A Comprehensive Naturopathic Guide for Complete Digestive Wellness

Category Archives: IBS

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One of our readers wrote recently, saying her arthritis pain was really hard to deal with . . . Here is Dede’s answer, and hopefully some tips for others who also suffer from the related symptoms of arthritis.

Arthritis pain? Oh, I have it, too!

Arthritis is such a drag. but remember: We are all in this together . . .

Here’s what you can try:

    Daily morning yoga with Rodney Yee DVD called “AM/PM Yoga”
    Take Omega 3 fish oil capsules 2 “softgel” caps up to 2-3 daily with food (use best brand, highest quality—Dede uses Metagenics “OmegaGenics/EPA-DHA 720”)
    Take a lavender bath with candles nightly before bed and use Epsom Salts in the water
    Eat the healthiest diet: no sugar, caffeine (if you must, water down coffee and green tea okay), dairy or red meat
    Make an appointment with a physical therapist (insurance usually covers this!)
    Go to see an experienced acupuncturist (Chinese medicines best) and have 3-4 treatments in 2 months to see it it helps (make sure it is someone trustworthy with good recommendations)
    Get a massage monthly to help cleanse and detoxify
    Every time before your bath or shower use a dry Loofa sponge and brush your skin all over briskly to accentuate healthy cellular growth
    Get 8-9 hours of sleep nightly
    Use a castor oil pack to lay on sore joints—you can buy castor oil at a health food store, and Dede soaks a wool rag with it, to make a compress, then put SaranWrap over that, followed by a small towel, followed by a heating pad—ahhhh! The pain miraculously fades away, and you are forced to sit still and can read a book. Or, even better, you can meditate while you heal.
    Walk 3-4 miles every day to clear your mind and keep your joints fluid and muscles strong to support the bones
    Ride a bike for cross training — great for quad strength, and it is easier on arthritic knees…

Monday is the “Living With Crohn’s & Colitis Bicycle Challenge”!!! Get out there and start pedaling—post photos of you on a bike on our Facebook wall, and “Thnk Pos!”


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Most research on digestion, and the associated bowel diseases that are unfortunately on the rise in the world, starts with food and chewing. They talk about the act of chewing (mastication), and how the food is broken down with saliva, and goes down the esophagus, where it then enters the stomach and is further broken down (peptides and stomach acid)—then the slowly digesting food enters the small intestine.

We get the basic science of food and sustenance. I am interested in what happens INSIDE the small and large intestines, and why, for some of us, the microbial balance is disrupted resulting in bowel disease—which, in some cases like Crohn’s can be incurable and a lifelong struggle.

The small intestine is in fact smaller (in diameter) than the large intestine. It is where vital absorption of nutrients for the body’s health occurs. I think of it this way— to use a road biking analogy—if your tires are inflated, and the road is smooth, the inner tube is fresh and new, your feet are on the pedals and the movement spins the wheel with a steady and productive ease, then your digestive tract functions as it should. All antigens, are dealt with swiftly, and promptly, with the T-helper cells, and white blood cells, doing their job like a little army of white-suited patrols, following behind you like a bicycle sag-support wagon. The road is flat—no bumps, or traffic jams, or debris!

An antigen is any substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it. An antigen may be a foreign substance from the environment such as chemicals, bacteria, viruses, or pollen. An antigen may also be formed within the body, as with bacterial toxins or tissue cells.

~

I won’t bore you with the details… But I did get into an argument the other day with my friend, Geoff. He tends to be a “know it all,” but then again, I pretend to be one, too! I said, “the digestive tract is longer than a football field!” To which he replied, “You’re wrong, and that’s crazy!” Together we looked on Google and found that the length of the digestive tract is about 20-30 feet, which is the WIDTH of a basketball court!!

Duly chastised, I began to ponder the sports field/court analogy, and the physical image/link to gut disease…. We, especially Americans, “get” the length of a court or a football field — soccer, maybe not so much! The physical representation, or image, of the digestive tract spread out in one long line across a basketball court makes me smile and cringe at the same time. I love basketball, don’t get me wrong! My daughter played D3 ball, and I am a big Carolina fan, but last night I was watching the Duke-Maryland game (Blue Devils lost!), and my mind occasionally saw a black line across the court. . . .

