Training with Crohn’s disease is possible according to black belt Jason Yerrington

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Brown belt no-gi world champion. Photo: Personal Archive

Brown belt no-gi world champion. Photo: Personal Archive

Jason Yerrington is a black belt who lives and teaches in San Antonio, Texas and has Crohn’s disease. Many people find that Jiu-Jitsu, even with a disability, is a great enhancement of one’s life. Jason felt and still feels the same way. We wanted  to know what it’s like to live with such circumstances that interrupt one’s life and how it’s still possible to continue training.

In his case, it may mean knowing where the nearest bathroom is or having to wear an adult diaper. But the fact that he pursues his dreams regardless is inspiring and a learning experience for all of us.

Jason recently took second at the 2014 IBJJF Houston Open and he teaches regularly at his academy. We’ll let you learn more about the disease from him:

GRACIEMAG: What is Crohn’s Disease and how does it affect your daily life?

JASON YERRINGTON: Crohn’s Disease is an auto immune disease of the GI tract, which means that your body produces antibodies that start to work against you instead of for you. Crohn’s disease can manifest anywhere along the GI tract which basically is from the mouth all the way to the most southern region.

I first went to a doctor when I started to lose control of my bowels and was experiencing a lot of blood loss during the restroom breaks. I had to have a surgery called a colonoscopy. After the doctor came out and explained that I had an auto immune disorder known as Crohn’s. She then gave me a pamphlet of information regarding treatment options and also counseling options because she said the disease is incurable. The disease is incurable but mainly operates via outbreaks or at least for me thats what has happened. During the outbreaks I am for the most part chained to a restroom because I have to go an average of 27-32 trips a day.

For me there was a lot of blood loss because I had of 19 different places along my intestines that were legions or open scabs caused by the antibodies attacking my intestinal walls. I was extremely anemic and lost 36 pounds during my first outbreak mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t eat. Of course eating would cause a chain reaction that caused me to go to the bathroom more.

538301_10100736721311635_1463024226_nThe most irritating thing of all was none of the doctors had an answer for any of the things that I was going through and they all contradicted each other. No one truly knows why someone gets Crohn’s or how to effectively treat the patient. Daily life was really how far away is the bathroom from whatever it is that you’re doing at that time. Driving to and from work became extremely hard and I had to resort to wearing diapers due to many unfortunate events.

Have you had Crohn’s throughout the entire time you’ve been training Jiu-Jitsu? 


All this being said I never stopped training in Jiu-Jitsu. I did take a six month break from competition during my first outbreak to try and get a handle on my new situation. I was an early purple belt when I was first diagnosed. Life off the mat was so much more complicated during the outbreaks but on the mat all that fades away. I’m not saying that I still didn’t know exactly how many steps it took to get to the restroom. In fact there were many days that it was extremely hard just to make it through class.

Jiu-Jitsu was my therapy. It is what kept me mentally sane; that and my wife. I trained and taught all throughout every one of my outbreaks. I have had three each which have lasted for a minimum of six months and none lasting longer than a year and a half. When I’m not having an outbreak I still go to the bathroom much more than a normal person but we’re talking about 6-8 times a day as opposed to 27-32 times a day. (I had to keep a journal of my restroom breaks cause the doctors wanted me to).

1533878_10101204854049875_1853017458_nUltimately I was able to bring everything under control when I finally said goodbye to conventional medicine and went to a PhD in mathematics whose name is Dr. Costi. He told me to go get some blood work and then based on the results he gave me some herbal supplements that weren’t for sale yet in the US and asked if I would like to be part of his study group. I said why not as I had already tried everything else the doctors. I had received contradicting advice from steroids to enemas to special inflammatory medicines and diet restrictions and nothing helped. My professor was about to send me to Brasil to see the doctors there but long story short: within four weeks of taking the herbal supplements (miracle pills) that Dr. Costi gave me I was able to get a hold of the outbreak and through diet (eating fresh, raw, and varied) and Jiu-Jitsu I have been able to keep it at bay for the most part. Dr. Costi has me do a two-week cycle of the herbal supplements (miracle pills) every six months. This is not a fool-proof thing. I still get outbreaks from time to time but they don’t last nearly as long and are much more manageable.

What’s it like to train with the condition?

Training while on Crohn’s is all about planning for the inevitable emergency. I never stopped training but sometimes due to the amount of blood-loss I had to step off the mat during super intense sessions. For the most part, though, that rarely happened. During my outbreaks I always have to wear an adult diaper, which is kind of embarrassing but it is the only way to ensure that I don’t make a mess.


And what about competing?
Having Crohn’s and competing in Jiu-Jitsu has been a crazy experience. Talk about the one place where the men’s bathroom is always FULL! It’s a nightmare for me. I have so many stories it’s not even funny. I have not let this stop me, though. I love the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle and I love competing. Most tournaments I enter I always have to wear an adult diaper, just in case. I have been fairly successful in my Jiu-Jitsu career even with this type of disease. As a purple belt I won second in the Abu Dhabi trials in my weight and the absolute plus I was a two-time Houston Open champion. As a brown belt I won third in the Abu Dhabi trials in San Antonio and second in the trials in New York. Plus I became a world champion in the masters no-gi brown belt division. There are a lot of local tournaments that I have medaled or won but what I’m trying to say is that even with the restrictions it is possible to train, compete, and win plus have a normal life even with Crohn’s.

Without Jiu-Jitsu I don’t know if i would have had the mental stability to make it through to where I am now in regards to my life and and my perspective on Crohn’s disease. My hope is that if there is anyone else out there struggling with some of these same issues, have hope! You can win. Jiu-Jitsu teaches us to always study and adapt so that you can win no matter the odds. This is my mindset.

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There are 25 comments for this article
  1. Megan Yerrington at 7:23 pm

    Jason is a man of great passion and character. I pray his story of perseverance will bring inspiration and hope to others.

    • I at 2:04 am

      It’s nice to see someone else dealing with this. I’ve got the restroom breaks to a minimum. Its the intense pay in my gut after rolling and subsequent inflammation that makes it rough. Its good to know you can find a way.

  2. Darius at 3:52 am

    Hi Jason I was wondering what are these herbal supplements (miracle pills) that you are taking?
    I have been training bjj for two years now but my Crohns is getting worse and I have now started taking azathioprine which is making me super tired and my energy levels during sparring are crazy low! If I could find a better alternative to suppressing my immune system I would be so happy. Thanks, Darius

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