by Natalie Hill

After many years of battling GI issues, I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at the age of 16. I began treatment cycling on and off of prednisone and transitioning through many medications. I experienced negative side effects and my body stopped responding well to oral medication. I was considering beginning infusions but did not want to have to come home from college for the infusions, so I looked for alternate treatments. 

I began the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) the summer before my junior year of high school. At first, it was daunting. Thinking of all of the things I regularly ate that were not on the 'legal' list was overwhelming, but I was determined to feel better. I made a decision to fully commit to the diet. 

The first two weeks were rough. There were times I was craving bread and sugar. To my surprise, the cravings stopped after the first 2 weeks and I felt amazing. The best way to describe how I felt is feeling lighter. I was in a flare when I began the diet and within two weeks, I was not experiencing any symptoms. I felt that a huge weight had been lifted. I could think more clearly and I was more focused because I was no longer in pain. 

As I continued with the diet, it became easier and easier. After the first month, I no longer had to pull out my legal and illegal list to check what I was able to eat. I focused on eating whole and organic foods with few processed products. My school was wonderful about accommodating my dietary needs. I went to them with the legal and illegal list and they prepared a special meal each day for lunch. 

SCD changed my life completely. At this point I have been on the diet for five years. It has become a lifestyle change more so than a diet change. It has impacted me more than I could have ever imagined. I am much more aware of what my body needs now. I am more responsive to changes in my body. I try to eat only organic products because I find that it helps me to feel better. Grocery shopping can seem expensive but I know that I can spend the money on groceries or I can spend it on expensive medication and procedures later. 

The SCD can definitely feel daunting at first but it really is not as difficult as it seems. Five years in, I can honestly say that I don't even think about it anymore. I know what I can and can't eat and I don't miss the foods that make me feel sick. Sure, it's hard to watch my friends eat brownies sometimes but I remind myself that I am able to manage my disease through diet while being entirely medicine free and it is completely worth it.

Natalie Hill grew up in Atlanta and is now a senior dietetics student at Auburn University. Natalie was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2013 and has managed it through both medication and the SCD diet. Natalie plans to work in pediatric dietetics after her postgraduate internship

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