A Comprehensive Naturopathic Guide for Complete Digestive Wellness

Tag Archives: Gluten-Free

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! 


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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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My journal used for lists/questions for my doctor, and food notes.

My journal used for lists/questions for my doctor, and food notes.

I would definitely recommend getting another opinion. I got two!

One of our readers wrote to say her doctor told her she “shouldn’t feel any pain from UC.”

Seriously?

Pain is a bi-product of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. My disease caused pain when I flared—it even felt like labor pains! I have Crohn’s. My disease is characterized by scarring—called fibro stenotic disease. UC does not usually go through the outer wall of the large intestine the way Crohn’s does with the small… So some people don’t have pain, but have diarrhea instead.

Remember, everyone is an individual, and we have different symptoms and react differently to different foods, or stress, for example. I (Dede) always say this: listen to your own body, ease off on trigger foods, like dairy or wheat, be proactive in your health care and do research and ask questions. Bring a list, and a partner or a friend, to your doctor’s appointments.

One time, I brought my husband, and he had done all this research (he’s an English professor ;)… at one point in the meeting, the gastroenterologist leaned over his desk and said to my husband, “Hey, what do you have on that drug?”

One thing to be aware of: getting off Prednisone. Did your doctor tell you to taper off slowly? My GI did. I love my team at Dartmouth Hitchcock in NH, it’s important to find a clinic and doctor you can trust who really listens to you!

Diet—yes, can cause pain and symptom flares. Don’t let a doctor fool you! Listen to your own body!

There is an excellent website-forum called www.ihaveuc.com and you should “tell your story,” and pose any questions you have there, also.


IMG_2166It is our hope that our readers have benefitted from the New Year, 3-month, Plan for Wellness. Here are seven painless and simple at-home acupuncture steps you can do to maintain good health and vitality. I recommend acupuncture and we had a wonderful guest blog post a few months ago that a lot of our readers thanked us for.

My naturopath also has me on a total “detox” regimen that includes castor oil packs, meditation (I use Rodney Yee’s “AM Yoga” DVD, or try Jon Kabat-Zinn’s wonderful collection of relaxation CDs), skin “sloughing” before shower (which entails roughing up your skin with a loofah sponge from your extremities toward your heart and encourages new cell growth), drinking plenty of water, regular exercise and daily yoga, counseling with a social worker or psychotherapist, weekly (free) REIKI and monthly massage visits, acupuncture sessions monthly, and physical therapy with integrative manual therapy-healing. A good attitude also helps. I regularly repeat to myself positive messages like:

“Don’t let this disease rule your life and get you down, but when you need to, ‘Ask for Help!’”

This simple YouTube mindfulness video by Jon Kabat-Zinn is wonderful, and Dr. Kabat-Zinn was one of the first to bring mindfulness into medicine!

The suggestions I receive from my naturopath are an attempt to enhance my body’s natural elimination processes through the digestive system, kidneys, skin, liver, and lungs. All are essential to help me optimize elimination with minimal aggravation while also undergoing specific treatment suggestions with my gastroenterologist. I have found this support team and naturopathic/acupuncture treatment to be extremely effective as an aid that can dramatically lessen the physical effects of inflammatory bowel disease.

These seven relaxation techniques are really easy to do at home. I do them before my shower daily! Foot massages are also very beneficial, which I do before bed with some moisturizer (I add a bit of organic apricot or sesame oil to the Pure Essentials moisturizer to thicken it up, and I also put cotton socks over my feet if calluses are bad), as well as candle-lit hot baths with lavender oil drops in the water.

