Just imagine for a moment that you have twin 3 year-olds, a one year old, you work full-time, travel often for work, and for 6 years you’ve been managing your Crohn’s with a special diet. Is that actually attainable? Meet Jill Evans.
Jill is one very busy person, so I felt a tinge of guilt when asking her for an interview, but I did it anyway because I just love her story and find her so inspiring. I found Jill’s blog accidentally a few years ago and thought, wow, she’s a survivor.
Jill was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in August of 2006, and began following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) after five operations/procedures and being hospitalized for about 30 days straight. Jill answered a few of my questions and shared some of her favorite recipes.
I really admire your ability to handle all that you’ve been through with grace and humor. And you have three (!) children, and work full time? How do you do that? What is your support system like, especially being a working mom with a challenging condition?
A lot of duck tape and chicken wire. My children are twin 3-year-olds and a 1 year old, and I travel a lot for work. If you had asked me before I had kids how it would all fit together I would have been dumfounded but as most parents figure out, somehow it just does. Oh and it doesn’t hurt to have a husband who is fantastic too. Though he works full time himself, he handles the majority of the domestic duties AND makes a mean SCD legal pizza.
Was your experience trying SCD smooth from the beginning? I ask because it can be quite challenging to completely change your diet on your own, eliminate all the foundations of the standard American diet. Did you have a support system when you started SCD?
I started SCD as soon as I was released from the hospital in 2006, after a resection surgery. My mom, husband, and father-in-law were great helps and all made me SCD legal foods for several months. I was extremely lucky. Of course being new to the SCD we fumbled through that first year. I had a lot of time in the hospital to research so I never had an issue with what foods were “legal” or “illegal” but I ruined many a batch of yogurt, burnt muffins and once I ate WAY too many almond flour rolls. One of my primary support systems was the SCD listserves and the very few blogs that existed in 2006. I scoured through blogs like Raman Prasda’s scd.recipe.com, and Mike’s Flog, that first year. The on-line community was my SCD family and really got me through. I had no problem whatsoever with giving up the standard American diet. For me, after so many days in the hospital, a choice between donuts and surgery was a no-brainer.
What are your favorite SCD recipes?
There are so many! I have to say for years and years I ate the yogurt every day. Not so much now but this reminds me I need to make a batch. In terms of recipes, I love the zucchini lasagna from Grain-free Gourmet, your awesome pizza and pancake recipes, and I make this delicious frozen strawberry cheesecake. These days though I just salivate looking at all of the SCD websites and recipes out there. I am excited for the day I can begin to really experiment again! Maybe when at least one of the three kids can get their own shoes on.
How is your health today, and do you still follow SCD? Do you have a ritual that you follow?
I just passed my 6th year anniversary on the SCD drug-free! I did have major surgery a few years ago due to complications from a cesarean section and past abdominal surgeries for Crohn’s. Those surgeons, who initially mocked the SCD diet, approached me afterwards to get more information on the science as they could not find any evidence whatsoever that I had ever suffered from Crohn’s. They said my intestines were extremely healthy and they would have a hard time believing that I ever had Crohn’s if they hadn’t read the old pathology reports themselves. What a compliment for an SCDer!
Have you ever had the need for drugs while on SCD? Do you have any alternative resources or rituals you follow to take care of yourself?
No, I have never had to take medication since following the SCD. In the beginning years I flared a few times each year and would always revert back to the intro diet for about a week to get myself back on track. That always worked but if it ever stopped I would certainly look to medicine to help jump start healing. You never want to let it get to the stage where surgery is required if you can help it.
Would you modify anything about SCD, or do you think everything is spot on in terms of the scientific facts and food restrictions that make up the diet?
Hmmm. That is a good question. I think lots of things have changed over the years and will continue to do so. There are certain ready-made foods that I always did fine with, like several brands of canned tomato products, Lara Bars, etc. Other than that, I was an absolute fanatic about sticking to the SCD 100% until about year 4 when I hadn’t flared in a very long time and I started to add some things in very slowly like the occasional agave sweetener (in a bottled Ketchup), 85% dark chocolate, and maybe some jarred mayo with canola oil, etc. I continued to do fine with these very minor allowances but last year when my twins went gluten free we had a lot of those gluten free snacks around the house like pretzels and crackers. I found myself having a small handful here or there and sure enough I saw an autoimmune response. Unsettled stomach, achy joins, rashes, etc. So I believe the scientific facts are probably fairly accurate and it is up to us long-termers to decide how much we can stray and how soon. In my case, I don’t see a day where I will be able to eat rice or potatoes or white sugar, but I am ok with that.
Why did your twins go gluten-free?
My twin Will started complaining about stomach issues about a year ago. He always said that his stomach hurt and that he wanted to go back to bed. He also had very severe eczema. It went on for a very long time and then I asked the pediatrician and he told me to take him off gluten and see. We’ve not had a problem since. Fast forward about 5 months later and my other twin Henry started having very bad stomach issues. We took him off and he is fine now as well.