In this interview we speak with Jordan Reasoner, co-author of SCD Lifestyle Solution (SCD: Specific Carbohydrate Diet.) In last week s story, we revealed how Steve Wright, other author of SCD Lifestyle, had to make serious lifestyle and health changes in order to live a normal life. Here, Jordan candidly shares how he faced the fear of death because similar medical and health problems had plagued him for his entire life problems which seemingly no one could fix. After going through the pain and confusion for a whole year and firing two doctors, Jordan changed his lifestyle through and ultimately came to write SCD Lifestyle Solution a how-to guide to living a healthy, conscious life.
Ishita: Give us a bit of background on how you started the SCD diet.
Jordan: I had similar symptoms to what Steve had, but mine was a case of Celiac disease. I started SCD in July of 2009 on the day one of our fraternity brothers got married, which I ll never forget.
For years, I had diarrhea 10 times a day and it really affected my life, but I thought that was normal since it d been a part of my life for so long. I really thought I just had a touchy stomach. It took a friend to slap me into reality one morning and make me realize that I wasn't normal when he said, Dude, you get up two hours earlier than I do so that you can have diarrhea three times before class. That s not normal. To me, that was the wake-up call. That s when I really started to have awareness and focused on the problem. it's only when you have the awareness that you realize how much it hurts and you must get out of it now. You have to be in enough pain so as to get out of the situation. And if you re not aware of that, you re not going to be motivated to change. So, for me, it was about facilitating awareness of the situation.
Fast forward six months from the wedding day to after I'd been on the diet and lifestyle for a while: I felt much better than I'd ever felt after years of being sick. My diarrhea stopped in 7-days and now I was actually improving for the first time in years.
I distinctly remember that night when Steve called me for the second time after he was stuck in the bathroom for hours. Being six months into the practice, I said to him, Man, you know this isn't normal for you to call me a second time with these issues late at night. I've been there in the bathroom by myself late at night, crying. This is not normal. This is not healthy living. People shouldn't have to go through this and you don't have to go through it either. You don't deserve something like this. At the same time, I knew change is hard. So I was gentle, being a friend and listening while I still nudged him in the right direction. I knew I couldn't force him to do anything even though I wanted him to feel better. It was something he needed to do on his own.
There s a fine line between supporting someone and encouraging them toward something that will truly change their life. I deal with this everyday as a parent myself. The more you push someone, the more they ll rebel and repel against it. it's about being subtle and facilitating awareness. By showing them how it should be and how their situation could be different if they did something, you are being a true supporter. That night when Steve called, I didn't give him any advice before making him aware of the real situation, and once he was aware, he already knew what was working for me.
Ishita: Before starting the diet, how long had you been aware that your old diet was an issue for you?
Jordan: I started to have more awareness about my gut in high school and then it got really bad in college. My mom passed away from Cancer when I was in college. After that, I realized I was having diarrhea 10-15 times a day. It worsened gradually, but because it was happening slowly, I coped with it. I ignored it. Like I said, I was getting up two hours before class so I could go to the bathroom a couple times I began my day. In my head, it was all normal. I justified and rationalized it as all the beer and pizza until my friend slapped me out of it.
After a year of misdiagnosis and firing two doctors, I finally got diagnosed with Celiac disease. The funny thing is, they originally told me I had IBS, gave me a prescription and prescribed more fiber, which made the diarrhea worse. The medication didn't work and I was getting sicker. I went back to the doctor and actually demanded that I get a referral to a gastroenterologist. At the GI s office, I walked in and said, Look, I'mnot getting better. I either have Colitis or Crohn s disease. Give me a colonoscopy. I was 21 years old at the time. The GI finally gave me a colonoscopy because she knew I was fed up, and they also did an endoscopy which is when they diagnosed the Celiac disease.
I got a letter through the mail three weeks later that said, Jordan, you have Celiac disease. All you have to do is remove gluten from your diet and you ll be fine forever. That was it no phone call, no nothing, just a letter from the doctor. I thought, OK, I can't have wheat anymore and then I ll be fine.
So that s what I did for two years. I followed a gluten free diet, but still, I didn't get any better. I was still stuck in the bathroom at work and in jeopardy of losing my job at times. I was still having diarrhea 5-10 times a day.
Ishita: Even after two years of a strict, gluten free diet?
Jordan: Yes, exactly. And the whole time I kept going back to the doctor and she said, Well, maybe you have IBS, Maybe you have rapid emptying disorder, You just need to do more fiber, Maybe it's just not going to go away.
