The Emotional Side of Crohns & Colitis

Sue The emotional side of Crohn's Colitis_resized

Suzanne Pellerin sits in her Sudbury, ON office where walls are decorated with posters describing live blood microscopy and bookshelves are lined with textbooks on nutrition. She smiles from ear to ear, her face glowing – she is a picture of perfect, vibrant health. It is hard to imagine this same woman, now 49, spent over three decades of her life struggling with disease and illness that ultimately led to 17 surgeries, 32 blood transfusions and seven years of total parental feeding (TPF), a method of supplying nutrition intravenously.

Her turning point came in 1994 when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Tired of losing body parts to disease, refusing to submit her body to chemotherapy and radiation, exhausted by the medical system’s rationale that there was nothing that she could do to help her plight with Crohn’s colitis, she did the only thing she felt she could do – take her future health into her own hands.

“Not once did anyone tell me what I could do (to help my condition),” Pellerin says. “I was always told there was nothing I could do.

“I decided to take courses on anatomy and nutrition to help me on my quest for health. I didn’t want to lose any more body parts.

“I had been following the dietician’s guidelines for Crohn’s, which meant a no-fibre diet, no fruits or vegetables – all nutrients gone. It didn’t make any sense.”

Yet the diet allowed her to consume up to three glasses of milk daily, despite the fact that there is evidence that one of the causes of Crohn’s is a bacteria found in dairy, she explains.

“If you don’t have a healthy intestinal wall to deal with the bacteria” then it can exasperate symptoms, she says. And, since she had been taking antibiotics, the healthy gut flora didn’t exist, and the antibiotics further suppressed her immune system, she says.

Pellerin’s journey with illness had been a long and arduous one. Symptoms of Crohn’s colitis began to appear at around the age of five and by the age of nine, after years of tests and antibiotic usage, she was diagnosed with having the disease.

But no one in the medical community could offer any advice to help her heal from the illness.

“That was supposed to be my lifestyle and I had to live with it,” Pellerin says. “(Doctors) attributed it to stress and said I had to find a way to de-stress. But what’s a nine-year-old stressed about? There’s not much stress at that level. Now if I look back I know what could have potentially triggered my Crohn’s colitis on a stress level. I was abused from the age of two and up. A lot of things happen to you, but in your mind it’s like a recorder, so you replay that over and over again. Technically, I actually revisited that over and over again in my mind so it made my body ill. If I was a contributor of making myself sick imagine now how amazing of a turn around that was for me because I could make myself healthy. If thoughts can make you sick, then thoughts can bring you back to health.”

She remembers as a youngster how her body would react with a stress response every time she was around a male. She remembers telling herself over and over that she was never going to have children, so when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer, she says it came as “no big surprise” to her.

Could she have potentially been a contributor to her health deteriorating as a result of her negative thoughts? She believes she was.

The abuse ended at age 9, and her Crohn’s went into remission, but it once again resurfaced at age 19 while in a relationship with her now husband, whom she says has been so supportive of her throughout her journey over the years.

The whole stress response awakened at age 19, she recalls.  Her bowels began to deteriorate. In 1984 she underwent an ileostomy, and the entire year that followed was spent in hospital, enduring 10 surgeries within that one year.

“I asked my physician one time, at the age of 30, what causes Crohns and he said ‘we don’t know’ and for me it didn’t make sense. I was getting all these surgeries and they didn’t know why.”

By 1987 she was walking with two canes. Severe arthritis had set into her body. But her life began to turn around in the 1990s after a visit with a naturopath.

“My dad threw me in the back of the car and drove me to Quebec to see this nut-job, at least that’s what I felt at the time, thinking it’s like this quack that’s going to say “I’m going to heal you.” but when you get three days without pain you think ‘Oh my God, this guys not a nut job’ and that started me on this path of understanding that there are other modalities than surgery and medication.”

The naturopath had performed a sciatic manipulation on her, adjusting her sciatic nerve, and then advised her to put lemon juice on her back and have her husband use a rolling pin on her spine to massage her back and reduce inflammation every morning and night.

“Imagine now that you have the spine and the muscles – with the rolling pin the nerves in there are absorbing the lemon and its distributing it and reducing the inflammation.

“I never used a cane again after that.

“That woke me up to another world of healing, other than cut and medicate, so that’s where I decided to take more courses.”

She started to use a sauna twice daily to release toxins through her skin and revamped her diet, and things started to change. She began practicing meditation, which she places an equal value on as part of her healing.

“The human body is actually able to heal itself if we give it what it needs,” Pellerin says.

Suzanne Pellerin is a certified microscopist and registered nutritionist helping others overcome their health challenges.