A Comprehensive Naturopathic Guide for Complete Digestive Wellness

Do Food Additives Cause Crohn’s Disease and Colitis?

Most processed foods are not ideal for our health. These foods are often laden with artificial chemicals which can cause all sorts of havoc to our body. Whether you have Crohn's or colitis, or IBS, now is the time to eat the healthiest diet possible—only fresh, local and organic. It is worth the extra money! Lots of vegetables, fruit, organic chicken and sustainably caught wild fish are good, too. Red meat that is grass-fed, organically raised is okay once in a while; local free-running chicken eggs, leafy greens like kale, nuts and dried fruit, too. No dairy. Coconut milk is good.

Most processed foods are not ideal for our health. These foods are often laden with artificial chemicals which can cause all sorts of havoc to our body. Whether you have Crohn’s or colitis, or IBS, now is the time to eat the healthiest diet possible—only fresh, local and organic. It is worth the extra money! Lots of vegetables, fruit, organic chicken and sustainably caught wild fish are good, too. Red meat that is grass-fed, organically raised is okay once in a while; local free-running chicken eggs, leafy greens like kale, nuts and dried fruit, too. No dairy. Coconut milk is good. (Source: Hungry for Change)

A recent study from Georgia State University published in Nature, points to emulsifiers leading to changes in the intestinal track that eventually lead to inflammation. Food addivitives are being suspected, and research will move forward from mice to human studies.

The intestinal tract is inhabited by a large and diverse community of microbes collectively referred to as the gut microbiota. While the gut microbiota provides important benefits to its host, especially in metabolism and immune development, disturbance of the microbiota–host relationship is associated with numerous chronic inflammatory diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease and the group of obesity-associated diseases collectively referred to as metabolic syndrome. A primary means by which the intestine is protected from its microbiota is via multi-layered mucus structures that cover the intestinal surface, thereby allowing the vast majority of gut bacteria to be kept at a safe distance from epithelial cells that line the intestine1. Thus, agents that disrupt mucus–bacterial interactions might have the potential to promote diseases associated with gut inflammation. Consequently, it has been hypothesized that emulsifiers, detergent-like molecules that are a ubiquitous component of processed foods and that can increase bacterial translocation across epithelia in vitro2, might be promoting the increase in inflammatory bowel disease observed since the mid-twentieth century3.

This study is good news for those of use who have a diagnosis of Crohn’s or colitis, collectively know as IBD.

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I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2001, officially, and managed the disease with antibiotics, Prednisone, naturopathic doctor visits and supplements. No one else in my family suffers from Crohn’s. However, in 2006, I developed fistulas and a granuloma, and I was extremely sick when admitted to the hospital with a blockage in my small intestine  (there terminal ileum is the most common place Crohn’s develops). I didn’t eat solid food for one month leading up to, and after, my surgery— I weighed only 119 lbs on my 5 foot 8 frame (now I am up to 145 lbs.!)

After returning home, I began to search for a book that would aid in my recovery and help me establish a “new lease on life.” Surprisingly, I couldn’t find this book anywhere—so I began to write a proposal to write the book that I was looking for: a book that would be predominantly a wellness guide about living with an incurable disease. Here is what my teacher/editor had to say about this book:

“Dede is an amazing woman! In this book you will find not only helpful advice but real inspiration.”
—Julie Silver, M.D., assistant professor, Harvard Medical School, author of What Helped Get MeThrough: Cancer Survivors Share Wisdom and Hope

At that time, I had had a moderate case of Crohn’s for eight years and had been in and out of the ER four times for treatment of flare-ups (usually fluids and bowel rest did the trick). I was ready to learn how to manage my condition and take a proactive role in my own health so that I could avoid more hospital stays and enjoy life and doing the things I loved again, like hiking, cross-country skiing, running, and especially traveling.

Here I am last summer :) Healthy and fit, though I still have Crohn's!

Here I am last summer 🙂 Healthy and fit, though I still have Crohn’s!

Now that the book is out, and my new cookbook just came out, I can say with confidence that Jessica Black, ND (my co-author) and I were certainly on the right track in terms of our research into gut microbiota! Jessica was already a forerunner with her wonderful book, The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book. I really have Jessie to thank, for not only being my coauthor, my far-flung naturopath (I am on the east coast and she is in Portland, Oregon), but my inspiration for taking charge of my own health.

In our book, Living With Crohn’s & Colitis, Dr. Black and I frequently stress the need for an additive/preservative-free diet, a diet that focuses on natural, organic foods. (Note: Even when additives are derived from plant sources they can still be harmful.)