~
Now that we know the length of the digestive tract, let me add by saying the small intestine is much longer, and more vital to our nutritional health. There is an excellent research site and description of the process from a bio-chemical perspective here.

Below, is a description of the process of digestion, and note that in Celiac disease, the villi is damaged and does not function as it should. For those of us who most likely have what Dr. Kalish refers to as sub-clinical gluten intolerance, or Leaky Gut (damage to mucosal lining), it is imperative to strengthen our immune system which can become compromised: lifestyle changes, supplements, and Eastern medicine are all great ways to help us balance and strengthen our immune systems. For us Crohnnies, the actual wall of the small intestine is damaged, for uc-ers, the large intestine is inflamed and irritated, but can be removed to alleviate symptoms.

The small intestine is a long and narrow tube about 6 to 7 meters (20 to 23 feet) long. Food completes its chemical decomposition in which a compound is split into other compounds by reacting with water in the small intestine with the help of the liver, pancreas, and intestinal glands who pour their secretions into it. In the small intestine, there are an enormous number of tiny projections called villi, which absorb the end products of digestion. Villi and folds in the walls of the small intestine cover the lining and greatly increases the surface for absorption, which contributes to the length of the small intestine. The human small intestine has a surface area about ten times greater than the skin surface.

The large intestine is wider in diameter but shorter than the small intestine. It is only about 1.5 meters (5 feet) long. There is no decomposition of food in the large intestine. Bacteria in the large intestine break down any quantity of proteins that have not been completely digested. The large intestine is mostly used to store feces or waste, which consists of 10 to 50 percent of bacteria, undigested cellulose of plant cell walls, minerals, and water. This is then eliminated through the anus. (Physics Factbook)

The circular bicycle wheel image, for me, is much more compatible with my idea of the function of the small bowel. The large snakelike image of the width of the basketball court helps to justify the length in my mind, but the real process—that of digestion—is vital to our health, and it is our job to keep the tires smooth and running.

Happy spring everyone! Get out your bicycles, and tune them up! April 1st marks the beginning if the “Living With Crohn’s & Colitis Bicycle Challenge”…. Please post your progress here, and on our Facebook and Twitter pages—if you can’t ride, try walking every day!

Last, but not least, if you want to support me in my Half Marathon for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (www.ccfa.org) this summer, please check out my fundraising page. I am excited to run with Team New England, and you can read why, here….

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A new year’s tip from LWCC—start planning a small vegetable garden for spring! Just ’cause we (or someone we love) has Crohn’s or uc, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy food and the delicate taste sensation of fresh herbs!

I am sitting here in my kitchen at home in Vermont, after a lovely two weeks of vacation spent with my family. As I was drinking my morning tea, I looked up and saw this:

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So, what does this photograph mean? Right now, it symbolizes rebirth. I started the amaryllis before the holidays from a bulb…and now it is in peak bloom—hope; new life, new meaning…. But lest I wax too poetic here, I should note that a really determined chipmunk (probably the same invader of my garden last summer) is destroying my bird feeder as I write this! As I watch the greedy scavenger—the rodent—I think of the Hindu god, Shiva Nataraja, The Lord of the Dance:

The two most common forms of Shiva’s dance are the Lasya (the gentle form of dance), associated with the creation of the world, and the Tandava (the violent and dangerous dance), associated with the destruction of weary worldviews – weary perspectives and lifestyles. In essence, the Lasya and the Tandava are just two aspects of Shiva’s nature; for he destroys in order to create, tearing down to build again.

~

Since I found out I was in the midst of a severe flare up just six weeks ago, I have been plagued with fear that I will need surgery, have to take Prednisone again, and live again in the cycle of disease. Prednisone, especially, is a drug I hope I never have to take again—though I never got the symptoms of the round face, the bloating, etc,, I got the inner turmoil kind of symptoms: the frenetic feeling of gears winding up inside your body….not a good state to live in. Yes, those are the fears that lock us inside of ourselves when we are sick.

