Crohn’s and GMO connection High for Me, today…


I am a mom, teacher and part time activist, I suppose!  I have something calle Crohn’s disease, which is a serious digestive disorder.  I’ve been experimenting with diet changes and seeing how this affects my disease.  I’ve been cutting out GMOs from my diet with very positive results.

Yesterday, I was so tempted by the hot bar at Whole Foods market that I had to ask if the canola oil used in almost every option they had was GMO or not.  It took about 15 minutes and very nice people tried to help me.  I have had this hope that perhaps I am *only* sensitive to corn and soy GMOs, that perhaps my body can deal with cottonseed oil and canola oil when it is GMO.  I got some information, and decided to do an experiment on myself.  I had a small amount of 3 chicken options with the rice, in addition to a kale smoothie and some raw salad options.  Each of the chicken items was a) delicious and b) containing some sauce with canola oil added.  I would estimate I maybe took equivalent to less than 1/6 pound of these 3 options.  I felt fine afterwards.  This was around 1 pm yesterday.

Today it’s 11:30 and I just discovered that my crohn’s symptoms are worse than they have been in many months.  This is very disconcerting.  There is no way for me to know if this is the cause or not.  But, I have been trying to keep a log, and a few weeks ago when I ate something deep fried in (likely GMO) soy oil, I also had a spike in symptoms.

I don’t understand how I could have such a similar reaction to so many different ingredients, when the only common factor is that they are GMO.  Perhaps my body prefers food DNA it was used to and is getting more reactive to these new DNA strands that it likely never recognized 20 years ago and it slowly has been trying to reject or show me not to eat them somehow.

My gastroenterologist believed that I would be on meds daily and need surgery.  That was 8-10 years ago.  I went into a 3 year remission of Crohn’s disease when I greatly reduced my GMO intake.  I was never 100% purist for a whole year or even for a whole month.  Perhaps less.  But I believe I reduced my intake by around 90%.  I started to think maybe I was not SO sensitive to these ingredients, life got busy and hectic, with 4 kids and so many activities preparing food at home ALL the time became a bigger challenge.  Ironically as I became a bit more activist on asking the government to label GMOs on our foods, I had a relapse into Crohn’s.  Around the time I hosted a showing of Genetic Roulette, I was also dealing with the fallout of having to return to meds and gastroenterology appointments.  When I described my efforts to my gastroenterologist, he said “well if that worked before, then don’t eat them.  What’s a GMO?”  I have yet to share more information with him, but I have an appointment tomorrow and hope I can gather enough information to share with him.


I feel somewhat lucky that I can have a little something out at a family gathering or school event without having a huge reaction that is immediately life threatening.  But if you learn about crohns, you will know that it is unhealthy for the body, saps one’s energy, can be partially or fully disabling at times, and might mean one or many surgeries in one’s lifetime.  It does not generally cause death immediately, but it interacts with many other issues and affects one’s nutritional absorption very negatively.

So from March or April ish to now, the last day of July, I’ve been slowly, sort of, getting “better,” with some dips into worse symptoms.  Every single time I have had a symptom get worse, it has been after I have “cheated” and ate something out of the house that might have a high quantity of GMOs.  

It seems, so far, that meat and dairy do not affect me the way they affect other people, though some say that the GMO DNA does get transfered to the human digestive tract when eating an animal product from an animal that has consumed GMO grain.  Most livestock grain has GMO corn and maybe soy in it, too. Organic is the only way to make sure it doesn’t.  People say “grassfed” or “free range” but many grassfed cows eat grain a lot for the last month of their life.  And chickens are free range and also given GMO grain. 

I would like a country that is willing to tell us the truth about the GMOs in our food.  For one, I would have an easier time isolating the specific ones that affect me. I believe I have an allergy or at least sensitivity to many or most or maybe all GMOs.  Yet, I do not have the right to know what is in the food around me.  Many say “just eat at home,” … Well, I enjoy being part of a community, I am very social and I love eating out.  My budget is small for this, but I mostly mean gatherings, parties, social events with free or affordable food or potlucks.   And small cheap purchases here and there which make our day go more smoothly.  It has gotten very challenging lately.  I travel with coolers in the car most of the time with our own drinks and food to eat.  But it is still hard, and many restaurants of course do not allow you to bring your own stuff in.  Many places have *nothing* I can eat, or perhaps a salad but without the dressing.  I have brought my own dressing out to an extended family vacation meal out, my own ketchup / mustard,  soda, chips, salsa and guacamole to a cookout recently.  I’m learning how to do this but it’s not easy.  I’m thankful that we have enough to eat, we are very lucky in this way.  

I have four children.  Two of them have at times shown signs of digestive issues.  I am worried that my genetic connection predisposes them to getting crohns, and even more worried that I have allowed too many GMOs to get into their diets at too young of an age.  Their digestive systems are still developing and we have no way of knowing the effects of GMOs on their little growing bodies in the next 10-20-30 years. GMOs have been around in the market in the US around 20 years, and studied, but mostly by the industries that are selling them and profiting from them.  Many studies claim they are “safe” but many claim they cause problems.  We know that they cause stomach inflammation in cows and when cows eat too much their stomachs have even exploded and they have died.  This is one case, and one type of GMO (BT Corn).  I think I have a right to know what’s in my food and to avoid it.  

If this could cause something like cancer in my kids at a young age, I think it’s more than a mild “right.”  I think it’s an urgent need that we have the right to determine what is in the food we are purchasing and eating.  It also just seems a basic right, for the sake of truth in labeling, period.