My perspective—that is, the patient’s perspective—makes this book unique and personal. Through my story, you will learn how I became an advocate for myself upon receiving a Crohn’s diagnosis. As the years went by and I developed a better understanding of my body and its healing, I became a resource for alternative therapies, and I want to further the mission of helping people balance their clinic treatments with Eastern medicine and healthy eating habits.

Photo by Zachary Stephens.

Photo by Zachary Stephens.

I remain quite healthy now, though not in full remission. I am dealing with active Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis by balancing a Western medical plan with a naturopathic treatment plan, an additive-free diet, along with acupuncture, massage, yoga and exercise (don’t forget getting enough sleep!).

I know what it is like to suffer from illness and want to help our readers and their caregivers regain wellness. We love to hear from readers, so please comment and let us know who you are doing and what works for you so we can share!

 

 

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Should we all eat the Paleolithic Diet?

Dede’s friend, nutritionist Chris Ellis, is so knowledgeable and I’ve been bugging her to do a book with, too…. Here is a good overview of the Paleo diet.

Since I reported in my last article that I was a vegetarian some people may wonder why I would write about the other side of the diet spectrum, the currently popular Paleolithic Diet, which contains a significant amount of animal protein. I would respond by saying that every individual has specific dietary needs and not everyone biochemically or mentally feels at their optimal health being a vegetarian. I think everyone just needs to be aware of the choices and to do what feels best for their body physically, as well as what feels right for them philosophically. I would encourage individuals to be mindful of the impact their choices have on the environment and the earth too. In this article I am providing a little more insight into the Paleolithic Diet and hopefully that might help in exploring what type of eating plan works best for you or your family.

The Paleolithic Diet is a modern version of the diet that was followed by our ancestors many thousands of years ago. The diet was different wherever humans lived, depending on what animals also lived in the area for hunting and the availability of plants and seafood. The Paleolithic Diet was practiced prior to modern day agriculture and the domestication of animals. The diet consists of grass-fed animals such as beef and chicken, seafood, eggs, wild plants including vegetables (lots of root vegetables except potatoes), fruit, nuts (no peanuts), and seeds. The diet contained an ample supply of omega-3 fats mainly from the seafood, nuts, seeds, and the grass-fed animals since we had no surplus of corn and soybeans to feed our wild animals. Cereal grains are not a part of the diet and these include wheat, corn, millet, rice, barley, oats, sorghum, and rye. These grains were not available back then and they all need to be cooked in order to be consumed. The proponents of this diet believe that what humans ate back then is better suited genetically and biologically to our nutritional needs. Our human makeup is not coping well with the many changes in our present diet according to those who advocate for this diet and our bodies are not adapting well to the modern way of eating, specifically all the high calorie, highly processed foods. The root of many chronic health problems we face now, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s, are related to the diet most people follow in this country.

The changes in the modern diet include an increase of refined carbohydrates and cereal grains, a decrease in animal protein, a decrease in omega-3 fats, and an overabundance of sugary and salty foods such as candy, pretzels, chips, soda, etc. The modern American diet is comprised of approximately 50-60 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein, and 25 to 30 percent fat calories. The Paleolithic Diet, however, is comprised of approximately 25 to 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates, and 30 to 35 percent fat calories. The introduction of processed foods in the late 1800s definitely had an impact on the quality of our diet, and as our food supply became more industrialized the variety of crops and foods grown declined. But that is making a turnaround now, especially in Vermont, fortunately!

Humans are meant to eat a diversity of foods for optimal health but our diet today offers not only a wide variety of foods and ingredients but excess calories (sugar, unhealthy fats, corn products, etc.) far different from the hunters and gatherers regimen. We do not have to go far to get food, so very few calories are burned to “hunt or gather” our food. It is available on every corner depending on where you live, so long as you have the economic means to gather it.

So should we all eat the Paleolithic Diet? There are benefits to “eating Paleo” but our modern Paleolithic diet cannot duplicate the one followed by our ancestors. We are aware that there are benefits to a minimally processed diet and no matter what diet we choose we should strive to follow that. There are many good eating plans available (vegetarian, Mediterranean, Asian, etc.) and some may or may not contain meat and/or animal protein. It is best to consume animal protein from grass-fed animals (ideally with as little pesticides from their food as possible) with little or no use of drugs or hormones, safe wild seafood (not all fish is safe, as we know), and eggs, along with plentiful amounts of vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruit—the basic Paleolithic Diet modified based on the dietary sources we have now that meet the guidelines. Choose an eating plan that you can follow that is optimum for your health and don’t forget to include an exercise component since that was an essential part of the Paleolithic lifestyle. We will all enjoy a longer healthier life if we follow some or all of the Paleolithic dietary guidelines!