Well, not to dwell on that is easier said than done!

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Here is a photo of my iPhone from when I was in Mexico last week…. As I lay in my hotel room bed for a whole day of fever and drifted in and out of consciousness, I put all the Spanish words for my disease in my “Favorites” in Spanish Dictionary, for fear I would have to explain to the hotel manager in case he had to call an ambulance to take me to the hospital (Merida was probably closest, but the hospital in Tulùm looked like a place for the bedraggled tourists to come to get treated for sunburns!). I was convincing myself that the flu I caught traveling was really a worsening of my flare up into a bowel obstruction.

My irrational fears were perhaps due to exhaustion and loneliness (my family went off to the beach ;(…. But I gradually realized that my fears were making me sicker! I always had trouble traveling when I lived with active Crohn’s-coltis for twelve years. We would pack our kids into the car, tents, camping gear, etc., and travel someplace like Okrakoke Island off the Carolina’s…..I remember that trip fifteen years ago, and being sick as a dog in bed for days, horribly bloated, and despairing the entire time…. I will never go back to that dark period of disease (though I hope to visit Okrakoke again someday in a normal state!), for it was a frame of mind that did nothing but foster the negativity around my life.

So, fast forward to hotel room in Tulùm. The cheerful towels our maid, Gabriella, created in animal sculptures, made me feel worse—their sweet little eyes stared out at me across the bed, and I felt they were mocking me — fever, perhaps?! After five hours of lying in bed and drinking nothing but water, and learning Spanish words about diseases of the bowel, I was ready for a change… I got up, showered, went out with my family for dinner, and my son helped me order a plate of the blandest food we could order at the restaurant, el Capitan.

Perfecto! I felt revived—chicken and vegetables will do that for me, along with a light cranberry juice (pure, no additives), mixed with mineral water. I thought the fact that I wasn’t moving my bowels was because there was a growing obstruction, when in fact it was due to the fact I hadn’t eaten much solid food in the last two days. It is amazing how illness, especially fever, will make us regress. We all want to be back in our mother’s bed with someone rubbing our forehead! My husband, who is not the most hovering-docile sort, was the practical one who said, “You haven’t eaten much at all!”

Well, that is my wisdom for the day…. Or is it wisdom? It seems more like common sense—keep the food journal going, and when you travel especially don’t forget it, or when you are faced with a new situation, like going off to college, or camp, or starting a new job…. It is essential for those of us who live with disease to be able to ask for help, but also to realize that our self pity might be making us sicker.

~

It is with that thought, and positive energy, that I want all of us to have in our Crohn’s & Colitis community as we move into the new year. “Think Positive,” was told to me by a doctor when I cried in my hospital bed, a few weeks before my bowel resection when I was overtaken by fear of the unknown and shaken by the heavy dose of steroids they had me on. A medical student, Dr. Osei Bonsu, DO, (currently an Internist in Galax, VA), was his name—and he held my hand and gave it a squeeze.

~

Now, back to planing my vegetable garden for spring planting….just a few months away.

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“What goes around comes around . . .” may actually be an old proverb meaning “the status eventually returns to its original value after completing some sort of cycle”. . . . Or, “a person’s actions, whether good or bad, will often have consequences for that person.”

I am thinking about that old saying a lot lately, due to the news that I have a severe recurrence of Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s can be found anywhere in the intestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, but it usually presents in the terminal ileum, as it did in my case. Since I no longer have the 20 centimeters of terminal ileum (or the ileo secel valve that links it to the large colon), I now have the spread of the disease on the other side of my sutchers…. 20 more centimeters of small bowel are severely inflamed. For the record, that is a total of almost 2 feet, 20cm being around 8 inches. Here is a good definition:

The small intestine (or small bowel) is the part of the gastrointestinal tract following the stomach and followed by the large intestine, and is where much of the digestion and absorption of food takes place. The primary function of the small intestine is the absorption of nutrients and minerals found in food. The average length of the small intestine in an adult human male is 6.9 m (22 feet 6 inches), and in the adult female 7.1 m (23 feet 4 inches). It can vary greatly, from as short as 4.6 m (15 feet) to as long as 9.8 m (32 feet).[3][4] It is approximately 2.5–3 cm in diameter. The small intestine is divided into three structural parts: Duodenum, Jejunum, and Ileum.

