Healing Ulcerative Colitis with the Autoimmune Protocol: My Story (An Update)

Healing Ulcerative Colitis with the Autoimmune Protocol Diet: My Story

Well, it has been about a year since I updated you all on my personal story and my journey on the autoimmune protocol. In my post last year I explained that I had been in a severe ulcerative colitis flare for about 6 months but after starting the autoimmune protocol at the end of November I had seen a vast reduction in my symptoms, was no longer having bleeding and I had been able to taper off of the steroids I had ended up taking. I was well on my way to healing but I still had a long road of recovery ahead of me.

Following that post, I spend much of the winter and spring recovering from the damage done by both the flare and the steroids. My energy level was very low and my weight had gone up during the flare and wasn’t at a healthy level for me. It took a lot of research but I eventually discovered that both of these issues seemed to be the result of adrenal fatigue… not surprising after the amount of stress I had been dealing with and the serious amount of steroids I had been on. After finding an adrenal health plan that worked for me I was back at a healthy, stable weight and energy level by the end of spring/beginning of the summer.

At the beginning of the summer I began reintroducing some foods. I followed the plan laid out by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne in The Paleo Approach and was able to successfully reintroduce seed based spices, alcohol (up to one drink per week), egg yolks, ghee, cocoa, and macadamia nuts. My only potentially failed reintroduction was coffee. I did a fully successful reintroduction of coffee, but being a bit of a bonehead I then went to Starbucks and got an iced coffee and was sick for a week. I feel like that probably had more to do with the fact that it was Starbucks coffee since I had gone through the full reintroduction process successfully on good quality organic coffee, but to be safe I decided not to add it back in at that point. I was hitting a good stride and then our life got very eventful…

In August my husband began his final semester of graduate school and decided to start looking for another job to start after graduation. Up until this point I had been working two primary party time jobs, blogging and being a birth doula and I knew that in order to preserve my health through the process of preparing to move something had to give. I left one of my part time jobs in August, which was a difficult choice to make, but in the end the right one. By the time I finished up at that job my husband was already in the process of interviewing for the job he would eventually accept. It was a long process of traveling for interviews, house hunting, breaking the news to people, packing…. And anyone who has been through this process before knows that it is not easy especially when you add a graduation and the holidays on top of it. In the end, we moved about 10 days before Christmas.

Helaing Ulcerative Colitis with the Autoimmune Protocol Diet: My StoryThroughout the whole process, I only experienced one minor period of flare that lasted about a week and half and was easily managed through self-care and extra nutrients; a true testament to the power of the autoimmune protocol. I did however, put my reintroduction process on hold because of the many compounding factors that would have made it difficult to get a definitive result from the reintroduction process.

Since my last major flare in 2013 I have been content managing my UC with a combination of diet and lifestyle as well as maintenance medication prescribed by my gastroenterologist. This medication is not a steroid or a biologic and is the only medication used to treat UC that has actually been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in UC patients, so I felt comfortable using it as part of my treatment. However, I have recently started to have a few side effects from the extended use of the medication so over the next month or so I plan to start working with my doctor to reduce my use of this medication and hopefully resolve my symptoms.

Outside of my UC symptoms, I have also seen a tremendous amount of improvements in other areas of my health as a result of the autoimmune protocol. My digestion is better than it has ever been. My weight is completely stable and I hardly ever even feel the need to weigh myself anymore, I haven’t had a cold or infection in a very long time and I haven’t had the need to be on antibiotics in over two years. I also no longer have acne and my hair and nails are healthier than they have been in quite some time.

The thing that has become especially clear to me over the past year is that this lifestyle is truly a journey. It is not a quick fix and it is not just a means to an end. It is an ongoing process that chooses long-term health over convenience and requires daily dedication and commitment, but in return allows us to live full lives outside of the doctor’s office or the hospital. My journey is far from over, but I hope that hearing about my ups and downs over the past year helps you know that we are all in this together and that healing is just as possible for you as it has been for me.



Jesse St. Jean

Jesse St. Jean

I am many things: a wife, a daughter, a sister, a nutritional therapist, a dog-mom… and I’m an autoimmune warrior.


  • So happy for you, Samantha! Thanks for the reminder we’re all in this together, and that healing is always possible, and we can all root for each other! Congrats on your successes in the past year!