I kept researching on the net, trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. Steve and I call it the Google death spiral where you constantly search for answers online. I wondered why the gluten-free diet wasn't working? I even tried really eclectic parasite cleanses with crazy powerful herbs and still nothing was working. The uncertainty and not knowing was getting too much to bear.
That s when I fired my doctor again.
A couple of weeks after that, I sat down and wrote up my will. I was up late at night and sick, and as I wrote I thought there was no way I was going to live much longer because I still didn't know what was wrong with me. I was losing so much weight being sick all the time. I remember I wrote down all of our bank login information, how to get all the bills paid etc. into this death book. It was one of the scariest moments of my life!
Then, I found a naturopathic MD in Michigan, Dr. Will Page-Echols. I walked into his door, had a meeting with him and after that he said, Jordan, the gluten free diet isn't enough for you. You may have to use the SCD diet. Here, read the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle. And I thought, What! No way that I am reading a book after all this research I've done and then changing my lifestyle or making a decision based on that. I actually didn't go back to him for four more months until June of 2009 because I was frustrated. Finally, when I went back to him four months later he said the same thing, My prescription for you is to read this book and to do this diet. That s it.
I finally broke down and ordered the book one night after a 2 AM diarrhea session because I didn't know what else to do.
After reading the book cover to cover, I saw that it actually made a lot of sense. Yet, on top of all that, it still took me six weeks of research and Google death spirals to figure out that it was time to start this diet.
Ishita: So were you still searching for a comprehensive solution or just trying to convince yourself that you had to change something?
Jordan: In my case, it was probably the latter. I read the book and thought, Wow, that makes so much sense. This explains why I'mstill sick on a gluten free diet. This explains why I need to go further and eliminate all grains and all sugars and I can fix my gut. Even though it felt like I had the right solution, it confused me because of all the lifestyle changes. I didn't know how to cook. I'd been eating processed gluten free pizzas and gluten free cereal. And now I had to eat a natural diet of real food like meats, fruits and vegetables. I didn't know how to cook anything that didn't come in a box! So for me, much of the six weeks was me objecting against the new diet because I didn't know the answer to a lot of questions.
Ishita: So you started answering questions for yourself?
Jordan: Honestly, I did it one at a time. Laying out what I needed to do to start this diet.
In the beginning, I was scared to death of What if it didn't work? I had tried all these things, like parasite cleanses and liver detoxes, and my wife was totally sick of hearing me come up with the latest get-healthy-quick fix (not that this method was quick by any means). So I had my doubts. What if it didn't work again? What then? I already got to the point where I had written my will.
Ishita: You were battling a great deal of inertia. How did you get through the What if this doesn't work ? and start it anyway?
Jordan: I guess the credit goes to the entrepreneurial spirit I possess. It feels almost like I had a degree of delusion in my head that keeps me uplifted as I go through some of the worst times in my life. That little bit of delusion was enough to push me through all the doubts, the objections, all the muddiness of the situation.
The question I kept asking myself any time I ran into more resistance was, What if it does work? Then I can be a father to my son and a husband to my wife. Then I can raise a family again, keep my job and make more money. Those were the things that pushed me through.
And when I finally started, I started small and I started going step-by-step. I wrote everything down: my final grocery list and what I needed to buy, because part of the SCD diet is you do a three to five day intro diet. it's like a reboot diet. We have an exact step-by-step process in the book that I wrote down originally. You go to the store. You buy this. You come home. You pick a day like a Saturday and make all this food. Here s what you need to make. Here s how to make it. Step by step. And then next morning you start eating the food you made. You do the intro diet for three to five days.
The first day I was on the intro diet was when we went to this wedding I spoke about earlier. I remember at one time during the evening I pulled out my wallet and a huge pack of Imodium A-D fell out of my pocket. It was everywhere, and Steve was there and he was like, I've so been there. I carry them with me all the time too! I thought, now I really see how not normal this is!
By then, I had read the book Dr. Will recommended and spoke to my wife about it. The book really resonated with me. I told my wife, Look, I want to try this diet for seven days just to see what happens. I took responsibility and promised I'd make my own food, while she cooked for herself and our son. It wasn't easy at first, but like a friend of mine once said, Trade your bathroom time for your kitchen time, it made perfect sense. I preferred spending more time in the kitchen instead of being stuck in the bathroom for hours. It felt more appealing that way!
