Crohn’s Disease

crohns-disease-comparisonBy: Nikki Nies

I’ve talked about other gastrointestinal (GI) diseases before and the potential benefits of being on a Gluten Free diet or FODMAPS. However, I don’t want to be mistaken for writing as if these GI issues are somehow not worth noting the disparities.

I wanted to write about Crohn’s Disease as A) of all the GI diseases I’m least familiar with the root cause and treatment B) I try to take advantage of the opportunity to write on this blog to share awareness of GI issues with the public, but most importantly C) there’s a member of my campus ministry that has Crohn’s Disease.  I often don’t see him at our weekly devotionals due to his Crohn’s acting up, I was glad to see him these past few weeks, which means he’s obviously feeling well enough to be in public.  I went to hug him and he grimaced as I pulled away.  I felt bad because I could tell I had accidentally hurt him with my hug.

Of course, my hug was unintentionally painful.  I  had assumed his small stature was due to his inability to keep “food down”, but that was just an assumption and I wanted and needed to know the true story of Crohn’s.

So, as you can imagine this topic is new to me so as I write, I’m learning with you as well!

In 1932, Crohn’s Disease was first described by Dr. Burrill Crohn.  Crohn’s Disease belongs to the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), similar, but not the same as ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is restricted to inflammation in the large intestine.  Specifically, Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and can include the entire thickness of the bowel wall. GIT is everything from the mouth and anus.

Specific causes of Crohn’s is not entirely clear, but it has been found that one’s genetics, environment, diet and stress can play a role in the development.  Since Crohn’s Ddisease can impact any part of GIT, the symptoms are few and far between.  However, some common symptoms include: stages-of-crohns-disease-chart

  • Persistent Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgent need to move bowels
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation
  • Constipation, which can lead to bowel obstruction
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite**
  • Weight Loss**
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of normal menstrual cycle

For a complete, thorough diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, make sure to consult your primary care physician and/or obtain an endoscopy,small intestinal imaging, chromoendoscopy, or biopsy.  In cases of severe circumstances, tears, also known as fissures, in the lining of the anus may cause intense pain and/or bleeding.  Moreover, fistula, which are tunnels that lead from one of intestine to another or connects to bladder, vagina or skin.  If this occurs, it requires immediate medical attention!

As a chronic disease, Crohn’s Disease requires continuous care and understanding that ‘flare ups’ may occur exacerbating some symptoms.  One of the treatment options is to limit the amount of irritation and stress one places on the GIT.  This means adopting a GI Soft Bland Diet may play a critical role in the maintenance and prevention of flare ups! Be on the look out for a follow up post regarding what a GI Soft Bland Diet entails!

Do you or a loved one have Crohn’s Disease, what habits have you adapted?  What have you learned over the course of your journey with Crohn’s Disease?

Photo Credit: Bio News


High Fiber Musts

By: Nikki Nies

High fiber diets are always tooted as a lifestyle must! What does high fiber mean, you ask? It means consuming a diet of at least 21-25 g of fiber for women and 30-38 grams of fiber for men.  If meal planning isn’t part of your daily routine, it’s easy to let the days go by and not fulfill the daily fiber recommendations.  Gradually increase your fiber intake as a quick surge in fiber can lead to bloating and gas.

The best way to consume a high fiber diet is to eat more foods that have a higher fiber content! Can you guess what tops the list of the highest fibrous foods per serving?


  1. Corn bran, raw: 1 oz.=22 g of fiber
  2. Navy beans or white beans: 1 cup=19 g of fiber
  3. Yellow beans, cooked: 1 cup=18 g of fiber
  4. Adzuki, French, or black turtle soup beans: 1 cup=17 g of fiber
  5. Split peas, cooked: 1 cup=16.3 g of fiber
  6. Kidney or cranberry beans: 1 cup=16.0 g of fiber 
  7. Mung or pinto beans: 1 cup=15 g of fiber high-fiber-diet
  8. Lentils, cooked: 1 cup=15.6 g of fiber
  9. Black beans: 1 cup=15.0 g of fiber
  10. Oat or wheat bran, raw: 1 oz.=12.0 g of fiber
  11. Lima beans: 1 cup=13.2 g of fiber
  12. Baked beans, vegetarian, canned, cooked:1 cup=10.4 g of fiber
  13. Artichoke, cooked: medium=10.3 g of fiber
  14. Green peas, cooked: 1 cup=8.8 g of fiber
  15. Raspberries: 1 cup=8 g of fiber

A high fiber diet + adequate fluid intake is the right combination for smoother digestion, lower one’s risk of obesity, heart disease and/or cancer.  Furthermore, since fiber isn’t digested, it moves through the body quickly, helping to aid in constipation.