The small intestine is where most chemical digestion takes place. Protein, lipids (fats) and carbohydrates are broken down and a process called diffusion takes place where nutrients are absorbed into the blood vessels through the wall of the small intestine (the terminal ileum is where the B-12 and bile salts are specifically absorbed). There are all sorts of mucosa and wrinkly tissue down there—hence the language from my latest colonoscopy had terms like “serpentine” to describe the tracks of inflammation they found). There is a lot going on in the bowel—the second brain—including the delicate villi, which is Latin for shaggy hair (I love these descriptions!).

Do you have Crohn’s or uc?
If so, we have even more in common! Interestingly, I keep my book off my Facebook personal page—not to hide my disease, but to not “promote” my book, for fear people will think I am only selling a medical memoir written with a naturopathic doctor to make money (not!!).

Maybe I should become brave like Mike McCready, and be even more open….in this teeny tiny post, I will explain that I have lived with this sucky disease since I was in college, and was only diagnosed when I was forty.

When I turned 50, I lost a significant portion of both large and small bowel, and I have enjoyed a great quality of life ever since my surgery—pain-free! What a joy to have my life back!!! I take nothing for granted, and I wake up each and every day feeling blessed and lucky (I’m Irish), and I do not like to listen to self-absorbed people talk on and on about, you know….. Anyway, as I was sayin’ …. My book is ranked number 11 on Amazon in disease, and consistently No. 1, 2, or 3, in Kindle’s Gastroenterology ranking. Many people actually write to me and say thanks—the greatest gift in the world! I want to say “thank you” to my readers, my friends, and all of the community—anyone who has struggled with disease, or losing a loved one—we are all connected!

What does Karma mean?
A Sanskrit word, and one from Hindu-Buddhist religious traditions, it means that “the total effect of a person’s actions and conduct during the successive phases of his existence, regarded as determining his next incarnation.” I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I am ready for this cycle of disease to be over!

From the Dalai Lama
Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
Follow the three R’s:
– Respect for self,
– Respect for others and
– Responsibility for all your actions.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
Spend some time alone every day.
Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and
think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
Be gentle with the earth.
Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

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Jessica Black, ND, my co-author, naturopathic doctor, mother of two, avid outdoors woman, and cookbook author of The Anti-Inflammation Diet & Recipe Book, was the reason my own story, and our book, Living With Crohn’s & Colitis, got published. By reading Jessie’s book that I purchased one day at my naturopath’s office, she inspired me to eat better, and thereby lower my body’s overall level of inflammation. . . . I contacted her about how great her book was, and we decided on the phone to write a book together. The rest, as they say, is….well a book that is helping tons of people because it is good science and a patient perspective. Fast forward to today. . . .

~

Update
After my colonoscopy results last week, I crawled into a little shell and barely communicated with friends, and family….I was also exhausted from the fasting and quite sore from all the probing and poking around in my small intestine! I called my insurance company, CBA-BC/BS VT, and found that the Mayo Clinic was “in network,” and they registered me as a patient. I can go there for a second opinion, probably in January when my sister can join me. Everyone was “so nice.” When I said those words on the voicemail of the surprisingly helpful insurance business rep, I burst into tears — ah, delayed grief!

Fast forward to yesterday
With a better attitude, more energy, and (by the way) no symptoms of Crohn’s (which are, when severe like my case: diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, skin ulcerations, joint pain, etc.), I followed up on my weekend consult with my co-author and nationally-recognized naturopath, Jessica Black (who, by the way, dropped everything on a Saturday to make a phone-house call for me!), with a visit to my local naturopath, the wonderful Cheryl Procter. Additionally, I made an appointment with my clinic gastroenterologist, Steven Bensen, to follow up on my colonoscopy results. I see him January 23rd, and I firmly believe in following both paths, down the middle if you will pardon my overuse of the metaphor, with allopathic medicine and naturopathic medicine, on either side.