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Questions? We’d love to hear from our readers and their own experiences with the Paleo Diet and IBD.

In the photo, from Living With Crohn’s & Colitis Book co-author, Dede Cummings, you can see the yummy roasted veggies that are perfect for the Paleo diet! The recipe is in my new cookbook, too!

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Our New Cookbook Giveaway

LWCC CookbookOur new cookbook is out and Dede would like to give away a free copy to the first two people who comment on this post — tell us a bit about yourself, are you a caregiver, do you have Crohn’s, or colitis, or IBS, or some other autoimmune disease?  When you receive your book (send email in PM to dede@livingwithcrohnsandcolitisbook.com), please post a review on Amazon for us and we will be eternally grateful!

We are excited to share these gut-friendly recipes from the book and there is a long introduction about how to live with IBD and tips to help.

For the millions of people afflicted with irritable bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s and colitis, it can be a daily struggle to find nutritious meals that won’t aggravate symptoms or cause a flare-up. The Living with Crohn’s & Colitis Cookbook is your essential nutrition guide with over 100 recipes and meal plans expertly designed to improve daily functioning and help relieve symptoms of Crohn’s and colitis.

The Living with Crohn’s & Colitis Cookbook contains everything you need to plan your meals, balance your diet, and manage your symptoms, including:
• A guide to keeping a food journal
• Sample meal plans
• Tips for shopping for an IBD diet
• Gentle and nutritious recipes to help soothe flare-ups
…and much more!

The Living with Crohn’s & Colitis Cookbook features over 100 recipes, including Zucchini Buckwheat Banana Bread, Homemade Almond Milk, Dr. Lang’s Healing Soup, Garlic-Herbed Scallops, Coconut Curry Chicken over Brown Rice, Mushroom Risotto with Cashews and Parmesan, Crabapple Walnut Cake, and many more. The book also features Paleo recipes.

 

Enjoy these photos from our book! 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Every Day

Switching to a diet high in Omega-3s has been a major factor in my being in remission!

When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s and colitis, I did not exactly jump into the fray of changing my diet and lifestyle… It took a few years! When you set out to try to change habits that are ingrained and also are associated with comfort (mother’s mac ‘n cheese anyone?), it takes time.

Wild-caught salmon follows the seasonal run of the Pacific Northwest. Photo courtesy of Central Mkt.

Wild-caught salmon follows the seasonal run of the Pacific Northwest. Photo courtesy of Central Mkt.

Now that I am on the other side of my twenty-year Crohn’s/colitis saga, I am in a place where I want to help others find their  own way.

Once thing I have learned through my dietary study, is the fact that we need Omega-3 fatty acids in our diet daily—and not just if you are a Crohnie or uc-er. Every day.

I eat wild-caught salmon at least once a week, take flax seed ground up to aid in digestion and add fiber to my diet. I also take an Omega-3 supplement daily that really helps my arthritic joints (due to Crohn’s). I am healthy, fit and the doctors are surprised and how well I am, relying on diet, supplements and a holistic lifestyle.

Someone like me would normally be on autoimmune suppression drugs, but I do not want to do that to my body, and my choice was a wise one as I am incredibly healthy!

Omega-3 fatty acids are found also in walnuts, which I also eat every day. Other sources are the ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) Omega-3 fatty acids found in certain vegetable oils like soybeans, canola and flaxseed, as well as in green vegetables (kale, and more kale!, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and leafy greens). The other type of Omega-3 fatty acid is called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and is present in salmon especially, as well as other types of fatty fish: Bluefish, mackerel, herring, tuna, anchovies and sardines are also excellent sources of omega-3s.

According to Dr. Frank Sacks, Professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, you should have at least one serving of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet daily.

 

In my upcoming cookbook, Living With Crohn’s & Colitis Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Creating Your Personal Diet Plan to Wellness (with an Introduction by Jessica Black, ND, and a Foreword by Sarah Choueiry, Crohn’s patient and founder of The Crohn’s Journey Foundation) due out in September (!), I have a few salmon recipes, and I’d like to share one now (quick and easy and great for summer dining—remember, if one of the foods, like apples, is a trigger food and hard to digest, substitute it or delete it from the recipe and adjust the mayo and seasonings accordingly)…. Enjoy!