Have you added more fiber into your daily diet?  What changes have you seen accompany these fibrous additions?



By: Nikki Nies constipation-picture

Although, not the most appealing topic to discuss, with 2% of the world dealing with constipation on a regular basis it’s worth talking about.  Constipation occurs when one’s bowel movements are less frequent and/or more difficult.  The numerical definition of what’s “regular” varies among people, yet going more than 3 days without a bowel movement is concerning.  After 3 days, the stool becomes harder and more difficult to pass.  It’s important to recognize acute (recent onset) constipation, which requires urgent assessment as there may be an underlying cause.  Severe constipation is defined as having less than one bowel movement per week. One’s classified as constipated if he or she demonstrates 2/3 of the following symptoms over a 3 month period:

  • Straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time
  • Hard stools more than 25% of the time
  • Incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time
  • Two or fewer bowel movements in a week

Often times constipation is due to a bowel function disorder,  not a structural issue.Causes may include: inadequate water intake, inadequate fiber in the diet, disruption of daily routine–traveling,diseases that impact the colon, lack of bowel muscle function,  immobility, inadequate exercise, consuming large amounts of dairy products, stress, gastrointestinal tract problems (i.e. adhesions, celiac disease, colon polyps, diverticulosis), hypothyroidism, overuse of laxatives–>weaken bowel muscles, neurological issues (i.e. Parkinson’s diseases, MS), antacid medication that includes calcium and/or aluminum, narcotics, antidepressants, iron pills, depression, eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer and/or high levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy. Prevention and Treatment Measures:

  • Consume a diet with at least 20-35 g fiber a day (i. fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grain bread and cereal)
  • Stay hydrated! Aim to drink 1.5-2 quarts of water daily.  Drinks that contain caffeine (i.e. soda) have the tendency to have a dehydrating effect
  • Regular exercise
  • Don’t resist the urge to move bowels when needed!
  • Try drinking warm liquids in the morning
  • Use of nonstimulant laxatives
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Surgery

While sharing your issues with complication may be embarrassing, it’s important to let your primary care physician know before further complications arise.  If left untreated, it can lead to anal fissures, hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse and/or fecal impaction.  Now no one wants to deal with that, so take care of before it gets out of hand!

Photo Credit: Home Remedies for you




By: Nikki Nies

I’ve written much about bananas in the past.  Not only are they a nutrient pact fruit, but an AWESOME, convenient snack.  I’m sure like many, the first thing I think about in regards to bananas are that they’re  potassium rich.  However, after spurting out that commonly known about bananas, I don’t know many other facts about bananas at the tip of my tongue.  So, off to do some research!

Here’s what I’ve gathered:

Bananas are harvested all year round and belong to the Musaceae family, along with plantains. Banana plants can grow from 10-26 feet.

Benefits: banana

  • Provides high energy
  • Helps maintain normal blood pressure and heart function
  • May help promote bone health
  •  Soothing protection against ulcers–antacid effects
  • Can replenish electrolytes–rich in potassium–which can help with diarrhea
  • Contains pectin, which is a soluable fiber, that can ease constipation
  • Contains resistant starch
  • With high levels of tryptophan that is converted to serotonin, can help ease depressive symptoms
  • Can prevent work out or night cramps
  • Strengthens blood, which can reduce anemic effects due to high levels of iron found in bananas
  • B vitamin rich–great for coping with withdrawal of smoking, if needed
  • Reduces nausea from morning sickness
  • When eaten prior to a work out, can help sustain energy and reduce chances of low blood sugar
  • At a less ripe stage, listed as low as 30 on glycemic index
  • May lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)
  • Promotes kidney health

You can’t get much better than a banana.  They’re so versatile and can be used in many healthy treats.  Currently, I’ve got all my bananas frozen in the freezer, ready to be grabbed for a smoothie!


Anorexia Nervosa


By: Nikki Nies

TV advertisements, billboards and commercials show physically fit, attractive women.  It downplays the behind the scenes touch ups and alterations done to reach final image.  These images resonate  with children, adolescents and adults attempting to emulate their role models.

It’s not realistic to think people can stop emulating celebrities, but to monitor and guage how often such idealation impact daily life and thoughts is crucial.  With a constant fixation on outward appearance and body image, it can lead to an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa.The concept of anorexia is not new, but stems from the Hellenistic times of fasting.  Early known fasters include Catherine of Siena and the Mary, the Queen of Scots.  Not until the 19th century was anorexia accepted as a medical condition until the 19th century, with limited exposure to medical profession until the late 20th century.  Once anorexia was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), more information was published to the public, which increased the availability of treatments.