My Naturopathic Treatment Plan
Here is what I am on now: Low Dose Naltrexone, High Potency Turmeric, Glutamine, probiotics, Vitamin D, Vitamin C with Echinacea, along with my multi-vitamin, adrenal support, and Omega 3. I am researching LDN like crazy, and found this study with positive results . . .

“Think Positive”
Since my diet is very low-inflammation (thanks to Jessica Black, ND!), I am really being careful now (after 6+ years of remission, I was definitely slacking!): No sugar, red meat, fried or fatty foods, etc.

Below, is a recipe for a delicious cornbread from my friend, Julie Robinson at the Brattelboro Food Cood (thanks doll!)… Note, I substituted 2 Tablespoons Honey for the sugar, and Rice Milk for the milk, and Tofutti Sour Cream for regular sour cream…. YUM!  Here is a great NYT link to gluten-free dishes, too! ~

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this was my breakfast …. 7 minute, Bailey’s farm-fresh eggs… Yummm

Seems like my own health has taken a bit of a dive ;( … when I was freaking out about Lyme disease, it turns out it was a Crohn’s flare-up. Yes, I have been so happy to be in clinical remission for the past 6-1/2 years, I’d forgotten what it was like to have a flare up!

I thought I had Lyme disease, and was having stiffness and flu-like symptoms. Some of my readers will remember that I had a systemic flare of poison ivy during the first half of the summer (yeah, five weeks on Prednisone was not fun;( … Well, my dermatologist thinks the acute contact dermatitis (poison ivy resin is powerful stuff, not easily washed off and stays on your work gloves I learned!) caused my body to get out of balance, and I think she may be right! There is a strong connection between the skin and the gut — more on that subject in a later blog post.

I was at Dartmouth Hitchcock this week for a colonoscopy, and my results were very discouraging. My small intestine is in an active flare, characterized as severe. The news could have been better that is for sure! I am still in shock. My small intestine is riddled with Crohn’s in a 20 centimeter area just near the former surgery. Crohn’s is incurable and when it does this, they get serious and make you take these auto-immune suppression drugs. The recommended drug, 6-MP, is an immunomodulator – the way it works is it suppresses your immune system so that your own immune cells will stop attacking the lining of your intestines. There are patients who tolerate the drugs and it helps them stay in remission and pain free. Others have reactions to the drug, like fevers and stiffness. What the doctors look for at the beginning is liver damage.

On Thursday, after my colonoscopy, they got me right to the lab to draw blood for the test to determine if I could tolerate the 6MP. I, of course, started talking to my wonderful GI, Steve Bensen, about not taking the drugs. Couldn’t I work with my naturopath, I reasoned, and take the less toxic drugs she prescribes, and come back in 3 months for a scope? I did just finish a heavy round of Doxy for the symptoms of Lyme disease (for the record, I had an engorged deer tick that I pulled off and squashed and flushed down the toilet — always save the tick to be tested!), so the antibiotic had upset my stomach.

The head of the IBD Clinic, Cory Seagel, even came into my little curtained room with me in my Johnny gown sitting on the side of the bed. “You should start the drug immediately if your liver can tolerate it, better yet, you should take a combination of 6MP and Remicade,” he said.

Here is a good definition from Livestrong:

6-Mercaptopurine, or 6-MP, is a purine analogue antimetabolite drug that is used in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Purine analogues impair DNA synthesis, leading to less cells being created. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are all conditions of an overactive immune system. 6-MP helps to decrease the amount of immune cells in the body to help control the disease.

The findings
The colon appeared normal. My sigmoid resection at 15 cm and its short blind colonic pouch had normal anastomosis (a term for surgical connection)….This is good news! Large intestine: check.

Ileal resection: segmental inflammation characterized by erosions, erythema, fir ability, granularity, loss of vascularity, confluent deep ulcerations, and serpentine and shallow ulcerations found in neo-terminal ileum and extended from my first surgery for 20 cm (about 8 inches)…. Small intestine: NSG (not so good!)

