Like many chronically ill people suffering with autoimmune disease, my Crohn’s disease has not responded to conventional treatments which have only provided very temporary and very inadequate relief (if any at all) and which cause crippling side effects of their own which often require even more treatment which causes even more side effects and so on. This grueling and gruesome cascade of interventions for Crohn’s patients relying on Western medicine for relief or for a cure, when Crohn’s is known to be incurable, progressive and unresponsive to conventional therapies is likely to go on and on for infinity or until you die, or until you give up and try something completely different. The first alternative therapy I tried for Crohn’s was the so-called elemental diet which in the United States is marketed as Vivonex, an enteral feed meant to be given through a feeding tube directly into the stomach. It was never meant to be drunk straight but you can take it that way if you are able to and if you can keep it down and getting or keeping it down is not an easy task. Vivonex is a powder that you mix with water to create a sickly looking yellow fluid that tastes like a restaurant walk-in cooler smells — damp, food-like and disgusting.
Whether taken through a feeding tube or drunk straight, the elemental diet offers bowel rest in which you are getting nutrients with no bulk and therefore without anything to “digest” leaving ulcerated, inflamed and otherwise injured and impotent bowel tissue to rest and hopefully to heal. The nutrients are not digested in the intestines and instead are processed directly through the liver. In my own case, the elemental diet didn’t work at all. As soon as the fluid hit my gut it responded as it did to all food which was to essentially reject it as a malignant intruder and cause an immediate fever to try to kill it among other things. I felt nauseated, feverish, spasmodic, bloated and every other sickening facet of Crohn’s no matter what I ate, even if it didn’t need chewing — in my case at least it seemed as if the “bulk” meaning fiber and whatnot of normal food wasn’t my problem. In Japan, they have a similar enteral treatment marketed under a different brand but is the same thing and the same idea. The medical literature seems to suggest that this treatment is somewhat successful to induce “remission” in Crohn’s patients in Japan but is it really? And what does that even mean? Reading between the lines of this journal article, along with personal experience and a bit of inside information have led me to believe that not only is the elemental diet not effective here or in Japan or anywhere, but also that the medical literature is intentionally obfuscating and ultimately misleading on the efficacy of enteral feeds for Crohn’s treatment, the health and wellbeing of Crohn’s patients generally including what clinical “remission” means and what it doesn’t, and where Crohn’s sufferers often end up with their treatments and with their lives.