The Dietary Science Foundation
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The medicine that Samuel Backman, 22, was given for Bechterew’s disease gave him brain fog. When it was at its worst he could collapse in the middle of the day, hardly able to move. Now he’ll ride the Vätternrundan, a 300 km bicycle race around Lake Vättern in Sweden, for the Dietary Science Foundation. Thanks to the drastic changes he made to his diet, Samuel can live without medicine these days, and the future looks bright.
On Saturday, the starting pistol will be fired for the Vätternrundan in Motala. One of the thousands of people riding the 300 kilometers around Sweden’s second largest lake is twenty-two year old Samuel Backman. He will be wearing the Dietary Science Foundation’s logo on his chest.
“I want to ride for the Dietary Science Foundation because I’m convinced that diet has a big impact on how we feel,” says Samuel Backman.
His personal story gives us reason to believe that good food can be something of a miracle medicine. Four years ago, when Samuel was 18 years old, his hip started to hurt and his back was stiff when he woke up in the morning.
“I began to avoid moving and ended up sitting at the computer a lot. I watched TV series and ate pizza and candy. That’s pretty much what I ate,” he says.
Finally he went to the doctor and after a few visits he was x-rayed. It turned out that he had Bechterew’s disease, a chronic inflammation of muscle attachments and joints. In Samuel Backman’s case, it presented as pain in the hip and lumbar spine.
“The doctor said it was an aggressive form of the disease and that I needed aggressive treatment.”
Every month he got injected with a medicine that suppressed the inflammation. The pain subsided, but the treatment had serious side effects.
“I had major brain fog and was completely out of it. Some days I felt like: “If I don’t lie down, I’ll faint.”
And his bowels rebelled. To avoid stomach pain, Samuel Backman sometimes ate almost nothing for days at a time, and after a few months he started having suicidal thoughts.
“I got my last shot in January 2015; after that I felt I couldn’t do it any more. The pain was gone, but I was a wreck. I hardly dared to take a walk for fear that my body would fail me.”
After a month without medicine, Samuel felt much better, but the pain came back.
“I started searching the Internet, and there were all kinds of things to read about. It was difficult to know what to believe,” he says.
He got interested in a Facebook group about candida, a yeast-like fungus that can infect the digestive tract. Many group members reported that a drastic change of diet intended to combat the intestinal fungus had counteracted a number of health problems and diseases.
”There were stories about people with every possible problem, from eczema to rheumatism. Enough people wrote about it in the group that I got motivated to give it a try,” Samuel says.
He had nothing to lose, so he decided to switch the pizza and candy for vegetables, root vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, eggs, fish and chicken. He eliminated sugar, wheat flour, all dairy products and red meat.
“I soon noticed a huge difference, in both my digestion and my head,” he says.
After a while, Samuel felt so much better that he thought it wouldn’t matter if he cheated a little with the food. But his gut revolted immediately, and the pain in his hip and back returned shortly after.
“When I’m careful with my diet, it takes my digestive system four days to calm down. After that, my joints and back improve, and I’m suddenly able to go for a jog. But if I eat pizza and drink cola I can’t get out of bed. It’s such a contrast. The food I eat really affects how stiff I am and how much pain I have,” says Samuel.
But the diet is strict and hard to stick to. Samuel can have a small amount of red meat if he eats it slowly, but the smallest slice of bread or piece of candy results in a merciless backlash.
It makes it hard for Samuel to hang out with his friends because they like to eat pizza and burgers.
“On Christmas Eve, when I had stuffed myself with a lot of unhealthy things and felt really bad, I thought: ‘It’s do or die. I want to have a good summer’. So I started working out a lot,” he says.
With the Vätternrundan in his sights, he has been cycling twenty kilometers, six days a week and using the cross trainer at the gym. Working out helps give him the mental strength to resist his cravings for the food that makes him sick.
“Working out is fun, eating right is more difficult.”
Early on Saturday morning, Samuel will take off on his bike. Here at the Dietary Science Foundation we will follow him on his way around Lake Vättern via our cell phones. If you want to follow him too, click here to find out how. His starting number is 25619.
That idea that intestinal candida can cause various diseases is controversial. But regardless of your opinion about that, it’s clear that the food we eat can have a dramatic effect on our digestion and a wide range of diseases. At the Dietary Science Foundation we get to hear amazing stories like Samuel Backman’s quite often, and many people feel that diet is what has saved them. In order for healthcare professionals to recommend dietary treatments, we need to study their effects using scientific methods. So far we have been able to support studies on IBS, type 1 diabetes, obesity and fatty liver, and it is all thanks to our donors. We’re now putting Bechterew’s disease on our long to-do list.
A big thank you to Samuel Backman and to everyone who helps spread the word about the Dietary Science Foundation and how food can be medicine!