A Healthy Mindset: Overcoming Crohn’s and Colitis
Can a positive state of mind help you overcome chronic issues like Crohn’s and colitis? I believe the answer is yes, and so does Dane Johnson.
I recently had the great pleasure of talking with Dane, a holistic nutrition consultant who has personally overcome a life-threatening battle with Crohn’s and colitis. Dane now consults others who suffer from irritable bowel disease while continuing his career as a model and actor in Los Angeles (crohnscolitislifestyle.com). Dane is also the co-founder of a non-profit called the Nutrition Heals Foundation (nutritionheals.org), a gateway for natural solutions in the health and wellness world.
Dane’s story is inspiring. I fell in love with this guy during our conversation on Cellular Healing TV – and not because he’s so handsome! It was because of his mindset and attitude, which are so positive that I got goosebumps talking to him. His optimistic mindset has helped him find his way back to health through the many challenges of his illness. But before we dive into Dane’s story, let’s back up and first define Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Is There a Difference Between Crohn’s Disease and Colitis?
Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease, which occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks itself. Autoimmune can take many different forms, but in the case of Crohn’s, the immune system can attack any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth all the way down to the colon. In ulcerative colitis, most of the inflammation is found in the large intestine, so it’s a more targeted area. Both can be serious conditions.
Sometimes, Crohn’s and colitis are diagnosed together. If signs of inflammation are found in the stomach, the diagnosis might also be gastritis. Dane has been diagnosed with all three at different points in his journey. He explains, “It’s easy for someone who’s had ulcerative colitis later on to be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, I’ve found. I think it’s a very personal situation and specific to what doctor you’re going to, what kind of systems they’re using to diagnose you, and their specific definition.”
As I’ve said before, autoimmune disorders are an epidemic in today’s culture, especially in young people. It’s important to understand that food is different nowadays, at least from when I grew up. For example, glyphosate wasn’t being used in the food; whereas now, it’s in everything that kids are eating today. Glyphosate, an herbicide commonly used in conventional farming, creates massive inflammation and disruption in the microbiome, which is contributing to this epidemic. Many kids suffer from minor symptoms like bloating, a little stomach pain, or diarrhea. Many consider these to be fairly trivial issues from time to time, but as we discovered from Dane’s story, things can get very serious, very fast when you’re dealing with autoimmune disease.
Crohn’s and Colitis Can Get Serious, Fast
A little stomach pain and diarrhea is how Dane’s story began in his late teens. He managed to control it somewhat by eating healthy foods for the first few years. Then, just out of college at age 22, Dane took a stressful job working 60 hours a week, and his diet went downhill. He began having uncontrollable bowel movements, massive fatigue, and brain fog. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
Dane tried controlling the symptoms with pharmaceuticals like prednisone, but continued to eat junk foods. He didn’t like talking about the symptoms, which were embarrassing to him. He just wanted to live his life – many people can relate to that. In Dane’s words, “I went about my way, pursuing my dreams, pursuing my life. Especially at a young age, I didn’t want to worry about it.”
He went on to pursue a successful modeling and acting career, but by age 24, the bottom began to drop out. The pressure and traveling required by his career put him under stress, and as he says, “I just kind of collapsed. I lost 30 or 40 pounds in about three or four weeks. I couldn’t eat…I was doing really well in my career, but here I had this massive problem. I started looking at options. I got on stronger drugs: immunomodulators, immunosuppressants, Entyvio, Remicade, 6-MP, methotrexate.”
Yet, none of the conventional treatments were working for him. “I just felt more tired and more sick. It got to the point where I had gotten so sick, the doctors were saying, ‘Well, the next step is surgery to get a colostomy bag.’” At that point, Dane was motivated enough to pursue natural medicine. In fact, he was inspired to go back to school for natural medicine at the Energetic Health Institute in Los Angeles. He began to learn many great things about the mind-body connection, using food as medicine, the importance of mitochondria, targeted healing movements, and how to heal the lining of the gut.
However, Dane explains, “In the middle of my schooling, I had my second flare, which again [was triggered by] high amounts of stress, huge changes in life, relationship problems, family problems, work problems, all of these things. My diet wasn’t as strong. I started drinking alcohol again. I had my second flare. This one nearly killed me.”
In the middle of a fashion show, Dane had to drive himself to the emergency room. The doctors tried everything from chemotherapy to highly addictive opiates, but he wasn’t getting any better. The doctors told his family that he might not live, and they suggested surgery to remove his large intestine. Dane was strongly against this and somehow managed to leave the hospital after about seven weeks. At that point, Dane met with his naturopathic doctor and they worked together to create a plan for recovery.
A Healthy Mindset: The Foundation for Healing
When I asked Dane what made the greatest difference for him in his healing journey, he told me it was changing his mindset. This really struck a chord for me, as I have found that ultimately, we must manage our thoughts to start the healing process — and to finish the healing process.
When I interviewed Bruce Lipton for Cellular Healing TV, we were talking about how thoughts can either drive or down-regulate cellular inflammation (R4). Physical, chemical, and emotional stress, and even our thoughts, can turn genes on and off, for better or worse. We know that a bad gene gets turned on in the case of autoimmune. Ultimately, getting rid of the stressors, and changing our thoughts, offer a powerful solution.
Dane found the same thing to be true. He read Jordan Rubin’s book, Patient Heal Thyself, which he found inspiring. He says, “What touched me is [Rubin] came from a spiritual point of view and that was a big change. I think that was the big key for me…the first time I healed myself I had to let go of the pain and anger. I had to let go of the stress.”