The power of poetry/intention
There is something about the language of medicine that I find vaguely hypnotic and poetic. Weird as it sounds, understanding the human side of medicine is an intention of mine, and one that I hope to impart on my readers, should they desire to learn more!

The path ahead
I wish I didn’t have this new problem, and feel fine! I went 5-10 years last time, but this time the wall of the small intestine is compromised and thinning. I may be flying out to the Mayo Clinic, for a second opinion and work-up involving their more integrative approach. I am a wreck about this, of course, but trying to stay focused. As my daughter, Emma said, I have such resolve and a positive attitude… Don’t feel like dwelling on it too much, but wanted to let my (our) wonderful readers know why I’ve been out of touch. I am going to start with the naturopathic doctor on Tuesday….. and Mayo Clinic, probably in January.

Notes from Jessie Black, ND
Let’s work with an accompanying pharmacist and try low dose naltrexone — start very low and amp up to 4.5 milligrams. In addition, she mentioned a very powerful high-potency coated turmeric (this is hard to absorb, so it’s necessary to work with a naturopath who knows their herbal medicine), and a new, more fiscous fiber called PGX. Fiber is something I take daily, already, along with garlic, Aloe Vera, extra C, D vitamins, calcium and multi-vitamins and Omega 3 capsules. A good article about helpful herbs is found here

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Dede in the recording studio at VPR. I am happy when I am writing!

My basic diet now: No caffeine, dairy, processed foods, alcohol and trans fat. Instead SCD-certified food, lots of fresh-steamed veggies, cold water fish, and other foods from SCD! An awesome site for basic dietary help is found here! Link to a flare-up diet.

This blog will detail my journey. Thanks for your support and being part of it all! I welcome comments and suggestions, especially from IBD sufferers who have taken other meds besides 6MP and Remicade. Or IBD patients who have taken the drugs and had good results…I want to examine and research both options, along with a more integrative approach to possibly even healing the current severe inflammation without drugs!

I will start off by following my co-author and naturopath, Jessica Black’s Anti-Inflammation Plan (diet and lifestyle) that is in our very own book, Living With Crohns & Colitis!

Jessica K. Black, N.D., my co-author and also author of “The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book” suggests that food is a healthier way to control inflammation and reduce chronic disease than taking medications. Drugs used to reduce inflammation are either steroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDS. Taking steroids can damage the immune system and both categories of drugs can have side effects. Black recommends eating anti-inflammatory foods that boost health while reducing chronic illness.
[She] tells us that an important step in implementing a personal anti-inflammatory diet is eliminating food allergens. When the dieter eats a food allergen, his/her body may stimulate the production of antibodies that can cause an inflammatory response. Black recommends eliminating all potential allergy triggers, including

  • caffeinated beverages
  • fried foods
  • processed foods
  • peanut butter
  • carbonated soda
  • citrus
  • wheat
  • pork
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • dairy
  • sugar
  • eggs
  • shellfish
  • peanuts
  • anything that contains hydrogenated oil

After four weeks, reintroduce the eliminated items, one per week and if no allergic symptoms occur, add the item back into the diet. Read more   More to come….

Blessings, Dede

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Before tackling the gluten-free diet, let’s get to know our culprit. 

Gluten is a specific type of protein, but one you won’t find in meat or eggs. Instead gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Going gluten-free means avoiding these grains.  A gluten-free diet is essential for most people with gluten allergies or celiac disease, a condition which causes intestinal damage when gluten is eaten.

Going Off Wheat ~ Dede’s Story (from Living With Crohn’s & Colitis)
People always ask me why I cannot eat wheat and I don’t have a clear answer. I remember my naturopath asking me to give up wheat when I was really having digestive issues—mostly constipation and blockages—and I was horrified. “I love pizza and bagels the most,” I pleaded with her. She demurred and suggested I give up wheat for three days to see if that helped my frequent bouts of arthritis due to the long-term flares of Crohn’s disease that had ravaged my joints.