Easy Salmon Salad

Ingredients:

2 cans wild boneless, skinless salmon

½ cup mayonnaise, organic

½ cup minced carrots

½ cup minced apples

¼ cup sweet relish, organic and sweetened naturally

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Serve chilled with crackers, on a salad, or alone.

Source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3/

 

….and I also want add a checklist for how to shop for the best salmon and how to cook and store the fish, as follows:

Wild-caught salmon (in photo) follows the seasonal run of the Pacific Northwest, and we strive to be first to market. According to the folks at Central Market, you should only buy from markets that buy fish from strictly regulated fisheries committed to sustainable practices and the guidelines set forth by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The fish has been out of the water less than 48 hours prior to its arrival, flown in fresh several times a week and each piece is inspected.

Here are some tips from them to best enjoy your wild-caught salmon:

  • Eat or freeze within 24 hours. Keep it in the refrigerator covered tightly in plastic wrap until you’re ready to cook it.
  • Don’t rinse with water or the color will leach.
  • If grilling, preheat grill to medium-high and grease it well with olive or grapeseed oil. Place the salmon on the grill, meat side down, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of the fillet. Flip over and cook 3 to 4 minutes more, skin side down. Also try it with a cedar plank. Sear with meat side down, then place skin side down on cedar plank and close the grill to infuse that cedar-smoked flavor.
  • If using a cast-iron skillet, heat it until almost smoking and sear 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Pull it off the heat and let it continue to cook in the skillet until desired doneness.
  • Salmon is done when it starts to flake, and it tastes best with a medium center.

 

Now that you know how to store and prep your salmon—enjoy! You can also pre-order my cookbook right here at your local, independent bookstore, and Sarah Choueiry and I are really excited to introduce you to a ton of great and easy recipes!

 

Happy Almost Summer!

Eight years ago, almost to the hour, I had surgery…

I found this photo this morning, when I was remembering how scared I was going in for surgery for a bowel resection due to a serious, three-week, blockage of my small intestine from complications of Crohn’s disease.

I only weighed 117 pounds in this photo, taken with my son’s college roommate, Justin, two days before my operation in 2006. I was so skinny and malnourished, it’s hard to believe now that I am over twenty pounds heavier! I also found my husband’s post on my CaringBridge site (which still exists under “DedeCummings”), and I want to tell all my readers and followers of this blog, that you should never give up hope!

Written May 22, 2006 8:35pm

Hi all–
The news from Hanover is very good: Dede was in surgery from about 9:30-noon, and awoke (in a manner of speaking) about an hour later. She had a good grip on the button of her morphine pump, and smiled beatifically every time she heard its answering “beep.”

Dr. Henriques took out approx. 5 inches of her small intestine, of which 5 cm had severe scarring and the rest was worn out, and about the same length of large intestine, which had been scarred by a fistula (an “abnormal passage” connecting the two, resulting from her disease/scarring). The doctor held up his index fingers like a fisherman describing his catch when describing all of this.

He also took out her appendix while he was in there, so we’ll have no access to supplementary information about her internal organs in the future. (Sorry: lame book joke…) Her gall bladder looks fine, just for the record.

He expects her to be in the hospital for only a few days, so she could get home as soon as Thursday. She has already gotten out of bed, taken a few steps, and sat up for a while.

By tomorrow she’ll be treated to smoothies and milkshakes, and can eat some solid food by the end of the week–Dr. Henriques predicts that she’ll be voracious by that point.

Thanks for all of your lovely notes and positive thoughts; I’ll be able to get my computer online in her room tomorrow, so keep ’em coming.

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Travel—A Success! How to hit the road & not collapse

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When I was having flare-ups more frequently, before my surgery and before I started following Jessica’s naturopathic plan of care, I didn’t really connect the dots of my IBD flaring up during travel.

I remember one trip in particular, and as I reflect some ten years later, I see how my Crohn’s would flare, and my vacation would end up being a disaster. Don’t get me wrong, I “always” put up a good front—for my kids’ sake, mostly. I wanted them to have a good time, and I “had to be strong,” etc.

…memory lane, trip from hell…
Ten years ago, in early summer, we left our home in Vermont and drove to Philly. The next day we drove straight through to North Carolina. I did a lot of the driving, and chewed endless quantities of sugarless gum — you know, the kind you get at the gas station that has aspartane in it, and even though you never chew gum at home, you are desperate to stay alert to alleviate the driving. The kids were all happily reading in the back seat, chatting with my husband, and feeling excited the closer we got….