  • Hey Samantha – thanks for sharing! I know it’s always hard writing the ‘personal posts’. I am constantly surprised by how in tune with my environment – diet and lifestyle, my body is. SO much more aware than me!

  • Thank you for sharing this update! I love what you said about it not being a quick fix but a complete lifestyle change and requires daily commitment. In the end, I would say it is worth it!

  • I’m sure so many will be happy to hear your progress so far. Thank you for sharing! The steps, even the missteps, we take are worthwhile as long as we’re learning and feeling better.

  • Thank you for this post! I have to remember this is a journey. I found AIP in a desperate moment during a really bad, still ongoing/healing, postpartum UC flare about 4 months ago. I’m so grateful I did because the people in this community are so inspiring, not to mention the food makes me feel well, considering how sick Ive been. Would you share what maintenance medication you are referring to that reduces the risk of colorectal cancer? I’m on the lowest dose of purinethol (which I hate the idea of taking a medicine that works by killing active cells, but better than not being well enough to take care of myself or son), but I’m still on steroids so in case I have to try a different maintenance drug when I taper this time, I’d like to ask my GI about it… but its ok if you wish not to share since you didnt post the name of the drug in the first place…Thanks for sharing your journey. Wishing you happiness and health!

    • Hello Kate, I am so glad to hear that you are doing such a great job working on your health. I’m sorry you’re still struggling but it takes a lot of time to get out of those big flares so stick with it! I am on two forms of mesalamine. Asacol which is oral and Rowasa with is rectal. I’ve heard that may doctors dismiss mesalamines because not a lot of people respond solely to them, but combined with diet and lifestyle I have had good luck. However, I am not a doctor so I cannot give medical advice I am simply sharing my experience, you should talk with your doctor about the pros and cons for you. I wish you health and happiness as well. Thanks for sharing your story with me.

  • Hey, what did you do for your adrenal fatigue? I have been struggling with it for several months and the adrenal caps o took don’t make a big enough difference so my doctor put me on Coryef ( steroid) and I feel worse from the side affects…only been on it a week, but she has prescribed it for 3months. Don’t know what I should do…I am up for any suggestions! Thanks

    • steroids will wreak havoc on your adrenals, I know. The best things you can do are get a lot of sleep, go off of caffeine entirely and eat a lot of nutrient dense foods like liver. I also took a supplement by Gaia herbs called adrenal health. However, one of the non active ingredients in that is not AIP friendly, so you would have to decided what to do about that for yourself. I didn’t have a reaction to it, so I decided to go ahead with it. The active ingredient in it is holy basil though and that is AIP friendly so if you wanted to try just taking a holy basil supplement you could. All of that being said, I am not a doctor of any sort so I can’t recommend anything to you, I can just tell you what worked for me. Good luck!

  • Sweet Potatoes? AIP says Yes; GAPS and SCD No. Did you ever have trouble with sweet potatoes? What about fruit? AIP says no more than 1-2 pieces of fruit a day (like 20g fructose). That seems low. Bananas seem so soft and mild. Do you ever have trouble with them? Also, have you ever tried LDN (low dose naltrexone) for colitis? Or, have you considered seeing a doctor of chinese medicine for colitis? There are chinese medicinal teas and formulas like JIANPILING that can really do wonders for UC.

    • I have never had an issue with sweet potatoes. In terms of fruit that is a highly personal thing, many people who struggle with bacterial overgrowth issues or yeast problems have more of an issue with fruit than others. I do not closely monitor my fructose consumption any more, but it would honestly be hard for me to get over that 20-25g limit given what I typically eat. 1 banana only has about 7g of fructose. The most fruit I would usually eat in a day would be 1 banana and about 5 strawberries that I would put in a smoothie, maybe another 4 strawberries on a salad and maybe even a piece of fruit as a snack. All of that in total would equal only about 17g of fructose and I hardly ever even eat that much fruit in a day. I have not tried LDN, but I know others have had decent luck with it. I have gotten acupuncture before and it definitely helps with my stress management and I have taken some chinese herbs while in a flare, however on a regular basis I primarily manage my UC with food and lifestyle.

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Nutritional therapist Jesse

Hi, I'm Jesse

I empower women autoimmune warriors to reclaim their health by teaching each woman how to make the right food choices to heal her body while confidently owning her journey so she can live a vibrant life with chronic illness.


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