Mark Readinger shares his story of being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis nearly 30 years ago, and how he turned it around, as well as inflammatory arthritis, after fasting at TrueNorth Health Center.
My name is Mark Readinger and I’m 63 years old. I’ve been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and inflammatory arthritis, debilitating diseases that took me years to learn to manage. It’s been a long road with plenty of trial and error. I share my story with the hope that it helps you navigate your health-related issues and bypass some of the unproductive detours I took along the way.
Since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis nearly 30 years ago, I’ve visited a series of medical doctors. Each offered different prescriptions to help manage the symptoms but none addressed the root of the issue. Exacerbating these conditions was my high-stress job. I worked as part of the White House staff under Presidents Reagan and Bush. Then I got into industry and ran global manufacturing companies, and I travelled frequently. The ulcerative colitis made the job even more stressful, a struggle I fought for many years.
Above: Mark Readinger with his wife Sue Ellen in 2012
I had been following the standard American diet (SAD) when I heard about the Atkins diet in 2004. I was quite a bit overweight and so I jumped right in, eating all the meat, cheese, and bacon I could; there was no downside apparently. I lost 56 pounds eating that way. My wife told me I was killing myself with all the meat and cheese, but I replied, “Look at the blood results. Everything’s great!” Had I known then what I know now, I’d have realized she was absolutely right.
Three years later, she finally convinced me to get off my low-carb diet. And, sure enough, the weight I lost quickly returned. I kept plugging away, eating as most people do and struggling with ulcerative colitis all the while. I knew there had to be a dietary alternative out there, but it took me until July 2011 to find it.
I came home from work one day and my wife asked if I’d like to go to a movie. We really enjoy the movies, so I said sure! She took me to see Forks Over Knives. I was bowled over! On our walk back home through downtown Milwaukee, I remember saying, “Honey, I’m a data-driven guy. When my assumptions about life are challenged by new data, I can’t disregard it. I think we can do this.” We both decided to phase out all animal proteins over the next year.
We determined that by this time the following year (2012) we’d be fully vegan. That date happened to coincide with a Forks Over Knives event in Chicago. We attended the event the following year, listened to the presentations, and ate the food. And that’s when we committed to a completely vegan diet.
My ulcerative colitis improved dramatically. It changed so noticeably that my gastroenterologist, who gave me a colonoscopy once a year, said, “What’s going on? You’re completely clean. Every other year, you’ve had eight to ten polyps, and I’ve had to do the biopsies. Now you have nothing.” I had a completely clean colon. I said to him, “We’ve switched to a plant-based diet. I’m happy to tell you about it if you’d like to know more.” He said, “Nah, that’s all BS. If nutrition were that important, and if food was truly medicine, we would have learned about it in medical school. But it’s not hurting you, so keep doing it.”
As time passed, my wife and I started falling off the diet. We ate about 85% plant-based, but fish and cheese made their way back onto our plates from time to time. I began to notice swelling and inflammation in my legs, and moving around became increasingly difficult. By early 2014, I could barely walk. Pain shot up my feet, ankles, and knees.
Believing I had plantar fasciitis, the podiatrist sent me home with a few contraptions to help me sleep a certain way; but none of it helped. In frustration, he eventually sent me to a rheumatologist who performed a battery of tests, suggesting that I had inflammatory arthritis. His remedy? “Here’s some methotrexate. You’ve got to take this for the rest of your life. By the way, it’s toxic to your liver. And we have to take your blood samples every month for six months just to make sure we’ve got it dialed in correctly, because if we screw it up, things could get really bad.”
I said, “Oh great. What’s the alternative? I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.” My doctor professed with confidence, “You’ll have this disease until you die and you’ll be taking methotrexate until then.” So I agreed to take the medication to manage the symptoms. Still, I countered, “I’m not interested in managing my symptoms; I want to defeat this thing!” But he insisted: “This will be with you for the rest of your life. It’s incurable.” I didn’t believe him, so I started doing my own homework.
In June 2015 we signed up for the McDougall 10-Day live-in program. As a result, my wife and I recommitted to a plant-based diet and swore off added salt, oil, and sugar. The arthritis improved a great deal. Over the next year, my joint pain dropped by about 80% but the 20% that remained made it difficult to walk further than one-quarter mile. I couldn’t walk the golf course and I couldn’t hike with my wife. The ulcerative colitis was well under control with the renewed diet, but I wanted to nip the inflammatory arthritis and get rid of the methotrexate once and for all. And that’s when I started researching TrueNorth Health Center.
I had heard about TrueNorth at McDougall’s event. Dr. Michael Klaper and other compelling speakers from the center lectured there and inspired me to check out their clinic in Santa Rosa. I booked a stay for October 2016 and completed a 21-day water-only fast, followed by an 11-day re-feeding. On day three of the fast, my symptoms—for both arthritis and colitis—vanished. I had no more pain or inflammation from the arthritis, and no more cramps from the colitis.
Completing the fast was done without drama. I had no symptoms, including: no nausea, no lightheadedness, and no undue fatigue. And I lost 36 pounds. My blood pressure dropped from 161/95 to 106/69. I lost over four inches from my waist and had to buy two new sets of clothes while I was there. Dr. Peter Sultana also got me off of all my medications—that means no more methotrexate! Needless to say, I went home a happy camper!