Tyler James Williams almost died from complications from Crohn’s disease

Tyler James Williams, 30, is so good on Abbott Elementary, for which he earned his first Emmy nomination and got a Golden Globe last week. He’s been working since he was a child on Everybody Hates Chris and he’s also had roles on The Walking Dead, Criminal Minds and Dear White People. In an interview with Men’s Health, Tyler revealed that he almost died five years ago from complications from Chron’s disease. He’d always had trouble keeping weight on and after working hard to bulk up he ended up with severe stomach pain and vomiting. He was diagnosed with Chron’s through an X-ray that found his blockage. After surgery his intestines ruptured and he went into sepsis. It sounds absolutely harrowing and like it was touch and go for him.

In his early 20s, for instance, he hired trainers, lifted heavy, and force-fed himself. Once, he chugged a shake with 1,600 calories, only to throw it all back up. In late 2017, at age 24, the five-foot-nine actor crested 130 pounds while juggling a role on Criminal Minds with travel for the period crime drama Detroit. “I was really pushing my body to the limit,” he says. “By the time December hit, it just crashed. Everything shut down.”

Williams had searing stomach pain and couldn’t keep anything down—not even the doctor-ordered colonoscopy prep—so a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone diagnosed him using X-rays. The verdict: His bowels were so inflamed and clogged with scar tissue that he had less than a one-centimeter gap in his terminal ileum, part of the small intestine near the pelvis. It was a massive flare-up from Crohn’s disease—a disorder he didn’t even know he had.

At least a half million Americans suffer from Crohn’s, an inflammatory condition that can result in weight loss and malnutrition and can, if untreated, be life-threatening. There’s a genetic factor, but Williams, who has two younger brothers, was the only one in his family to show symptoms. Back then, at least.

He underwent emergency surgery to remove six inches of lower intestine. Then things got worse: His intestines were too beat-up to heal back together, and they perforated. He went septic as doctors raced him back into surgery. He ended up living on intravenous foods with an ostomy bag for several months. At one point, Williams weighed 105 pounds and was too weak to stand. But the moment that sticks with him the most was feeling his whole body “vibrating” after he’d gone septic. “The last thought I had was Holy shit, this could be it. If this is it, I’m not happy. I worked a lot. I did a lot of things. I didn’t enjoy any of this. This can’t be it.”

All this happened only five years ago, yet when Williams meets me at the Men’s Health offices in New York, he looks fresh, preternaturally calm, and stronger than ever: a chiseled 145 pounds, with biceps popping out of his T-shirt.

[From Men’s Health]

The good news is that the rest of the article details his recovery, his fitness regime and his life at home now with his two brothers. There’s also a brief video interview where he demonstrates his at-home workout, which he started doing during the pandemic. Tyler explained that he eats six small meals a day, a couple of those are shakes and his largest meal is dinner, after which he usually gets sleepy and passes out. It was so cute when he talked about that! He’s only 30 so I was trying not to thirst after him, but it’s really hard not to do that. I found myself mesmerized by his arms. I’m so glad that he recovered and is doing well now and that Abbott Elementary is getting so many awards! When you look at the talent involved it’s no wonder.

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19 Responses to “Tyler James Williams almost died from complications from Crohn’s disease”

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  1. MM says:

    My husband has UC and this article brought tears to my eyes. It really is the invisible illness, I’m so grateful he’s bringing awareness to these diseases. And thank you CB for highlighting this article as well! Means a lot.

    • M says:

      I’m so grateful whenever awareness of IBD (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) is raised! It truly is an invisible disease and not talked about much since bowel movements are usually part of the discussion!

      I’m currently cuddling my 7 yo who is home from school due to his disease (ulcerative colitis as well as cdiff and a sinus infection which he is more susceptible to bc of the medication he takes). My brother was diagnosed 20 years ago and no longer has a colon. Hoping for a cure for all our loved ones!

  2. Jane says:

    My husband has UC and Crohn’s and I felt for this actor. Thank you for talking about this. People in their twenties need to talk to their doctors and not be ashamed of their symptoms. And nutrition is so key to making life livable. There is hope.

  3. ThatsNotOkay says:

    That sounds dreadful and excruciating. He’s a delightful actor and I hope he takes the time to enjoy his life. If you’re thinking it’s almost, you need to be able to look back and think it all worth it so you can go in peace.

  4. Chanteloup says:

    In addition to being a great spokesperson for health, he is just adorable. Like sweetness and strength and hotness just emanate from him. Lovely

  5. Justanothersarah says:

    I’m so glad he’s doing better and using his platform to talk about this. I have a related colon disease and it wreaked havoc on me in my 20s – nothing as scary as sepsis (thankfully) but a lot of fallout from the malnutrition it caused. I think people would often be able to get better, timelier treatment if there was more awareness.