It is almost a meditative process to cook your own healthy food. There are hacks which can make your life even easier. For example, you can cook your food in the slow cooker on a Sunday, freeze a part of it and eat the rest during the week. In my case, I would make double dinner and have the leftovers for lunch the next day. You can also outsource the task if you have a family friend or a grandmother who can help you make food. So there are definite ways to save your time and increase your productivity while living a healthier life.
After trying the diet for seven days, my diarrhea stopped completely for the first time in years. The results were so quick that I vowed never to go back to my old ways. I traded my bathroom time for kitchen time. I still had to make some changes but in the first week I went to 10-15 times down to three. It was beautiful! I'd never felt so free in years. No more scanning for bathrooms at social gatherings!
Ishita: Would you say stress had to do with your condition?
Jordan: It may have been related. There s evidence that a severe, traumatic event can trigger autoimmune disease. it's associated with a leaky gut and conditions like IBS. We ve all had the experience of butterflies in the stomach and maybe you ve had a little bit of diarrhea when you ve been nervous, or if you had to go on stage and make a speech. We all know the link there.
It reminds me of the night my dad died of a heart attack. I was the one that found him. There was lots of crying and screaming and the police came and it was pretty horrible. An hour later after it was all over, I remember I had the worst stomach experience I had ever had in my life; I thought I was going to die. It was the worst pain I'd ever felt with diarrhea, and that was when I really understood the connection between stress and my gut.
We did a radio show with Chris Kresser, a well-known figure in Paleo diet community, about some new research suggesting that you can actually develop Cortisol resistance in stress responses. Which essentially means, If you are exposed to stress day in and day out for a long time, you re going to get an inflamed body. Chronic inflammation is linked to pretty much every disease you can think of: heart disease, autoimmune issues, leaky gut, digestive disease, Alzheimer s, etc. Chronic stress creates chronic inflammation. When you have chronic inflammation you re going to develop disease. You re likely going to develop digestive problems which can be anything from constipation to gas to diarrhea, bloating any of those things can be tied back to chronic inflammation and the stress in your life.
Two years into the SCD, we had the food and supplements all figured out. But I didn't handle stress well. I had hit a plateau. Even though I was doing everything right, I was clearly missing an important point, which was better stress management. Once I identified this intangible part, I started doing meditation and yoga. But human behavior is a tricky thing. I just couldn't develop the habit of regular meditation or yoga practice, although I wanted to and knew that it helped me feel better.
So here we were: knowing the science and diet, but the stress element was missing; we knew meditation and yoga helped reduce stress and we needed to become more regular with our practice, but both of us really struggled.
So instead of trying to meditate for an hour everyday for example, we decided to do it in small steps. We made it super simple for us by committing to 15-minute meditation each day. And honestly, that did it. It helped us stay really consistent and on track and less stressed. This isn't to say we don't have days when we skip the practice, but it happens less often. We followed BJ Fogg s model on behavior change which says a) trigger the behavior, b) have an ability to do it and c) make it super-easy (motivate). We made it simple for us to practice which has led to brilliant stress-busting results. That s how one can create a ritual around anything that they're looking to change in their life.
To sum it up, today, I've grown to value myself and my body, and that translates into honoring my body. To this day, I've never cheated on this diet. Yes, I do overeat on foods that are OK like fruit, and I ll eat way too much of it and get sick just like any healthy person would, but I am scared of going back to that old lifestyle, so I stick to it. You won't see me reaching for a slice of pizza or a Snicker s bar.
At times, you don't value yourself, you fail and fall off the wagon. it's almost like just a repeating loop and the only way that I can really break the cycle is by sitting down and saying, You know what? I'mhaving it. I'mhaving good health. I'mhaving success in business. I deserve it, I want it, I need it and I'mgoing to have it. And by saying that, I can break the state I'min and put down the fruit and start back up again. Or start meditating again. it's the point of breaking the pattern and saying, No, I'mhaving it. I'mhaving success. I'mhaving health. I value myself. I care about myself. I'mworth it. I'mgoing to honor my body. I'mgoing to put this down and it's done. it's an ongoing commitment to oneself forever it's a way to show self-love.
About: Jordan Reasoner is the co-author of SCD Lifestyle, which talks about how unconventional foods can unlock our body s natural ability to heal. Jordon started the diet in June 2009 and saw his diarrhea stop in seven n days. Today, he lives the SCD lifestyle himself, and chronicles early days with the experiment on his website.