By Sari Huhtala
Wiping a tear, Jeri-Ann Gelinas stands silently listening to her doctor’s advice on how to cope with the Crohn’s disease she was diagnosed with. Moments before, she had expressed to the doctor details of a dietary experiment she had been attempting, and had conveyed how she was beginning to feel much better as a result.
The glimmer of hope she felt only a few moments ago was fading into darkness as she watched him put his pen down and glance up at her to say, “Juicing, changing your diet, exercise, it’s not going to help you. The only thing that will help you and put you in remission is medication,’” Gelinas, a 24-year-old from Sturgeon Falls, recalls.
“I was shocked,” she says. “I started to cry and told him I didn’t want to go on any medication because it made me so sick.”
The blur of the last months were nothing but waking moments of nausea and vomiting and sudden bouts of vomiting throughout the day, “like a chemo patient would experience,” she says.
“I couldn’t stand being sick anymore,” Gelinas says. “I wasn’t hanging out with friends anymore, I couldn’t work anymore, my skin hurt, my hair hurt, my feelings hurt. I was annoyed at myself for complaining and being sick, and with people asking me all the time how I was feeling. I hated being that sick person.”
The doctor warned her that if she held off from taking the medication and the inflammation became extreme again, then she would be on her “death bed,” she says.
She was to be on the medication for the rest of her life, but she couldn’t reconcile how she would ever find true health and vitality if each day was destined to be shaped with illness, she explains. And so, she did it her way instead, and kept juicing and juicing until now, three years after her diagnosis, she is virtually free of all symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
“I was 22 years old and I thought to myself, “How can I be this sick?’ How could I ever be healthy if I was that sick, if all the nutrients in the food I was eating would leave my body because I was always sick?
“I decided I’m going to take my health into my own hands and I’m going to figure it out.”
“So I figured I needed to find something else; a healthy alternative (to taking medication). Juicing seemed like the obvious choice.”
With Crohn’s, an inflammatory bowel disease, one should avoid raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and high-fibre foods, she points out. The challenge then is how to get the nutrition from raw foods like leafy greens and other veggies if one is unable to eat them due to flare-ups.
She invested in a cold-press juicer, then Googled recipes online and started daily juicing, sometimes just in the mornings, other times up to four times throughout the day. Now, a year into juicing, she’s feeling more amazing today than she did before the Crohn’s diagnosis, she says.
“Everything about me feels better,” Gelinas exclaims. “I used to have bad acne, and my skin is now clearing up; my hair feels better and even my personality has changed. When you’re sick, and trying to be happy in front of people, it’s like a fake happy. People have noticed a change in my personality.”
Weightloss of 40 pounds has also been an added perk through juicing.
Avoiding gluten and refined sugars, she stocked her pantry with baking items like tapioca starch, quinoa flour, rice flour, maple syrup and raw honey, and experimented by swapping out ingredients in recipes she comes across.
“A lot of people think it’s rocket science, but you can take any recipe and change the ingredients to make it healthier. Just eliminate the unnatural stuff and replace it with the natural stuff.”
She makes her own ice cream with coconut milk and fruit purees and homemade chocolate bars with coconut oil, raw cacao and moringa.
Although becoming a vegan appeals to her, it would be next to impossible due to dietary restrictions, like avoiding grains such as quinoa, she adds. Instead, she’s eliminated red meat, refined sugars and gluten from her diet and consciously chooses foods that nourish her body. Any alcohol intake whatsoever creates a spiral of negative symptoms, including nausea and dizziness to the point of fainting, she says.
Where once she was so exhausted she wanted to sleep all the time, she now has boundless energy and has made her way back into the gym for regular workouts.
She recently traveled to Toronto to undergo a colonoscopy and a follow-up with a specialist.
During the colonoscopy, she says heard the doctor in the background say “This is remarkable” as he viewed the screen.