After three days, I was ecstatic, I had more energy, and I felt better all over, especially in my elbows and knees which were frequently arthritic. Four years have now passed, and I switched to the ancient wheat grain, Spelt, for my occasional wheat-fixes (though I typically use rice flour for pastas and pizza crusts). Spelt — HIGH GLUTEN CONTENT — looks very similar to wheat (just ask my seventeen-year-old son who often samples my Spelt concoctions, like pizza dough and scones, and doesn’t notice any difference from the same made with wheat!)

Spelt actually contains more protein than wheat, and since I have given up red meat, I do like getting extra proteinin my diet. In addition, the protein is easier to digest, though there is actually more gluten in Spelt, which makes it an unsuitable grain for those with celiac disease. Here is an awesome gluten-free bread company (their pizza is SO good!) . . .

As far as oats are concerned, I have found this grain to be easier to digest than most other whole grains. NOTE: I only use pure oats, not commercial oats, which are often processed with wheat, and if have celiac disease you MUST stay away from any wheat contamination, according to my research!

According to Diane Lamb, a nutrition and food specialist at the University of Vermont, writing in her excellent column in the Brattleboro Reformer,

“Breakfast can make your day!…A healthy breakfast should energize you, satisfy your hunger and provide beneficial nutrients—carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, and a small amount of fat…A bowl of cereal (hot or cold) that has some dietary fiber with low-fat milk or yogurt, fruit, and even a few nuts provides a lot more nutrients than an empty calorie food like that sweet roll, or donut. . . . In addition to lowering blood cholesterol, oats (oatmeal) can help control blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. Whole grains including oatmeal are digested more slowly than refined grains. This slower digestion leads to a gradual, steady supply of blood sugar which can keep hunger in check.”

I rely heavily on routine in my diet and lifestyle choices. I always read labels carefully, and I try to cook with McCann’s Steel Cut oats, perhaps as a nod to my Irish heritage, but more importantly, to get the purest grain without any addition of refined sugars, added salt, and flavors. Sometimes the fewer ingredients on the label, the happier I am and more apt to purchase!

~MORE TO COME EVERY FEW DAYS!~

—Dede Cummings

Research from the Mayo Clinic, ThirdAge & WebMD  •  photography @creativecommons.


I’ve been asked to teach a gluten-free cooking class at our local food coop. I am quite frankly honored to do this, but I realized I needed to do some homework, so I could help inform the participants, a few of whom are children (accompanied by a parent) with Celiac disease and/or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Since my cookbook, Cooking Well: IBS, came out last year, I have gotten a few emails and comments from readers about how it has helped them stop having IBS flare-ups all together. This makes me so happy, as an author, but more importantly, as an educator and speaker who wants to help people stay away from getting full-blown Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Here is my “word salad”
(no pun intended, or yes, well a little pun!) that I made for my talk (with more to come, as I develop the new book):


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My article was published this morning….

Kind of excited. Hope my fellow Crohnnie/uc-ers like it! I got some help from ccfa.org, too! I worked with editor, Travis Saunders, a PhD student researching the relationship between sedentary time and chronic disease risk in children and youth. He is also a Certified Exercise Physiologist and competitive distance runner.

I had a hard time finding studies that were recent, dealing with the impact of exercise on Crohn’s and Colitis. Research that I found shows that it does help, and I would love to hear from readers who have some things to add, or if there are problems associated with exercise and IBD.

Here is the link, and please comment, share, tweet it!!!

Obesity Panacea is an awesome blog, and I am trying to help promote it. Thanks!

Photo © 2012 “Mike” Michael L. Baird


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Greetings fellow Crohnnies and UC-ers, and summer travelers,

I love to travel, and left home when I was eighteen even to live in Europe by myself for a year. I settled in Vienna, Austria, and loved the culture and the people. The diet, however, was not the healthiest, and I gained twenty-five pounds by subsisting on Würst, and bread, and of course beer. I remember, when I came back from Europe, my father looked at me and said, “you’ve gained twice the Freshman 15, and you didn’t even go to college!” ha, ha ha.

