help others.

  13. That’s an awesome story Joshua! Keep up the great work.

  14. Hi Joshua and readers-

    I wanted to quickly add myself as another data point on the Crohn’s / Paleo spectrum. My Crohn’s was not (yet) as bad as Joshua’s, but I was diagnosed at 16 and was on a very unhappy course with symptoms trending worse and worse and a minor surgery to my name (thankfully, none of my intestines were removed).

    I got out of a 4 day, New Year’s hospital stay in January 2010 and started a diet journey, from complete elimination diet to the “Specific Carbohydrate Diet” to full-on paleo in about 6 months. 5.5 years later, I haven’t taken any Crohn’s medication or seen a GI, I’ve gained 25 lbs and sit at 5’11 ~175, and I feel great.

    Joshua – as someone who’s Crohn’s was never quite that bad, I’m inspired by your story and wanted to add another voice that it can be done, and can be sustainable for the long run.


  15. I have to say, two months into this diet and my Crohn’s is non-existent. I have 0 pains, problems, or troubles with it. I have way more energy, I am happier, and I can not thank my friend enough for showing me the Primal Blueprint. Congratulations on your success of conquering Crohn’s.

    1. That’s terrific, Austin! I believe that if everyone with IBD would discover the Primal Blueprint and dive in and actually follow it well, they’d have similar results as we have!

  16. Great and inspiring storyJoshua! As someone that has had part of my intestine removed 20 years ago, I can also validate that pAleo has worked best for me. No matter what you eat, your body has to absorb it to give you nutrition that is needed. Giving up grains has been hard, but no matter how much I soak, sprout or ferment grains, I end up looking for the nearest bathroom which has a detrimental impact on my health and life. It took me years to figure this out but am also encouraged to hear about and validate these types of results. This just isn’t something that I talk about in general company! Much success to you.

  17. Joshua, what a great story. Hey, would you mind now moving to Maine to become my doctor? I have an “integrative” doc who has helped me a lot, but is now pushing for me to become vegetarian. He says a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat. I said I do eat a plant-based diet, I just pass it through a cow first!

    Inspiring story!!!

  18. Congrats on over coming your IBD condition! And looking good on the beach!

    I’m hoping it stops storming here soon, one of those typical Florida summer storms is passing over, so I can head out for a barefoot beach walk. That seems to help my IBD colitis condition, the odd practice of earthing, along with improved diet. Fingers crossed in saying this, but overall I seem to be making positive progress with my IBD condition with all being done lately.

  19. Thank you for sharing your awesome story, Joshua! My young friend was diagnosed with Crohn’s and spent months (and big bucks) in a hospital. He lost a small part of his intestine, but found the paleo diet and is experiencing good health simply by eating the right foods. He just graduated from engineering school.

  20. Great transformation Joshua – now you are that voice of reason when others are diagnosed with gastrointestinal diseases. So many others won’t have go down that road of excessive surgery hopefully thanks to your support, well done you! (Looking great by the way!)

  21. WOW! Thanks everyone for such wonderful comments. Some even made me blush a little 😉 I love this community! I’m also very excited to hear from others with IBD or other intestinal issues and I’m glad you’ve all found MDA and the Primal Blueprint. The patients of mine that have actually taken this seriously have had great transformations as well. I always recommend they start with the success stories. That’s what hooked me!

  22. Wow! Thank you for sharing your story. Very encouraging. I’ve been able to manage my milder IBD with paleo/primal. My consultant was happy for me try dietary changes rather than take the drug I’d been prescribed (Pentasa), but he had no advice at all to give on diet. I was left in the dark until a friend suggested Whole 30 (and then I stumbled upon the Primal Blueprint book in a library.) The U.K.’s NHS website states that there is no evidence that diet plays a role in Crohn’s but some people have found certain foods aggravate their symptoms…. Thank goodness for people like you and Mark and everyone on here ?

  23. Two thumbs up on your success, your giving back to the community and looking great on the beach!

  24. Hi Joshua,

    Massive empathy on the crohns and rocknroll on the permanent remission! Personally I dont have crohns but my significant other does. She has had part of her colon removed in her early twenties (she is 35 meow) and pretty much every 3-4 months would wind up in the emergency room with a severe flare up. After tonnes of self research, we ended up on paleo about 4 years ago and since then she has only been to the hospital once. (i was on straight paleo for almost 5 months and its the best ive ever felt. however after falling off the wagon it has been nearly impossible for me to get back on)

    I understand ppl are different but I was hoping you could share your diet of what you have found to work and what doesnt for you. She seems to not do well with raw leafy greens (kale, spinach etc) and whenever she feels crohnsy (mini flare ups, she cheats 10% of the time) she starts craving milk. She has recently tested for low iron (but we eat plenty of natural/100%grass fed red meats and offal) and Im concerned as to how to get iron to be better absorbed.