As we got closer to our destination—Ashville—I began to feel bloated and crampy. I wasn’t drinking water, and was eating fast food… Fast forward: Day 3 of our vacation, and I’m still in our beautiful little cabin, lying in bed with severe cramps, low-grade fever…. Friends would stop in and say hi, but I was mostly alone, hearing the voices of the families going off on canoeing day trips, or such.

…hindsight is easy, reality isn’t…
It’s easy to look back now, and say, “I should have packed my own food for the trip, avoided fast food and chemical-laden gum, gotten tons of sleep, taken the train (!), or flown….”

Let me tell you about my trip to the writers’ retreat in Florida:
I splurged on van carpool ride to the airport, flew down after my usual breakfast I call Paelo Stew (chopped nuts and fruit with fresh almond milk), drank tons of water (using my stainless steel water jug to not use so much plastic or paper), drank black tea with just a smidgen of organic half and half cream—my ONE allowable treat/no coffee, packed organic fresh-ground peanut butter for the trip (under 3 ounces for carry on), some wheat-gluten-free crackers, an apple and a ziplock bag of nut-raisin mix.

When I got there, I got settled and had a late snack: boiled egg, iced tea, carrots and hummus; I went for a walk, did some yoga, met with the writers, etc, and got to bed early. Note: that night, Suzanne, our writing guru 😉 made a beautiful black bean soup. Nope. As much as I craved it with grated cheese, fresh cilantro, and topped with sour cream, I did not eat it. I had packed some really good turkey from my food coop at home, and I just ate that.

When some of the writers asked me why I wasn’t eating the main course, I sipped my unsweetened organic cranberry juice mixed with soda water, and told them I had a serious case of a Crohn’s disease, and they were all so respectful and talked openly about it with me. I talked about being on the Paleo since last June, and that got a lot of response… Many people supported that diet. No sugar is not that hard anymore!

For dessert, I had one square of dark unsweetened chocolate one day. I ate oranges from the farmer’s market, and had grilled mahi-mahi one night. When we went out for dinner in St. Augustine, I had three delicious chicken tacos with no cheese and no rice or beans, but they gave me guacamole instead!

I walked 2-3 miles a day (natch, being on the beach was nice), did yoga, had some downtime by myself one afternoon reading on the beach, and all in all, it was a huge success—I’ll even post a video link that was made by photographer, Jeff Woodward, of our group to show you how beautiful it was there! I didn’t get to have one of the shiatsu massages because I was one of the staff, but I took her card, and plan to go when I save some money.

Don’t be discouraged by travel this summer, be in control!

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Travel—how to manage Crohn’s & Colitis

Tomorrow is a big day…. We all get a wee bit revved up when a trip is on the horizon. For me, I also get a bit anxious and fearful of having a flare up on the road. I’m not alone, and I don’t want my readers to feel alone either!

While travel is great, I have had numerous family vacations when my Crohn’s flared up and left me in bed, throwing up, having to run to the bathroom…. Oh dear.

About ten years ago, I was on a business trip at a printing press in Manitoba, Canada, and I was flaring up, and got a migraine in top of it. It was so embarrassing, too! I had to tell the CSR I couldn’t even do the press check I was paid to be doing! I flew all the way out there.

How to avoid stress when you travel…
I’m packing for my trip to Florida tomorrow, with editor, Suzanne Kingsbury, where we will have a long weekend in writing paradise 😉 with 7 wonderful writing clients. I need to exude confidence and well being. First of all, all the writers on the retreat know I have Crohn’s and was very sick eight years ago… I keep no secrets:

NUMBER 1: eliminate stress that comes from secrets!

2. Rest every afternoon; go to bed early, walk on the beach… People will give you space.

3. Watch what you EAT carefully when you travel. Avoid trigger foods! I am packing a good supply of snacks that I know I can tolerate.

In the photo, you can see what I’m packing: ….

Grape seed oil extract, vitamin D, L-Theanine (a calming extract of green tea; helps with my anxiety about flying); my daily pills: phyto multi vitamin, herbal adrenal assist, turmeric, mag-citrate, and Omega 3 ; at right is Ultra Flora Balance probiotics, and Echinacea and Goldenseal —if I catch a cold and get sick. I also bring Arnica gel and homeopathic Arnica tablets for sub lingual use in case I get injured (last trip I whacked my knee and bruised it and the Arnica worked well!).

I’m SET for the trip!

Drinking lots of water, eating tons of oranges, extra sleeping, walking and doing yoga daily will help alleviate the stress of travel…

I’ll post more about what I’m eating down in beautiful St. Augustine.

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