Well, here I am, many years later—with college, marriage, and three wonderful children behind me, and I have to say that the one good thing that having Crohn’s disease has done is I don’t give a shit about my weight, and I just eat what I can and make no apologies to anyone! (Sorry to use a swear word, and be so blunt!). My weight has stayed at around 140, which my gastroenterologist says is “perfect,” because I eat healthy food all the time—hardly any sugar, no fried food, no fatty food, no wheat, very low-fat dairy, exercise daily, and maintain a low-stress lifestyle.

The reason I am writing this post today, is not to talk about our American culture’s OBSESSION with food and being thin as a sign of success; no, it is to talk abut the opposite—love your body and cherish your family and take responsibility for your own health and education.

I say this because for years, seriously, I wallowed in self-pitying behavior during my Crohn’s flares, which pretty much happened monthly, and had the nasty habit of joining with me having my period (good timing, eh?). I used to crawl into bed, and sometimes cry quietly, so as not to disturb my kids. After driving them to school (during one of these flares), I would frequently pull over to the side of the road in my car, and just put my head on the steering wheel and sob. It took me years to ask for help, and by the time I was finally diagnosed, my disease had basically devoured my terminal ileum, for it was beyond repair due to repeated flares leading to scarring.

So, having first had symptoms of ulcerative colitis (I have this, too!) after I returned from Vienna (remember my unhealthy lifestyle, horrible diet, and self-loathing attitude?), fast forward to 2006, to when I was admitted to the ER with a stomach the size of a basketball, and a severely impacted bowel that was about to rupture…I finally admitted that I was one sick person and I needed help.

That was my first step toward getting well.

Inside my head, I was constantly thinking about what I could or could not eat to stay thin, and be attractive—I smoked cigarettes to curb my appetite and utilized the diuretic aid that nicotine provides; I also worked all the time and exercised in fits and starts, and tried to diet, off and on, but always gained the weight back.

Having my kids and childbirth helped me let go of inhibitions (having my third baby stark naked in the OR and not caring one bit about my big belly or flabby legs 😉 was a great release for me—I always wanted to be trim and fit and “in control.”

One thing having Crohn’s has taught me is that sometimes when you lie on the cold and smelly bathroom floor with your arms wrapped around the toilet crying for your (not very nurturing) mother, you are clearly not in control!

Here is a link to a recent article about yoga and body image, and I was interviewed by the wonderful writer, Linda Sparrowe!

A disordered body image isn’t always about weight, of course. Dede C., a graphic designer from Vermont, remembers the time she was in a yoga class practicing handstand and her shirt came up, revealing a huge scar on her belly that she hated and felt ashamed of—a result of multiple surgeries. Her yoga teacher told her she was beautiful. “But my scar,” she said. “Your scar is beautiful, too,” he said. “It’s a part of who you are.”

So for my fellow Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis readers, and people who love you who may also be reading: let go, and by that I mean ask for help, but also study everything you can about your disease and admit you have a serious disease that can even lead to death. Don’t be polite at potluck dinner parties; at restaurants, ask for rice, well-steamed fresh local veggies (especially available in summer), and baked fish especially made for you if the menu doesn’t have easy-to-digest food (I just did this in Rhode Island on vacation last week, and I also politely sent back a dinner because something didn’t taste right and I trusted my gut—the fish was a bad piece, it turned out! And no way am I going to get food poisoning again…).

As I write this blog, I pledge not to offer “tips for this or that, digestive disease.” Instead, I offer up my interpretation of current medical research (remember, I follow gastroenterology papers, studies, and the like, with the zeal of a pre-medical student!), and personal stories that will, hopefully, help people cope and learn about their disease, and thrive!

I’ll post a few vacation photos (that’s me with my daughter and I wore a “tankiny” bathing suit that occasionally showed my scar and I did not even think about it!). I would love to hear how people are doing—travel with IBD is a challenge, so if you can’t take off this year, have a “home vacation,” with a week off from work and time away from computers! Get a hammock, read a great novel (Shadow of the Wind is my current favorite and it is set in post WWII Barcelona!), and watch movies….. Release stress daily, which is key to long-term health.

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