  1. Brush your gums and tongue. Spend at least 5 minutes each time you brush (longer is even better). Set a timer because 5 minutes may seem like a very long time at first. The acupuncture points along the gums match with the entire body system, as does the tongue.
  2. Brush your scalp. Remember when moms insisted that we always brush our hair for 50 strokes? Turns out, there are hundreds of acupuncture points on the scalp itself. For a quick session, massage the governing vessel 20. This point is located at the very top of the head, the point of 100 meeting points, which enables you to access several channels at once. Spend time massaging your scalp with your fingernails and even while you shampoo.
  3. Push back your cuticles on your fingers and toes. Just the act of pushing back your cuticles stimulates acupuncture points that go directly to every muscle and tendon in the body, bringing on relaxation. Need to keep a small child quiet at an event? This works like a charm. Plus you can trace every finger front and back as well.
  4. Loofah your body. This is a hard sponge that softens with use. Loofah plants can be grown, and are much softer than those found at most department stores. (Note: when purchasing a loofah, be sure it says ‘loofah’ on the package.) Use the loofah wherever there is skin. There are thousands of acupuncture points all over the body. If you find a sore or itchy spot, spend extra time there. It is likely that it is an acupuncture point that needs stimulation. Electricity is accumulating there and stimulation via massaging or using a loofah disperses this accumulation. Before showering, use the loofah sponge to aggressively rub from the extremities toward the head, beginning with the arms, then working up from the feet. After you rub all the dead cells off your body, an invigorating shower further energizes you and allows for the stimulation of new cell growth.
  5. Moisten your nasal membranes. When you splash water on your face, keep water on your little fingers. Put your little fingers inside your nose and moisten all around. You do not need to sniff water up into your sinuses. Moistening your nasal membranes increases your chi (your body’s bio-electrical energy).
  6. Breathing exercises. Most of us are chest breathers, rather than abdominal breathers, so we tend to breathe shallow most of the day. On inspiration (breathing in), push your stomach out as far as you can. On expiration (breathing out), let your stomach fall back to neutral. This is very difficult to do at first without thinking about it. When you breathe with your abdomen it forces the diaphragm to drop and thus increases your lung capacity. This is why singers practice breathing so that they are able to sustain notes much longer. Breathing leads to more oxygen, more chi and more energy.
  7. Massage your face, hands, feet, and ears. You can do this yourself, but it is more relaxing and fun if done by someone else. These areas also treat the entire body individually.

(Grateful to Patricia S. Wesley, D.C. for her support

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Daily massage and stimulation will increase blood flow, help improve the effectiveness of your current therapies, improve mood, decrease inflammation, and promote healing.

Remember to think positive, and here is a wonderful quote and photo from the XIV Dalai Lama.

We like to hear from our readers, and thanks for helping spread the word about our book and recommendations!

—Dede, a Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis patient perspective—post surgical removal of ileum, large segment of Sigmoid colon, and fistula/granuloma mass—symptom-free for the past eight years, but still a Crohnie/uc-er by definition…


Happy Holidays from Dede & Jessica at Living With Crohn’s & Colitis!

This plan was developed as a guide for generating a treatment regimen. Just as each individual is unique, so too is their road to wellness. This 3-month plan is meant to be used loosely, so you should feel free to adjust each step as needed for your own recovery. Please consult your physician when beginning this program, and continue to visit your established team of specialists (naturopath, gastroenterologist, etc.) so that they can help you monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments to the program.

As discussed in our book—and is a good idea to read the book before beginning this plan—treatments and lifestyle changes can occur in any order, but here we have provided a plan that will slowly and gently move you through your digestive problems and into wellness. Most patients will feel some positive changes as they progress through this 3-month plan and some patients may even become symptom-free.

The most important aspect of this step-by-step process for building health is that we are creating a foundation for wellness and building upon it, rather than trying to overwhelm the body by incorporating all changes at once. Taking new strides each week helps to keep you focused and motivated through the entire process. We know that change can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve created this program so that it can also be slowed down even further to incorporate new changes every 3 weeks and can be specifically tailored to your individual needs.

NOTE: All severe conditions and the need for surgery must be ruled out by your physician prior to starting this program. If initial acute symptoms are severe, they must be treated either with natural medicine or pharmaceutical medicines to provide relief while working on the underlying imbalances.

NOTE: Stress is a precursor to disease and flare-ups. If you are a parent of a child with IBD, or a patient or caregiver, try to help keep the holidays as stress-free as possible! (Easy for me to write this, as I woke up at 3:00 a.m. worrying about buying presents …. and planning a party! Yikes. But I am off to walk 4 miles this morning AND DO YOGA AND MEDITATE!!!

 Weeks 1–2: 

1. See the change and believe in the change! Visualize optimal colon health daily. See yourself happy, active, and vibrant in your mind.

2. Proper Mealtime Habits—eat slowly, and take your time preparing, shopping, and don’t overeat, or try new foods during the holidays!

