Josh Gates’s Road to Packing on Pounds and Finding New Life

After 12 years of trying to get a handle on Crohn's disease, Josh Gates decided to seek help from Mayo Clinic. Ten days after surgery, he was on the road to a better life.

After being diagnosed with a "bad case" of Crohn's disease at 11 years old, Josh Gates found his life going from bad to worse. "I vomited everything I ate," Josh tells us. "I had intense stomach pain and was keeping very little food down. I basically stopped aging and growing because of it."

For the next 12 years, Josh and his family would "try a million different things and medications" to get a handle on the disease. "I did a bunch of different alternative medicine things and diets," he says. "Growth hormones, steroids … you name it." Outside of having his family, it was a fight Josh largely faced alone. "I had no friends and no girlfriends," he says. "I never went on dates."

By the time Josh turned 23, his symptoms had become so severe he was in the Emergency Department "basically every week." At 25, he had had enough. "I decided I was just going to go to Mayo Clinic," he tells us. "I'd heard they're the ones who can fix this sort of thing, so I made my first appointment in June 2017."

At Mayo, Josh met gastroenterologist George Saffouri, M.D. "He's the one who really led the medical charge to figure out what was going on with me," Josh says. And after seeing "a bunch" of different doctors and specialists and undergoing "a million" different blood tests, Josh finally had a plan. He would need a gastrojejunostomy — a procedure that connects the stomach and jejunum (part of the small intestine) — as well as a 20-inch resection of his small intestine to bypass and remove a section that was swollen shut.

Just 10 days after surgery, with his body now digesting and processing nutrients the way it should, Josh was on a road to a better life. "Since my surgery, I've become extremely extroverted," he tells us. "My confidence is so much higher and I've discovered a lot of new passions like running, hiking, exercising and lifting weights that I would have never thought I could do, much less enjoy."

It's those last two passions that caught the attention of Men's Health magazine, who reached out to Josh after seeing the "progress report" photos he posted on Reddit. "I started exercising and lifting weights in February and have put on 50 pounds of muscle since then," Josh says.  

When the article came out last month, Josh says the response was swift. "I've had a lot of people reach out to me saying they, too, have Crohn's disease and were wondering what they can do to get better," Josh says. "A lot of people with Crohn's eventually give up and resign themselves to thinking their life is just going to be filled with constant pain with no potential of getting better, and so by sharing my story, I just wanted others to know there is hope."

Hope that Josh found at Mayo Clinic. "Mayo was the only clinic I went to that threw everything at trying to help me," Josh says. "Once I was there, I knew if Mayo couldn't figure out what was wrong, no one could."

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