    Thanks again for sharing your story, Joshua!

    1. I have two diets – the flare up diet that is very restricted (haven’t needed it in a long time) and my current maintenance diet. It sounds like your significant other doesn’t really achieve full remission – always remaining somewhat sensitive. Only after the gut completely heals should a maintenance diet be followed. The standard paleo is my maintenance diet. I highly recommend reading Chris Kresser’s book; The Paleo Cure.

      For a flare up diet, I recommend cooking all vegetables well. Raw vegetables are like fingernails scratching a rash to the point of making it worse, only the “rash” is in the gut. I also use Iron Extra, a supplement from the company Vitanica – it’s available at Amazon. It’s a unique blend of three highly absorbable forms of iron plus vitamin C and some herbs that enhance iron absorption and utilization. Diet wise, if your significant other is having trouble maintaining weight, focus on easily digested proteins – I find fish and eggs (if tolerated) easier on the gut than red meats but ground beef is an exception since it’s ground so well – along with squashes. If she has a few pounds to spare, I brief fast can also be helpful. It’s Imperative to avoid any suspected triggers, especially dairy. Dairy is on my maintenance diet but strictly avoided on a flare up diet.

      Food hygiene is also important – sit in a quiet, relaxing environment and CHEW until completely liquified. I know it’s challenging not to eat on the go, but it’s important to eat while relaxed. Thsi brings up the point that Crohn’s isn’t JUST a gut issue. People with Crohn’s tend to be “type A” personalities. It has been very important for me to let go of details and to learn to relax! Stress management is IMPERATIVE, as is sleep!!!

      Otherise, MDA has tons of great information, as does the aforementioned book. One last resource is, but you will notice that his program is vegan (yikes!) However, it served me well during flareups in the past. I wouldn’t do this for more than a week or two at a time and focus more on vegetables and keep the fruits (sugar) down as per Paleo guidelines. Combine it with some protein after the initial 1 to 2 weeks cleansing period and once the bowel has settled down and healed up a bit, it should handle fats more easily (fats can be quite irritating – or rather the bile acids released to emulsify them – during a flareup).

      The advice within them only works when it is followed!

    2. For better iron absorption, make sure you are eating something with lots of vitamin C at the same time as the iron source, and make sure there is good fat in the meal as well. Good luck!

      1. My apologies – it sounds like the fat is only appropriate during the maintenance parts of the diet, between flares. I also should mention that iron is more easily absorbed into our systems from red meat than any other source, since it is organized into heme groups already in meat.

  25. Great results! I hope you are still in Oregon and have a thriving practice! I should look you up and see if my insurance will let me list you as by primary doctor.

    Are you on the beach at Cape Lookout? The photo reminds me of that beach at least.

    1. Actually I’m in Seattle now, and this is along the coastal portion of Olympic National park.

      1. Nice, very pretty area. I grew up in Washington and traveled all around the “Peninsula”. My dad traveled for some volunteer work he did from our small town by Olympia up as far as Forks and of course he carted all his 5 kids with in the car. We knew the name of every stream, river, road on those roads since that was the ONLY entertainment for the long car rides. I know where the Hamma Hamma is…. just sayin’

  26. Hi Joshua,
    This is very encouraging news. How long since you started the paleo diet have your been in remission from the Crohn’s?

    1. I found MDA in the summer of 2011 and have been problem free since! Before that I ate what most Americans would call a “healthy” diet. Far better than the SAD, it was still not good enough.

  27. Wow congratulations
    I have never seen here anybody with a larger number of “hot” tags
    Envy … 🙂
    Say hi to to Joyce the crazy aunt!

  28. Wow! JOshua, you look so healthy and well. Congratulations for getting healthy. There are just so many wonderful stories of health regained on the primal/paleo diet: why isn’t it the first prescription for disease?

  29. Really awesome story my husband and I can actually relate to.
    My husband started his journey with IBS, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis at age 31. By age 35 he had 8 surgeries, no rectum and no colon and was also stuck with an ileostomy. To make matters worse, we didn’t find MDA (or the Cure) until about 5 years ago( 12 years later) , so my husband was put on Remicade every 8 weeks for several years to help with his symptoms. Besides the cramping, he also had sores in his mouth and developed sores around his ileostomy making it quite painful for him to change his dressings.