  • Use laxative or diuretics to lose weight 1287
  • A low body weight
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Osteoporosis
  • Swelling of extremities
  • Excessive exercise
  • Flat mood
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Bluish discoloration of fingers
  • Constipation or slow emptying of stomach
  • Thinning hair, dry skin and/or brittle nails
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feeling cold—with lower than normal body temperature
  • Shrunken breasts
  • Lack of menstrual periods
  • Have food rituals or restrictions
  • Spend a lot of time rearranging food on plate or hiding food
  • Warning signs of suicide (i.e. giving away belongings, being angry, failing grades, substance or alcohol abuse, depression, recent job loss)

Body’s starvation mode can cause all of the bodies’ resources to pull together to survive.

Potential Consequences

  • Limits bowel movement–>constipation
  • Decreased iron intake–>anemia
  • Insominia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low heart rate
  • Liver damage, kidney failure, dehydration–>death
  • Lack of calcium–>fractures
  • More susceptible to bruises because of inadequate intake of vitamin C and K since these are 2 vitamins vital to blood and cells
  • Produce more cortisol–>bone loss
  • Greater risk of not reaching peak bone density
  • Not enough keratin–>hair loss and brittle nails
  • Altered testosterone levels
  • Cold feet and hands
  • More susceptible to bruises
  • Weakened immune system
  • Deficiency in potassium, magnesium and/or sodium
  • Imbalance of electrolytes
  • Slowed digestion from lack of protein and/or carbohdyrates
  • Amenorrhea,may becausedbyosteopenia, osteoporosis and/or infertility
    • Decreased estrogen levels and gonadotropin hormones


  • Receive medical care from doctors,therapistsandRDs
    • Reevaluate definition of “healthy”
    • Develop meal plan to gain weight—scheduling times to eat
      • Nutritionguidelines: weight gain of 2-3 lbs. for hospitalized patients
        • 0.5-1.0 lbs for outpatients
        • start with 1000-1600 calories per day meal plan, increasing as needed
    • Maudsley Method:  parents are held responsible to help their adolescent eat on a more consistent basis and to prevent the disorder to remain chronic.
    • Family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy
    • Medicines—mood stabilizer, anti depressants, anti psychotics, estrogen, calcium, zinc and/or vitamin D supplements
    • Family and friend support
    • Reevaluate amount of exercise

Although, anorexia often is associated with adolescent girls and women, young male adolescents and men should not be overlooked.  While the stress of being a part of the American culture can cause many to fall prey to the “thin” concept, it’s important to surround oneself with love and support.  If you know someone who could use your help, don’t hesitate to talk to them or find someone who could help your concerned family member.

If this information could help a loved one, please pass on in a kindly manner.  Thank you.  

Photo Credit: Anne of Carversville and Women’s Health Zone


Healthy Airport Eating

7004114708_ce53ab431d_oBy: Nikki Nies

Long story short, I was at the Chicago O’Hare airport for longer than expected and I had to buy something to eat while I waited for my flight.  As I walked through the terminals, I tried to find something reasonably priced as well as evident of a health conscious menu.  I passed Auntie Anne’s, a sushi bar, Subway, etc. Nothing really met my needs, but I had to eat something, so I ended up getting an Italian Club sandwich.

I was shocked that there were limited healthy options in the airport as there’s been a new “wave” of healthy eating.  I was disappointed that I had to “settle” for a sandwich when I know the airport has the resources and means to provide its consumers healthier, tastier options.  My dilemma made me interested in if ANY airport provides nutritious and healthier options.

There’s hope, Denver International Airport has been ranked as 2013’s healthiest airport.  1383918838000-Untitled-1More than 86% of restaurants offer one or more healthy, plant-based entrées, from veggie wraps and garden burgers to fresh salads and fruit bowls.

Like many, you may have the mentality of being on “vacation” and that you’ve got a pass to indulge in airport foods, but traveling’s food intake should be paid equal attention to other events.  Traveling causes an increased risk of dehydration, constipation, circulatory problems and added stress.

Where might you have a struggle grabbing a healthier meal?  Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport came in last with a score of 68%.  No worries, here’s some useful tips to keep in mind, no matter where you’re headed.

