[ed note: This is George McCaffery’s success story, excerpted from Carol Sinclair’s “The New IBS Low Starch Diet” at Geroge’s request to be added to the NSD Forum]
George McCaffery: From Despair to Success Story
George first contacted me in 1999, to tell me that the Low Starch Diet worked for AS. Without George, I would probably never have heard the name Ankylosing Spondylitis, or discovered that I also have the disease. George has been on the diet almost as long as I have. He calls it the ‘secret’ diet because, in his own words, ‘doctors keep it a secret.’ His story is remarkable, and an inspiration to us all:
Around the age of twenty-six I began to experience what I believed to be groin strains and thigh strains. My GP gave me pain killers/anti-inflammatory drugs and told me to rest. I eventually persuaded my GP to refer me to a specialist, as these apparent injuries persisted and worsened. At age 28 I was seen by an orthopedic specialist in Newcastle, who diagnosed a spinal instability needing a bone graft from my pelvis on to my spine.
I was admitted to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle around 1978. I was prepared for theatre, ie shaved from toenails to ears—and starved. The morning of the operation the surgeon came to see me and asked how I was. He couldn’t believe it when I said I was feeling great. He lifted one leg at a time and dropped them—no problem. The stiffness had disappeared. He asked me to get out of bed and touch my toes—no problem! He then decided not to operate. Boy, am I pleased he called it off! Strange! I crawled into that bed and jumped out!
After this George went through a number of years sometimes feeling OK, sometimes feeling terrible. In 1982 he went to live in Singapore, and began experiencing worsening pain and stiffness. His doctor in Singapore prescribed anti-inflammatory tablets, which George describes as ‘great big pink things, as big as a doorstop.’
As well as the drugs, Geroge was trying anything and everything. During this period I tried physiotherapy, a sports physician in Guildford who injected a solution radially through the muscles on either side of my spine (this is more painful than having AS but doesn’t last as long), a blind mystic healer in Indonesia, acupuncture, massage…’
You name it, George tried it.
Around 1986 my GP in Singapore had some more X-rays taken and blood tests. He then told me I probably had something called ankylosing spondylitis, a progressive bone disease which had no cure, but which could burn itself out. I should continue to take the anti-inflammatories. But I was having major problems with my stomach. At times I couldn’t tell if the pain was from my stomach or back (sounds crazy doesn’t it?).
Still in search of a cure, George visited Guy’s Hospital in London. Someone had told me that a hospital in London was the place for AS, and Guy’s was the only one I had heard of. I met a really good rheumatologist there, who told me the recommended treatment for AS was NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and, for longer-term results, sulfasalazine. He also mentioned that there was a school of thought that said diet may come into it. Of course I thought nothing of this. I had a bone disease, and what could diet have to do with it?
Around 1988 someone told me they had read that a doctor at the Middlesex Hospital was doing research into AS. I phoned the Middlesex from Singapore. I was desperate at this time, in a lot of pain and contemplating having to give up work. I was told by a nurse in rheumatology, “Oh, that will be Doctor Ebringer.” Eventually I was able to speak to Dr. Ebringer and told him of my situation, and asked if there were any research programmes I could be part of. I persuaded him to see me and came across in February of 1988.
Doctor Ebringer examined me (I crawled on to the table). He looked at my X-rays and sent me for blood tests. In March of 1988 I went back and he told me “You have AS. You are HLA B27 positive and your ESR is ninety-eight.” I said ‘that’s just great, doc, I’ve already been told the first bit. I don’t know what the other numbers mean. Just don’t tell me you can’t do anything for me and to keep on taking the tablets!’
He said “Not exactly, but I will tell you—you can help yourself.” He then explained the Low-Starch Diet/Klebsiella theory and gave me the Middlesex sheet of what to eat and what not to eat.
I have to say at this point I was thinking, ‘Oh, no—a bloody quack!’ However, I said ‘Ok, you tell me my problem is starch. Not another bit of starch will pass my lips!’ (Probably a threat to expose his stupid theory). I went on a bacon and egg diet as this was the only thing I could think of that didn’t have starch in it.
Three days later I woke up, (I can remember exactly where I was, the Grand Hotel in, Brighton) feeling great! I phoned Ebringer, elated, and told him what was happening. He said “Good. Stick with it.”
GOOD! I couldn’t believe it was that simple! Why had no one told me before?
The rest is history. Once I found the problem, I could control it—look carefully at the contents of the things I ate. The psoriasis I had on my elbow and in my ears cleared up in a week or so. I kept on visiting Dr. Ebringer’s clinic in London whenever I passed through the country, and at the last count my ESR was eighteen [ed note: Even as low as 7].
I now have lots of friends with AS through a website at www.kickas.org, which as a NSD (no-starch diet) site with a lot of people with similar experiences to mine from going on a low-starch diet.
[ed note: George and a former member of kickas—Vance—found Carol Sinclair’s original book and contacted her, introducing Carol to Ebringer’s work and she subsequently tested positive for the B27 antigen. Her ‘IBS diet’ is much more strict than Ebringer’s.
George is directly responsible for making kickAS aware of the diet and Ebringer’s work in the first place, and he has personally sponsored lectures for our group, held in both San Antonio and Las Vegas, with presentations by Professor Ebringer and Carol Sinclair.
He credits, in great portion, his considerable business success to the LSD and NSD, and continues to do very well on the diet, travelling extensively for his business interests—and plays golf every chance he gets].