I am underemployed at the moment, largely due to a car accident and injuries I’m still recovering from a while back, but also due to the recent economy.  My kids are on school lunch and I’ve allowed them to eat school lunch last year. This year I am planning to approach the schools and ask if there are GMO free options for lunch.  And request that they be made available to my kids.  I am also going to approach them with a plan for a GMO free school lunch for the whole district for the next school year, 2014-15.  Schools in Sacramento, NYC and more have already gone GMO free.

There is more to say, but this is long enough!  I wanted to share that I do exist, this one person, who seems to be more than “allergic” to GMOs.  It actually may be responsible for causing, or contributing to cause, a serious disease in me which could lead to surgery, temporary disability, lack of health, nutritional absorption and energy levels to keep up with my kids, job and life.  I’m grateful that I feel pretty good other than the symptoms right now, but I had a whole year in my past that the struggles were much greater, and that year started with symptoms like this that I’m having now.  I am not choosing to share the symptoms of Crohn’s disease here, you are free to look that up and learn about that if you wish.  It’s not a fun or easy thing to read about or think about, but many people live with it.  IBD’s (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) in the US has doubled in the last 20 years.  These stats are more than staggering to me, given than GMOs have been around about the same time.  I’m not assuming a complete connection, but my basic gut feeling and belief at the time is that there is one.

Thanks for reading.  I hope to help people understand why there is such an urgent need for GMO labeling.  And am open to any questions, though my life is quite busy and I do not have as much time online as I would need to be very responsive if there is a lot of traffic here someday!

Trader Joes has helped me a lot.  They seem to be the only major store that has a GMO free policy.  Thanks to Trader Joes!


You CAN get involved!




4 thoughts on “Crohn’s and GMO connection High for Me, today…

  1. Michelle Dunch

    Thanks for writing Leigh. I always appreciate and admire your activist spirit. This is a very very important issue. I believe it really is life and death for many people even though most don’t realize it yet.

    1. mamaleigh16 Post author

      Thanks! I believe it really does affect our health in ways we are unaware of. I hope you are wrong in terms of “life or death” but if it does cause things like earlier stomach cancers down the line and we just don’t know it now, we will all be pretty remorseful for feeding it to our kids. It should not be SO hard to avoid this stuff – we have a right to wait for longer term studies before feeding it to our kids…

      For me, I think, for the most part, it is a QUALITY of life issue, also contribuing to energy levels and somewhat ability levels. As a teacher it’s not easy or possible to run to the bathroom 3-4 times a day suddenly with no warning and still have your administration be happy with your work. I’ve lived that reality in my past and it’s not only not fun, it also makes one afraid for one’s career stability, and quality of instruction. Thanks, Michelle, I love that I’m not alone in the quest for healthy food habits for our family and kids. They JUST need to LABEL it then there will be more non GMO options and it will be 10-20 times EASIER to avoid it.

      I have spent 15-20 minutes or even longer waiting for an answer that the people never have. How can they know? If they don’t know I should not take the chance. That is my reality. So it’s sorta selfish too. PLEASE label GMOs for ME so I can be a part of society – social, work, family and neighborhood gatherings…! Also, it really bugs me that “they” think that “we” (the people) shouldn’t know, that we are being hyper sensitive. How dare they think we should be their experiments without our consent… Thanks!

  2. Patty B

    Hi there, I would suggest you read Wheatbelly by Dr. William Davis, I don’t have crohns, but I have ulcers and chronic gastritis I believe from wheat. Not just GMO for me, all wheat products. When I’m off the wheat I have no cravings for any “flour” items. I feel very well and healthy. When I try just one small meal that has wheat in it, my stomach swells and hurts with painful cramps. I’m a true believer now, I don’t eat wheat! Try it, what do you have to lose?

    1. mamaleigh16 Post author

      Thanks so much! I’m so glad you found what was affecting you. I tried cutting out wheat years ago with no change at all for me, though I didn’t try it for very long so it might have needed a long trial. We seem to have very different symptoms, too. By the way, there is NO GMO Wheat on the market, and only one “leak” that I know of (recently) where GMO wheat had been illegally planted in the US, though not ever sold on the market. So when you say “not just GMO” referring to wheat – there should not be any GMO wheat that anyone in the US is eating. There is organic and non organic, some that has low spray and higher spray, etc. Possibly some imported items that have a bit of GMO wheat contamination but the end user tests have not shown this yet. Lots of people think “everything is GMO these days!” But it’s not true.

      Right now, the big 5 on the US market are: CORN, SOY, COTTONSEED (oil usually), CANOLA (oil usually, sometimes called rapeseed still and many other brands are giving this different names), and SUGAR (when it’s not cane sugar). Corn and soy have most of the 36+ variations of GM ingredients on the market, from oils to corn meal, even GM corn is used to make ascorbic acid and citric acid. Soy sauce, tofu, and soy lecithin is in many products, for example. It’s a bit mind boggling! I wish it was labeled so I could keep a journal and isolate WHAT is affecting me most, but if one product says “contains soy” and so does another one, they might be very different strands of GM soy. Even the same type of GM soy can have different DNA strands because of how they do it, it can create many different strains… not very “controlled,” as far as considering people with allergies and their / our needs…

      (Oh – number 6 ingredient is – – A little bit of yellow summer squash in the US is GM but it’s very rare, supposedly.)

      Again – thanks – I have considered trying to do this again and I will try to come back and check out that site when I have time – but lately it seems that corn and soy when they are GM are the biggest aggravating factors in my diet… and they are in 94% of processed products in Grocery stores, a large percentage of food you find at potlucks / cookouts – just gotta try to do more to avoid it and see what happens…

      By the way, where did you happen upon this blog? Thanks!
      – Leigh


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