Andrew Kornfeld holds dual degrees in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and he is an award-winning educator, organizer, and writer with contributions to major publications. Andrew founded IBDCoach so others with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis could benefit from the strategic lessons and research he has conducted in his personal pursuit of health. You may add him or follow him on Facebook where he posts often on the subject of IBD.
Andrew Kornfeld’s IBD story
Hi, I’m Andrew Kornfeld, and I’d like to share a bit of my story with you.
Before I begin I want to premise my story this small note*
*Of the people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease who are struggling to attain remission, I have observed that there are generally two types of approaches out there. One is a passive approach. The passive approach relies heavily or entirely on the healthcare delivery system to treat the disease. This approach gives up power while the IBDer in question hopes and prays for a miracle. The second approach is an active approach. This is where the IBDer does everything in his or her power to fight the disease including using the healthcare system to its fullest extent but additionally seeks out every possible intervention that will help them. They don’t give up and they stand up when they get knocked down. They take charge of their health. This is my story of how I went from passive to active, and how I healed and attained complete remission from a serious case of IBD and why I believe you can do this too. Here goes:
As a kid, I passed hours with my father as he explained to me the inner workings of life. My afternoons were spent exploring the forests of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California right outside the back door of my old, funky, rustic childhood home. Alongside my lifelong friends, this natural paradise in its bestowed powers of camaraderie, fun, and imagination, served as an outlet for all the stresses of family life, and planted the seeds for what would become my intense curiosity about the biological world.
In high school, however, my curiosity was halted when my life took a turn for the worse. I was becoming very stressed by the pressure of school and family life and becme sick suddenly, with crippling symptoms of daily diarrhea, low body weight, fatigue, severe pain, and anemia. The activities I had once loved like surfing, mountain biking, and hiking became nearly impossible. One day about six months into my mystery illness, I recall running my hands through my hair and finding my palms littered with countless hair follicles. I knew something was seriously wrong, as though an overpowering force had compromised the very integrity of my biology.
This was the moment that I accepted that I was going to die.
Indeed, for the previous 6 months I had no idea what was wrong with me. Plagued by this powerful mysterious illness, there were some days where I literally could not to get out of bed and I felt ready to throw in the towel and accept my fate.
My health had spiraled out of my control, as this violent, existential phenomenon evoked feelings only approximated by words: fragility and volatility; helplessness and despair; intensity and powerlessness. This disease became a daily reminder of my delicate human mortality at the mercy of an unpredictable, mysterious, and forceful opponent.
Finally a couple months later the diagnosis that I had never heard of came like a thousands bricks: Crohn’s Disease.
A week later at a world renowned medical institution, the physician looked down at my colonoscopy results and then looked up at me, and looked down again for what seemed like an eternity saying simply and bluntly: “This is really bad.”
My mother burst into tears, and I was speechless.
These diagnostic colonoscopy results show a picture of my highly inflamed terminal ileum and cecum, the area of human anatomy where the small intestine meets the large.
As my treatment progressed I was proscribed powerful immunosuppressive drugs.
They did seem to help a little but I never returned to my previous state of health – not even close. I continued to flare and symptoms continued despite my physician’s best efforts. The only solution I was presented with was to add more immunosuppression or to operate surgically. I was warned that if my condition did not improve, surgery would be the only course of action. I declined surgery and more medication, however, I was starting to get desperate for a better solution and I considered these options carefully. The side effects from the medications were starting to be terrible: it seemed I would catch a cold or virus every other day, and I just didn’t feel right in my body or my mind. I knew that if I was going make it through this I needed to step up.
And this is where things began to change.
Over time, I noticed a pattern or correlation between my diet, psychological stress, and Crohn’s symptoms, and I began to apply early interventions that have been critical to my recovery. As my body healed, I was able to matriculate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Lectures, readings, and an environment saturated in knowledge rekindled a sense of curiosity I had not felt in years.
I began to realize how a physiological explanation in its isolation was insufficient to understanding my disease; rather, my condition was enmeshed in the delicate interdependencies within and beyond my biology.
I learned how environmental impacts coupled with the connections between our psychological states, brain, body, and genome painted a much more complex picture of human health than previously thought.
I scoured the literature and learned of numerous approaches that my doctors had not mentioned. Every time I had asked them about diet, stress, or lifestyle interventions the response I constantly received was the “evidence is inconclusive.”
This statement is false with the “the evidence” actually pointing to the power of an adaptive and multidimensional approach – seemingly becoming stronger so every day.
There are thousands of peer-reviewed research papers, meta studies and powerful personal narratives supporting the use of lifestyle, diet, stress-reduction, exercise, mindset, supplements, microbiological correlates, nutrition and other approaches in the fight against Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I took notice.
Developing a personalized protocol
I began to design my protocol. I applied what I was learning in my science courses, in my personal research and I began to document what environmental factors were adversely affecting my Crohn’s Disease. The progress was slow at first but then I noticed changes. My energy was up. My mood was up. My stomach cramping lessened. And then the day came that I produced a normal looking bowel movement. Hooray! It was a miracle!
But the thing was, it wasn’t a miracle, it was science – and the only thing that differed was how I was 1) listening to my body and recording what was going on and 2) holistically applying current research in a systems-based and evidence-based manner.
My life was changing before my eyes.
My doctors were astounded at my gains of health and with their reluctant blessing I discontinued my immunosuppressive medication and the side effects vanished.
For the last 10 years I have refined my protocol at least a dozen times and I feel better than I ever have with a full head of hair. I am able to do the things I love: I surf 10 foot-faced waves, I mountain bike all over California, I eat incredible home-cooked food, and I spend my days working to help others with thier IBD and spending time with the people that I love the most.
I am in remission. I am whole. I am human once again.
Hanging out on my front porch with my incredible wife and life parter, Amy.
IBD can respond to those who engage
I have learned that Inflammatory Bowel Disease can uniquely and profoundly respond to those who are willing to step into the ring and face it head on. The condition responds to those who are willing to exhibit patience and to learn and pay attention to their bodies. The human body is incredible and is capable of both self-regulation and healing when it is given the right context.
However there is no reason why you should go through the painstaking process of trying to figure all this out on your own. This is why I have built IBDCoach. Our program is your guide providing you with the tools and know-how to overcome IBD and achieve remission yourself.
By being diagnosed with IBD, as surprising as this may be to hear, you have been presented with an opportunity. You, more so than just about anyone else, have a pronounced ability to sense what foods and lifestyle changes are directly linked to human health in its entirety.
The process you are about to embark on to heal your IBD will make you a stronger and more capable human. The lessons you learn in taming your IBD you can apply to all aspects of your life.
It is my life mission to help you live your life again and achieve your dreams.
Me today, loving life and thriving after tackling some powerful Pacific waves.
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