  6. Emmi says:

    Yeah, when your digestive tract is in trouble, it just zaps all energy and joy out of life and while my issue could eventually be quickly remedied by removing my gallbladder, the two prior years were horrific. I have a newfound respect for people who live with chronic conditions like UC or Crohn’s. I tell everyone if you have a recurring issue and feel like it could be your stomach or colon, get an endoscopy/colonoscopy. Don’t hesitate. Don’t try to be brave when the doctor asks you about the pain level etc. I did and therefore she didn’t recognize it was colics. All the best to Tyler, love him on Abbott Elementary.

  7. minnow says:

    Crohn’s patient of 30 years here, and I greatly appreciate people speaking about this publicly. When I way diagnosed way back when no one knew what it was, but I’m happy to see there is more awareness now.

    • TOM says:

      Another Crohnie here. Intestinal obstructions, surgery to remove part of my small intestine. Now in remission and may it stay that way!

      If you’re wondering if you might have Crohn’s or Colitis, you need a gastroenterologist. This is highly specialized medicine and specialists just know how to talk with you. You also need a registered dietician specializing in inflammatory bowel disease. Google University of Massachusetts Anti-Inflammatory Diet. I have found that gastroenterology people treat us holistically, not just as talking digestive tracks.

      There is no recovery from Crohn’s but there can be remission with medication. Diet changes alone won’t do it, as much as we’d all like that to be true. Also, you’d think all people with inflammatory bowel disease would be skinny but not true – obesity can happen. It’s counterintuitive but there ya go.

  8. Case says:

    Good on him for using his platform to bring awareness to this. I haven’t seen Abbott Elementary, but I thought he was really great on The Walking Dead!

  9. NMB says:

    My grandpa had Crohn’s, and it was no joke. My mom grew up thinking her dad would die before she graduated high school. (He lived long enough to meet most of his grandkids, but died an early death at 61 due to colon cancer. It seems his Crohn’s drugs gave him cancer.). Love that Tyler James William is bringing awareness (and his excellent acting to Abbott!!!)

  10. P says:

    Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease. My mother was diagnosed in the early 80s as a young woman after doctors tried to tell her she was hysteric. It’s rough. It’s a terrible disease when it’s not under control but the treatments have come so far. My mom was in remission for about 15 years up until very recently so she’s working on adjusting her meds. Happy to have it more well-understood. And Tyler looks amazing!

  11. amurph says:

    My dad has Crohn’s. IBDs are common in his family and his mother had colitis. He ended up losing 18 inches of his intestine when he was 21 after his appendix burst and went septic. Now, he has massive scar tissue building in his intestine, especially where they resectioned it. I remember so many people joking about his bathroom habits when I was younger but now after dealing with his 4 hospitalizations this year due to obstructions, I’ll take him the bathroom all the time than not. He’s now severely anemic since he can’t absorb nutrients correctly and he goes for infusions every 6 weeks. It’s such an invisible illness and people don’t understand just how much it pacts your day to day. More power to everyone who has to live with it every day.

  12. Naye in va says:

    Did anyone see the most recent AE episode with Orlando Jones as his dad.


    • Anonycat says:

      He really, really, really looks like Orlando. It is a great Father Son pairing. I always had a soft spot for Orlando after I saw how dirty they did him on Sleepy Hollow.

  13. Eggbert says:

    So happy he’s doing well now and grateful he is openly discussing it. I’ll be undergoing a colonoscopy soon to check for things like ulcerative colitis. Something I’ve recently learned about this disease is that it likes to coexist with spondyloarthritis (which I do have) that is an autoimmune arthritis which can impact the part of the low back called the sacroiliac joint. So don’t ignore your low back pain UC sufferers.

  14. AnonyCat says:

    I’m happy that Tyler is opening up about this very difficult disease. I am currently dealing with an undiagnosed digestive issue and honestly, it opened my eyes to the world of inflammatory bowel diseases and all this stuff. It is mind boggling that your own body can attack itself in this way. I’m happy that he is recovering and I am sending strength to everyone who is dealing with chrons, UC or any digestive issue.

  15. Mwest77 says:

    He spoke at an NEA (labor union for educators) event I went to this past summer. Dude is talented and very deserving of all the awards. I stan Greg and Janine lol

  16. I'm With The Band says:

    I was diagnosed with UC last year during a routine colonoscopy (I had no symptoms – doc wanted to investigate my low iron). As it turns out, my UC is mild and I have no blood loss. My very heavy peri-menopausal periods are actually the cause of my low iron.

    I now eat a plant-based diet as studies have shown that people with UC are very commonly low in butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid that protects the gut microbiome. I spent most of my late-teens/20’s eating a dreadful diet of processed and fast food, not giving it a second thought because I was always naturally slim.

    Also, with UC (I can’t speak to Crohn’s) the biggest determining factor in inheriting from a parent with UC it is diet.

    If anyone with IBD gets a chance to listen to a podcast called ‘Against the Grain’, please do. The host is a gastroenterologist with Crohn’s himself and it saved my sanity when I was first diagnosed. Incredibly informative and helpful.