Graedons' Pharmacy: Special diet plus coconut controls Crohn's

March 11, 2014 

Q: My husband has had Crohn's disease since he was 17, and he's now 48. Fourteen years ago, just before our first child was born, he was in the hospital with a bad flare-up and was very close to surgery.

As he was recovering, the doctors wanted to put him on lifetime steroid meds. He didn't want to go that route and did some research. He discovered the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which would change his life forever.

His gas production significantly decreased within a day or two on the diet. He's been med-free and has had no flare-ups ever since (14 years!).

The diet is very demanding. You essentially cut out all grains, even foods like soy and rice, and all forms of sugar except honey. I use a lot of almond flour in cooking. And yes, he eats a lot of coconut through macaroons and other baked goods I make. For my husband, the diet is not a cure for Crohn's, but it keeps the disease in check.

A: Thank you for sharing this amazing story. A recent article in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition (January 2014) offers a case series in which the SCD approach improved symptoms and lab results.

We have heard from dozens of readers that coconut can be helpful in controlling hard-to-manage diarrhea. Our book "Favorite Foods From The People's Pharmacy" (online at discusses food as medicine and provides a popular recipe for coconut macaroon cookies.

Q: I have been suffering for six months with hemorrhoids. I was buying a tube of Preparation H at least once a week and getting very little relief.

When I Googled for an herbal remedy, I found a suggestion for horse chestnut. I already had a box of Venastat on hand that I was meaning to try for spider veins. The results have been fantastic, more than I could have hoped for! I have to take it every day, though, or the symptoms return.

A: Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) has been used to treat varicose veins. It makes veins less fragile.

The same activity benefits hemorrhoids, which are a particular type of varicose vein (Alternative Medicine Review, April 2001).

Venastat is a standardized extract of horse chestnut. Thank you for sharing your success.

Q: I have heard that Concord grape juice will lower cholesterol and alleviate joint pain. Do you know anything about that?

A: Concord grape juice contains antioxidants that improve blood-vessel flexibility (American Journal of Hypertension, January 2014). Other research suggests that it has beneficial effects on cholesterol (Nutrition Research, November 2008).

Readers have been telling us for decades that grape juice combined with Certo (plant pectin) can ease joint pain and stiffness.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or email them via their Web site: Their newest book is "Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them."

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