    You’re not alone, in fact there are thousands of people just like you (probably millions) that suffer from this, but nobody talks about it, nobody brings it up.

    Thank you for sharing this story so openly because you have and will help many others.

  30. Hopefully very soon people will look upon surgery for such intestinal problems as the very last final resort and begin with the obvious (food!) instead. Ye gods…it’s really appalling that nutrition has been so neglected in so-called medical school.s.

  31. Congratulations, Joshua, I am so glad that you found your way out!
    I have a good friend with Crohn’s who has controlled it now for years by eating a primal diet, and taking enteric cucurmin. She avoids all flours and grains, eats only good (grass-fed saturated, or monounsaturated) fats, gets the most organic and natural foods she can, and does both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Her Crohn’s has been quiescent since she began this regimen.
    Her husband, whose immune system is compromised by having had his spleen removed, also has found enormous benefits from this diet.
    Spread the good word, Joshua!

  32. This is so inspiring to me! I am in a rather dark place. Diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2011 I have been in and out of the hospital since. This year I’ve been 5 times. 3 this month. Steadily worsening. The worst has arrived….Humira didnt work for me. On Remicade now, but just started so don’t know how long I can deal with this pain before giving my GI approval to cut me open. Which is about the worst thing I could ever imagine. I get teary eyed reading of folks who have had parts of their insides removed.

    Anyway….thats my opening statement haha! I tried the Primal BP for a while a year or so ago and kinda fell of the ol wagon. My current situation has drawn me back thinking… There MUST be something in my diet, or our poisonous food supply causing this. I am in so much pain lately that I cant sleep. My nervous system is totally running haywire. Lately I’ve spent my sleepless nights online research nutrition. I stumbled upon this incredible video by Dr James Bergman EVERYTHING he says in it speaks to me and has been my belief for many years. And also my absolute frustration with medical docs. The video in turn brought me back to TPB. Here I am, and reading your story Joshua tells me I’m in the right place. Ive been on the diet since Saturday. 4days. I’m trying to get calories and not feel hungry but its a struggle so far. I cant eat meat…it leads to me in the crouching position deep breathing for hours at a time. I am eating avocados, sardines, coco oil, Kerrygold butter, raspberries, some yogurt, and soft boiled eggs. I’m afraid I wont stay committed cause I’m already getting tired of eating these foods. They’re awesome tasty foods….but its so monotonous!

    Anyway all…sorry for the long post. I had to chime in to this one! Here’s to commitment!! To our health!

  33. Hi Joshua,

    it looks like this post is from a long time ago.
    I just wanted to write and ask a question that I have been having a hard time finding the answer to.

    In the case of colon removal and IRA or ileostomy, how does that affect your immune system?
    With all the paleo research and research on bacteria these days, I am really confused as to what happens when the colon and thus good bacteria are removed from the body.
    Does the small intestine do double duty in that regard?
    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Rachel,
      I have no idea why I decided to look through this post after all these years, but today I did and I just saw your question. It’s a great one!
      I don’t have a study to reference or any good scientific theory, but I can say that I rarely get sick and if I do it’s pretty mild and I fight it off fast. I never get a flu shot. I do get lots of exercise and sleep, and of course eating lost of plants and animals.
      I do eat a lot of raw fermented kraut, kimchi, yoghurt, some cheeses, kombucha, etc.
      Ideally the small bowel does not have a large floral population as that tends to lead to SIBO. I rarely have any gas in my ostomy pouch. But all this seems to be working well. I sure get exposed to enough patients who are under the weather, but I seem to fight off the bugs just fine!
      Best wishes,

    2. Hi Rachel,
      I have no idea why I decided to look through this post after all these years, but today I did and I just saw your question. It’s a great one!
      I don’t have a study to reference or any good scientific theory, but I can say that I rarely get sick and if I do it’s pretty mild and I fight it off fast. I never get a flu shot. I do get lots of exercise and sleep, and of course eating lost of plants and animals.
      I do eat a lot of raw fermented kraut, kimchi, yoghurt, some cheeses, kombucha, etc.
      Ideally the small bowel does not have a large floral population as that tends to lead to SIBO. I rarely have any gas in my ostomy pouch. But all this seems to be working well. I sure get exposed to enough patients who are under the weather, but I seem to fight off the bugs just fine!
      Best wishes,