3. Remove major dietary causes of inflammation—keep a food journal, and stay away from trigger foods!

4. Add only one supplement or herbal medicine, whichever best suits you. This may be an acute remedy for diarrhea, acidophilus, or any other supportive medicine—for example. I just bought a new supplement—turmeric—because I ran out.

5. Herbal teas: pick one of the teas that best fit your needs and drink daily. I choose Perppermint! Also Chamomile is a good stress reducer. Add honey for sweetening (NO SUGAR AT ALL!)

Weeks 3–4: 

1. Continue previous points.

2. Add an additional supplement or herbal medicine—talk to your doctor or naturopath about Vitamin D, or Omega 3.

foot3. Begin the Tapping for Energy technique (in our book) or daily acupressure. Dede likes to massage her feet before bed, using a nice mix of moisturizer and sesame or apricot oil. It is amazing how much stress in in our feet and the acupressure points relate to organs in the body. It is a great routine to press gently on some of these points — the chart shows you were the bowel area is (also liver point is important to gently press).

4. Experiment with adding more anti-inflammatory foods and spices into your diet.  Last night, I made a fish curry with garnishes of bananas, raisins, chopped apples . . . yum!

Message me if you want the recipe. It was mild, not too spicy, and used Haddock filet.

A macadamia and fish curry.

Weeks 5–6:

1. Continue previous points.

2. Add an additional supplement or herbal medicine. I take grape seed extract when I feel a cold or flu coming on. Try a warm bath at night with lavender oil.

3. Begin to incorporate movement/exercise. Do this at least 3 times per week, but daily possible. This is VERY important…start slowly, but try every day. Begin with your mind—just change the way you think about exercise (like when you get busy at work or with life, don’t eliminate it!).

Weeks 7–8:

1. Continue previous points.

2. Incorporate daily nutritional powders into your diet such as spirulina, kelp, green tea, or acai powder—try these sparingly at first, and make sure nothing irritates (Dede does not use spiraling, but kelp and green tea really help keep inflammation at bay. An excellent overall nutritional supplement, but use the best brand and tell your doctor. Here is a nice article from Dr. Oz on acai powder.  Dede has acupuncture once a month-another great thing to introduce—if it is too expense, find a “community-supported acupuncture” place to go, like a clinic. Dede’s acupuncturist gives her a discount ($55 per 1 hour session!) because she has a sliding scale. Acupuncture really helps!

3. Add an additional supplement, if needed. PROBIOTICS ARE GREAT, according to Dede, who takes 1/4 teaspoon of powder every day. Again, buy from Naturopath, or Metagenics is a good company. Dede uses “Synergy” brand, all flora.

Weeks 9–10: 

1. Continue previous points.

2. Add an additional supplement if needed. Talk to your doctor about your magnesium/calcium levels—Dede takes a mag-citrate because she doesn’t have dairy in her diet. Plus, if you have been on steroids for treatment, you want to be sure your bone health/density is good, so it would be wise to talk to your doctor about having a test.

3. Incorporate mental and emotional support. This may be needed sooner in some individuals suffering from anxiety and depression contributing to their illness. Dede swears by “Talk Therapy,” and goes 2x a month. She tells her therapist everything about dealing with her disease, work, relationships, boundaries, stress, etc. THE BEST!

Weeks 11–12: 

1. Continue previous points.

2. Add an additional supplement if still needing more support.  Talk to your naturopath. Your electrolytes need to be balanced. Dede makes homemade chicken soup broth 2x a month. Dede loves being on a Paleo-like diet! NO SUGAR, NO GRAIN (can use Almond and Coconut flours), NO DAIRY!! This is the best! Use Almond mile, eat eggs and organic animal proteins (local chicken is good, beef—but make sure it is antibiotic-free and free range)

3. Incorporate colon hydrotherapy (castor oil packs 5 days per week or constitutional hydrotherapy treatments — details are in our book, along with tons of other lifestyle information! Dede loves her castor oil pack-when her abdomen is sore, she lies down with the pack and a heating pad, and reads, or meditates, or sleeps. Pain goes away!.

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Enjoy a stress-free New Years, and look forward to 2014! Remember, a positive attitude improves disease outcome, so “THINK POSITIVE!” 