Tips for healthier airport meal options:

  • Limit high sodium and fat food meals–which can increase risk of dehydration and slow blood flow
  • Choose fiber rich fruits and vegetables, that are high in antioxidants
  • Opt for “rainbow” filled food plates
  • Prior to heading to airport, research on airport’s website for the best place to grab a healthy meal at the airport
  • Bring snacks with you (i.e. apples, pb&j sandwiches, carrots, dried fruit, cheese sticks, etc).
  • Opt for unsalted or low sodium choices
  • Before picking the first restaurant you see at the airport, take a lap around the terminal and check out what’s offered.  Who knows, you may find a favorite new dish.
  • Limit caffeine intake as it can lead to dehydration
  • Stay hydrated by purchasing water
  • Avoid rich, greasy, fried foods as it can trigger acid reflux, GERD or an upset stomach on the plane ride

I’m surprised Chicago O’Hare was ranked #2 of healthiest, perhaps, I wasn’t in the “healthy” terminal, but maybe next time I’m flying I’ll be able to explore the airports many options.  Airport options have come a long way.  Since 2001, Denver’s airport’s score improved 25 points (from 61 to 86% in 2013). I’m glad to know now what other airports are offering and to remind myself how to navigate among the many options in airports.

Photo Credit: Flickr 


Whole Grains


By: Nikki Nies

As the name suggests, whole grains consist of all parts of the grain—with germ, bran and endosperm still present.  If the product has been altered (i.e. cooked, extruded, shelled, cracked, crushed or rolled), to  be considered whole grain the 3 parts of the grain must still be present.

  • Bran: outer layer of wheat kernel; contains fiber and vitamins
  • Germ: nutrient rich embryo; grows into new wheat plant
  • Endosperm: makes up 83% of kernel; mostly composed of starch

Keep in mind, 16 g of whole grains equals 1 serving, with it recommended one consumes 3 servings of whole grains daily.  Look for the Whole Grain Stamp, see below, to ensure you’re eating whole grains, with every product that has the stamp consisting of at least 1/2 a serving of whole grains, at 8 g.


Difference between whole wheat and whole grain:

Whole wheat is one kind of whole grain, so all whole wheat is whole grain, but not all whole grain is whole wheat –Whole Grain Council 

Common sources of whole grains:

  • Amaranth—a complete protein; commonly used in muffins, crackers, pancakes, breads and cereals
  • Barley—contains tough hull that’s hard to remove without removing the bran
  • Buckwheat—produces pancake mixes, Japan’s soba noodles, Brittany’s crepes, Russia’s kasha; a cousin of rhubarb; thrives without chemical pesticides
  • Bulgur—result of when wheat kernels are boiled, dried, cracked and then categorized by size; most common from durum wheat; cooks in 10 mnutes since it’s been precooked and dried before packaging; commonly used in tabbouleh
  • Canary seed
  • Corn—popcorn and whole cormeal
  • Fonio–derives from West Africa
  • Job’s tears—a Southeast Asian grass; aka Coixseed, tear grass, Hato Mugi, adlay
  • Millet—commonly used for birds; leading grain in India; can come in white, gray, yellow or red color
  • Montina—all purpose gluten free baking flour blend and pure baking supplement
  • Oats—almost never have bran and germ removed during products; considered “old fashioned oats” when they have been steamed and flattened; contains beta-glucan, which has been found to lower cholesterol; contains avenanthramides, an antioxidant that helps protect blood vessels from “bad” cholesterol—low density lipoproteins (LDL)
  • Quinoa—diversely used in soups, salads, as a side dish and in baked goods
  • Wild, brown and colored rice
  • Rye—contains high amount of fiber in endosperm; generally has low glycemic index, which is ideal for diabetics
  • Sorghum aka milo—popular for animal feed; can be eaten as popcorn, used in porridge; brewed into beer
  • Teff—a North African cereal grass; main source of nutrition for 2/3 of Ethiopians, used for flatbread; sweet in flavor; can be used in porridge, baked goods, bread
  • Timothy hay
  • Triticale—a cross breed of wheat and rye; grows easily without pesticides and fertilizers
  • Wheat—including spelt, emmer, cracked wheat, wheatberries, einkorn, durum, bulgur, Kamut; contains gluten; 2 varieties: durum wheat for pasta and bread wheat

grainscomparedall2Benefits of the consumption of whole grains:

  • Lowers risk of chronic disease
  • Better weight maintenance
  • More ideal blood pressure levels
  • Reduced inflammatory disease risk
  • Reduced risk for asthma
  • With whole grains, one’s consuming fiber, may reduce constipation or diarrhea
  • When whole grains are fortified with folate, it can reduce the number of neural tube defects during pregnancy
  • Healthier arteries
  • Less gum disease
  • Less tooth loss