Gradually, Dane began making positive changes throughout his life. He focused on gratitude and positivity; he recited daily prayers; he began writing letters to his family and friends to express his appreciation; he even changed what kinds of media he was watching and listening to in order to take in messages that were more positive and uplifting. Dane also began to open up to the people around him, confiding in them about his illness. This helped him release the embarrassment and shame he felt about having a bowel issue. “What I found was that as I let go of the pain and I let go of the anger, all of the sudden my physical attributes got better,” says Dane. “I found this great connection of letting go, finding gratefulness, finding harmony, and then finding it easier to eat well, because I knew I was doing what was right for me.”
After the second major flare-up of symptoms that almost took his life, Dane was able to gradually wean himself off of all pharmaceutical drugs. He gained 60 pounds over the course of a year, and even without the drugs, a colonoscopy showed a 75% decrease in disease. “I’m taking no Tylenol, no pain killer, no nothing,” says Dane, “Turmeric is my pain killer.”
While healthy eating is essential when dealing with Crohn’s or colitis, attitude and stress levels also play a huge role. Dane makes a point with what he calls “eating our emotions.” As he puts it, “I always say to people, if you’re watching a bunch of crazy, scary movies and you’re screaming on the phone and arguing with your family, how do you think that’s going to make you feel in your gut? What are you going to eat after that?” When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to reach for unhealthy foods–we eat our emotions.
Ancient Healing Strategies for Gut Healing
With a positive mindset, lifestyle changes become much easier to make. After releasing anger and reaching a level of acceptance of his illness, Dane could let go of eating grains, refined sugars, processed meat, and other foods that triggered symptoms. He also incorporated herbs like marshmallow root and slippery elm, as well as supplements like probiotics and glutamine for gut healing. But probiotics alone won’t fix major gut issues. I’ve learned specific ancient healing strategies are vital for healing a damaged, dysfunctional digestive system.
Dane mentioned fasting as part of his protocol for health. We do a lot of fasting with my coaching clients as one of our ancient healing strategies for improving cellular health. We train clients how to fast and teach different types of fasting, like intermittent daily fasting and block fasting. Not only does fasting reset the cells, but also works to positively impact the microbiome. Fasting further provides the gut needed time to rest from constant consumption1. I’ve found fasting to be the quickest technique for healing the gut, decreasing body-wide inflammation (R4), and helping to “eat” bad cells, a process known as autophagy. Autophagy (or “self-eating”) is a way the body removes cellular debris. Bad cells (which are not able to adapt to using fat for energy) die off because the body eliminates them first. Massive health benefits can occur when autophagy kicks into high gear, and the process can even help “turn off” bad genes2. Researcher Dr. Valter Longo noted in a 2014 study3 that a water fast of 4 or more days can trigger a reset of the immune system. You see, as we age, our blood contains too many memory T-cells, each programmed to combat a particular microbe, and not enough naive T-cells, which respond to new challenges. Fasting purges and rebuilds the immune cell population with naive T-cells, which is key for fixing autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s and colitis.
When people eat all day long and never incorporate periods of fasting, they’re making mitochondria work overtime with little to no energy left for healing. Then, people feel they don’t have much energy and often reach for caffeine and other stimulants, which only creates more inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle. As I often say to people who struggle is “Don’t eat less; eat less often.” Even if it’s just a handful of nuts, when you eat you raise glucose and insulin, you can strain mitochondria. By eating less often, you help to restore cellular energy. This is R3 of my 5R’s of True Cellular Detox and Healing™ that I use as a roadmap on how to fix the cell – restoring cellular energy. Oftentimes, increasing cellular energy (ATP) is the first thing that we must do with very challenged clients to encourage cellular function.
Another key ancient healing strategy I use to fix the gut is called diet variation, or what I also refer to as “feast and famine cycles.” Diet variation is a powerful technique for promoting cellular adaptation via healthy cellular stress, and has been a game-changer for many who are looking to fix the gut and breakthrough weight-loss resistance and plateaus. Remember, bad cells don’t adapt; therefore, variation force cellular adaptation helping to eliminate bad cells. Diet variation not only means varying the foods we eat (ideally by season), but also involves varying when we eat (meal timing), and how much we eat, if at all (fasting). The variation principle serves to mimic the feast and famine periods of our ancestors’ lives, whose food availability and offerings were typically. . . variable. Diet variation helps to promote “mitochondrial fitness,” making our cells metabolically more efficient and effective for healing and adaptation to stress.
One of the messages I teach the practitioners I coach is that you must empower your clients and patients to take control of their lives. If you don’t do that, then they are not going to make the right choices to take back their health. That’s why I loved talking with Dane — his attitude is amazing, and he understands how personal empowerment leads to better health over the long-haul.
“The best feeling in the world, the best feeling, is being your best version of yourself,” Dane says. “There’s no feeling like it. You will gladly give up the sugars. You’ll gladly give up that processed meat. You gladly spend the extra money on organic food because you look in the mirror and all you feel is strong energy, and confidence, and belief in yourself.”
So, how does Dane maintain this awesome mindset? He makes it a daily practice: “I read a personal development book every day. I say the three things I’m grateful for every single day. The day just gets brighter when you say what you’re grateful for…I just try to spread positivity.”
Wow! Dane definitely succeeds in that; positivity emanates from him. I got so happy just talking with this guy and hearing his story. I love it when our shows on Cellular Healing TV end up moving in the direction of mindset and the mind-body connection. A healthy mindset is crucial for a healthy life: we create our reality. You’re creating your future. I tell my kids this all the time.
I have a saying, “From pain to purpose.” Dane Johnson is a great example of making his mess his message. He’s taken the worst thing that ever happened to him and turned it into a way to empower himself. Not only has he improved his own health, but now he also helps others do the same. In Dane’s words, “What you can overcome in life is what empowers you and is what makes you special. This can be a gift.” A perfect reminder to be grateful for our challenges.