Daniel Island family with Crohn’s, colitis seeks natural remedy, further research funding
The children of Giselle and Mark Woodward miss certain foods, but for the most part, understand why they can’t eat them.
If you go
What: Glow Golf & PartyWhen: March 9. Golf starts at 6:30 p.m.; party at 8 p.m.Where: Daniel Island Club.Cost: $125 for 9 holes of golf and party; $75 for party.Benefits: The Woodward Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to fund a clinical trial of the effectiveness of specific carbohydrate diet on inflammatory bowel diseases.Tickets available at: www.woodwardccf.orgMore on Crohn’s and colitis at: www.ccfa.org
It can cause debilitating pain.
Eleven-year-old daughter Kristina has ulcerative colitis and 10-year-old son Jack has Crohn’s disease, as does father Mark, first diagnosed when he was in college.
Both conditions are under the umbrella of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. The common symptoms of which include severely cramping abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea. That irritation can lead to inflammation and tearing of the gastrointestinal tract over time.
Instead of approaching the realities of their family health strictly via drugs, the Woodwards have been carrying on their own, more natural experiment for the past year.
The Daniel Island family have been adhering to the “Specific Carbohydrate Diet,” which basically removes harder-to-digest complex carbohydrates from their diet.
The late Elaine Gottschall first put forth the diet as part of her 2004 book, “Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet,” drawn from a lifetime of research after her own young daughter battled colitis in the 1950s.
Like Gottschall, Giselle Woodward faced a double challenge when her children were diagnosed with IBD conditions.
Giselle does not suffer from IBD conditions but has adhered to the diet, describing it as being somewhat like the Paleo diet or “gluten-free plus other grains.”
She says the family has removed all grains, soy, corn, refined or artificial sugar, and liquid milk.
The only dairy products allowed are aged cheeses or yogurt that has been fermented for at least 24 hours, which she makes at home because it’s not available on the market.
What do they eat? All vegetables, fruits and proteins, such as meat and eggs. The only sweetener she uses is honey.
So far, it’s been working. Mark has been problem-free.
The kids have been better, but had flare-ups shortly after eating their favorite foods, ice cream for Kristina and french fries for Jack, during her birthday party.
Last week, Jack was having some issues with stomach cramping.
But the family is convinced that foods are a key component to keeping symptoms at bay.
But the Woodwards aren’t just doing an experiment of one family.
They have created the Woodward Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, which seeks to fund research on nonpharmaceutical approaches to controlling inflammatory bowel diseases.
Their first goal is to raise $250,000, or half the amount needed, to continue clinical trials on if and why the diet works. Those trials are set to be conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Dr. Benjamin Gold of the Atlanta-based GI Care for Kids, a co-sponsor of the research, says the pilot study of the diet with a small number of patients was overall successful.
In short, eight of 10 patients experienced benefits from the diet in disease reduction, though they had “mild to moderate disease activity.”
Gold says the results have been presented at national and international meetings and a manuscript will be submitted for publication.
“However, at this point, the research is on hold for further analysis and awaiting manuscript submission and publication,” Gold said.
“We are presently preparing to take the logical ‘next step,’ should support come available: a much larger study with more patients, potentially other centers, a comparison group of patients, and, with procedures that will allow us to answer critical questions to understand why the diet has worked so well and what it means to the disease.”
Funding, he adds, is critical.
“The funding is absolutely essential for the next step — the larger study to answer in a statistically significant way — whether this diet is as good as medications, and, why it is so special,” Gold says.
“In addition, the diet is very restrictive, and future studies will attempt to address whether there are ways to liberalize the diet (ie: finding components of the diet that are more tolerable for children.)”
The Woodwards want to assist by helping pay for the research.
The foundation’s first fundraiser, Glow Golf & Party, is March 9 at the Daniel Island Club. The nine-hole golf tournament starts at 6:30 p.m. and a party at 8 p.m. The cost for golf and the party is $125 and for the party only is $75.
The Woodwards’ motivation comes not only from the children but through Mark’s experiences with doctors over the years.
Crawling in pain
Mark Woodward’s first experience with Crohn’s came when he was in college. He woke up one morning and doubled over in stomach pain.
Crawling in pain
“Initially, I thought I was just being a college kid and that I either drank too much or had a stomach virus,” Woodward says, adding he tried but failed to crawl to his car and get to a hospital.
A friend drove him and the staff thought he had appendicitis, but when the doctors performed surgery, they found inflammation in his small intestine and removed 12 inches of it. Though he was diagnosed with Crohn’s, the disease didn’t resurface for another 12 years.
Bouts since then have resulted in prescriptions for drugs and yet no mention of diet by the health professionals who saw him. His last serious bout came in November 2011 when he suffered with a 102-degree temperature for a month and was in the hospital for 10 days.
About the same time, the Woodwards’ children were diagnosed. Mark and Gisele consulted with her sister, a naturopath, and conducted more research that led them to the diet and Dr. Benjamin Gold and Stanley Cohen in Atlanta.
The Woodwards decided to put their money where their mouths are because, like many, they don’t like the fact that many of the studies on drugs are funded by the drug industry. And with government cutbacks, funding from nonbiased sources of alternatives is scarce.
“This particular research has hit our home,” Gisele says. “We’ve seen the results. We know it works. My daughter has been on the diet a year and never went on medication and is in remission. Jack is doing better and Mark is, too.”Reach David Quick at 937-5516.