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Since it is almost Thanksgiving, I thought I would write a post to wish everyone a happy, stress-free holiday, and try to help those with IBS, Crohn’s, and UC who may need some encouragement and advice.

We all know holidays can bring on the stress-inducing behaviors and hormones that cause internal signals to flare up in the body. When I was at the Mayo Clinic a few (short) months ago, I learned so much about controlling stress—make stress-reducing activities a priority, starting today, and leading up through the holiday season.

Your lifestyle structure is even more important here: daily exercise, gentle yoga, meditation, sleep, etc. Schedule appointments with professionals to help you lessen stress in your life: a talk therapist, acupuncture, massage (gift cards are good holiday presents for those you love!), etc. Do what makes you feel good about yourself AND relax! (I went to the salon yesterday for hair color!)

Tryptophan is one of the 10 essential amino acids that the body uses to synthesize the proteins it needs. It’s well-known for its role in the production of nervous system messengers, especially those related to relaxation, restfulness, and sleep.

I am now aware why I love turkey so much—I sometimes even crave it. I always feel more relaxed after I eat turkey, and this may explain why….There are many researchers who study the way tryptophan manufactures serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is found—guess where?—in the intestinal tract. Just about 90% of the body’s serotonin is actually found in the gut, so my gut tells me to eat it, and I am not even a biochemist!

Tryptophan has the ability to raise serotonin levels, too! Wow, who knew this? I love the fact that I can eat turkey and sample other holiday foods like nuts, seeds, bananas, pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, green beans with almonds, pearl onions (those sweet little ones, not the canned and creamed kind!) WITHOUT having a flare up. Also (again, who knew?!), Tryptophan also boosts the production of B3, and since I had a partial bowel resection in 2006, I need to keep track of my B vitamins (especially since my terminal ileum is completely gone, I have lost the capacity to fully absorb vitamin B12).

Everything I eat is sourced, and mostly bought from local farms. It is not that hard to do. For instance, our turkey is a Vermont-raised, free running turkey, and I picked it up yesterday from our local food coop. Potatoes are from here, also butternut squash, apples, pumpkins—are all from Vermont; cranberries are organic and from Cape Cod. I will be baking apples, too—delicious and easy. Some of us cannot eat nuts or cranberries, so avoid, but there is plenty to choose from!

Here are some tips: drink water before your meal to fill you up so you don’t overeat, take small portions, walk after the meal. If you have an ostomy, take extra supplies and a change of clothes to your hosts’ party. If you avoid sugar and alcohol, you will be less likely to flare up; also don’t try ANY food that is not on your list (remember the food journal from the book!).

On Wednesday/tomorrow, I will make some pies to drop off at our local Thanksgiving Day dinner for those less fortunate in our area—Don’t forget to do something to help someone else in need this week, and after. With all the holidays upon us, plan some special time each week to volunteer (soup kitchen, helping those who have been in a house fire, helping veterans, etc.). Thanksgiving was set as the fourth Thursday in November. This year, something amazing and historic has happened: After sundown on the second of Hanukkah’s eight days, we will also celebrate Thanksgiving. If you are Jewish, there is an even busier holiday!

I will post some recipes on my Facebook page! Be well, and breathe … A bit of dietary research unravels mysteries of cravings from this writer with uc/Crohn’s disease….Happy Thanksgiving & holidays everyone!


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Good day to my fellow Crohnnie’s and UC-ers,

Holidays are fun—remember that!!! In the spirit of our favorite holiday when you have IBD, we are gearing up for a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, AND grain-free Thanksgiving!!! Yahoo! Can’t wait. Here is what we can eat: TURKEY!!! The best comfort food on earth (with lots of tryptophan in it that makes us feel good), sweet potatoes (yams) that are steamed and mashed with olive oil and a bit of melted canola butter on top, small sweet onions with canola butter, steamed carrots, cranberry sauce (unsweetened), as long as you can tolerate cranberries. Don’t try ANY new food over any holiday. If you go to a potluck, don’t eat, or bring your own food …. Remember to stay positive, get a lot of rest and exercise every day to clear your head. Start meditation, and volunteer at a local Thanksgiving Day dinner (I’ll be making some gluten-free dishes to bring to my town’s open dinner as a donation)….

Take care of yourself! Give back to others, and you will have a perfect holiday!

Here are some more of Dede’s “Living-with-Crohn’s & Colitis” TIPS—

Probiotic & Diet
For PROBIOTICS, look for a pure brand with a 50/50 blend of bifidobacterium and lactobacillus acidophilus. Perhaps you can find this brand: Metagenics, Ultra Flora “Synergy.” Take once a day, with or without food (depends on how you tolerate it). Keep that food journal, and note down any stress in your life, daily exercise, everything you eat. Don’t eat fried or spicy food—keep track, and eat small frequent meals. I have a really OCD technique: breakfast begins with tea and a dash of milk (the ONLY dairy I eat, and my ONE treat ;)), then add a bit of honey (again, buy in bulk and a pure brand). Cold cereal of almond milk mixed with bananas and cut-up melon (add nuts and raisins IF you can tolerate). Snack is peanut butter on carrots.
CHEW EVERYTHING really well!
Drink TONS of water with fresh lemon squeezed into it.
Drink TONS of herbal teas…I like peppermint

Lunch is tuna or chicken salad (use pure fresh, virgin, olive oil!), maybe chick pea humus and a handful of almonds on the side; snack is applesauce and peanut butter. Dinner is a grilled local beef/organic hamburger with steamed zucchini. No grain, no sugar, no dairy. I eat ALL the time and feel great on this diet. I don’t even crave sugar!

Good luck and stay positive. YOU CAN DO THIS!

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Having a Flare-Up
When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease-ulcerative colitis, I remember what a frantic time it was for me. I had three jobs (typical when you live in a rural area) in order to make ends meet. My daughter was applying to college (stressful, to say the least), my father was battling bladder cancer, and I was teaching at a local college where none of the ‘real’ faculty knew my name.

I remember it was April, 2006, and when Emma went off with the college tour, I was too sick to even walk! I had to put the seat back in my car and just lie there.

It is easy to feel sorry for oneself during a flare, that’s for sure!

Don’t you just sometimes feel alone, and like throwing in the towel? Do you ever feel embarrassed that you might have an accident — like when you are walking around a college campus with a bunch of high school seniors and their eager parents?

The obvious answers are all yes: we are only human after all, and sometimes a change in seasons can stir up some allergies, a stressful work period can add fatigue and emotional turmoil to your life. It’s okay, though!

I decided just recently, in the midst of a painful flare, that I am not going to let this disease beat me down—I have too many things I want to do in my life! Take Carrie Johnson, the woman’s rowing champion who has Crohn’s–she is pursuing her dream. What about Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready,’or football great, Dave Garrard? They are living with chronic disease, and not letting it run their lives! Me, I’m just an ordinary girl, but I work hard and I’m taking this latest flare day by day…

It wasn’t fun last Wednesday night to be awake most of the night, cramping, feverish, disoriented, feeling the horrible blockage within, knowing I could be headed towards surgery again—feeling incredibly sorry for myself! I stayed in the rest of the week, gradually introducing safe foods back into my diet…

We need to pace ourselves, and admit that a cure isn’t imminent; we need to share our stories and not feel so alone; we need to listen to our bodies, and slow down when they tell us to. Sometimes, though, life is unpredictable and we have to forge ahead…accepting the good and the bad, while maintaining a good attitude and being proactive in our self-care as patients.

I sold a book last week, for my job as a literary agent—it is called “Wonder Woman Isn’t Bulletproof,”‘by the indomitable Shannon Galpin—she is out in the world, trying to make it a better and safer place for women and girls in Afghanistan. Perhaps my flare-up had something to do with my high stress level (bringing a book to auction!), but I wouldn’t change the joy of telling this amazing woman we had a book deal for anything! You can read why I’m so excited here.

Happy Spring—we still have snow where I live

So, it’s back to reality: lots of rest, fluids, I made a naturopathic doctor’s appointment for next week, scheduled a massage (have to budget carefully!), cooked healthy “post-flare-up” foods (rice, broth, soft-boiled eggs, gluten/wheat-free toast, peppermint tea) and ate small amounts while chewing thoroughly, slept almost 20 hours….healing, and feeling better already!

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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.

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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. . . .

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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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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.