The Building Blocks of Life

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are out, recommending that teen boys and adult men eat less meat, poultry, and eggs and eat more vegetables. Many of us could likely benefit from this advice since most Americans eat twice as much protein than we actually need.

Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is an essential macro-nutrient, meaning that our bodies require it in large amounts. Protein is as necessary to us as the air we breathe. Yet, it’s misunderstood by many.

Here’s what you need to know about this life-sustaining nutrient.

Proteins are complex chemical compounds made up of different concentrations and combinations of amino acids, often referred to as the “building blocks of life,” nitrogen, carbon and more.

Life would not exist without proteins. More specifically, proteins and amino acids are important because they do all of the following and more:

  • Build, maintain and repair body tissues, organs and muscles
  • Help cells communicate with one another in the form of hormones and cytokines
  • Make up the immune system and promote wound healing
  • Transport nutrients and oxygen throughout the body (e.g. hemoglobin)
  • Remove waste from the body
  • Allow muscles to contract

Given all of the important roles proteins play in the body, it’s no surprise that a loss of more than roughly one-third of body protein causes losses in muscle strength responsible for breathing, immune function and organ function. Ultimately, these reductions would lead to death.

Good food sources of protein.

High protein foods include meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Plant-based proteins are healthier for us and for the environment and should make up the bulk of our intake.

Contrary to popular belief, eating excessive amounts of protein from food and supplements is not necessary to build muscle. Sadly, you will not look like a body builder by devouring protein shakes. Plus, protein shakes are often full of questionable additives that can cause a variety of unwelcome gastrointestinal side effects.

What’s an eater to do?

Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds with or without small amounts of everything else. If you feel like eating plants is too tough on your gastrointestinal tract then check out my article, “How to eat plant foods in spite of GI issues.”

Colleen Webb is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified LEAP Therapist (CLT) who specializes in providingpersonalized nutrition counseling to people with gastrointestinal conditions.

Living With My Ostomy

By Brian Greenberg Twitter icon @BrianIIF

Today I noticed something very good.  Lately when I have been going to the bathroom, I haven’t been thinking about my ostomy in a negative way.  In fact I haven’t been thinking about it at all.  This might sound like the smallest thing in the world, but for me it’s something new.

At times when I have to use the bathroom, I’d say to myself “Ugh, I have to empty my bag” or “Not again, already?”  Sometimes I didn’t want to go to the bathroom, and at times I didn’t even want to look at my ostomy.  It’s a constant reminder of my history and what I’m still going through.

In no way is it a negative, but it’s still not the norm.  Most people want to be as normal as possible.

This is just the way I have to use the bathroom.

I just go, don’t even think about it and get back to whatever I’m doing.  I guess I’ve come to peace with what it is – a necessary part of my life, and in no way should it upset me.

I was thinking about why I had this change in attitude.  Maybe it’s because I’m so busy lately and don’t really have time to think about it?  Maybe it’s because I’ve been feeling so well that I haven’t been thinking about Crohn’s?

Maybe it’s the new normal?

What I think it might be, is that I’m finally not looking at it as something different. It is the norm for me and I am embracing that part of my life.  I’m not sure if I can put a real finger on what this change in attitude is.

For whatever reason, I’ve come to peace with it and it hasn’t bothered me. Which is a good thing.

Brian had ileostomy surgery in 2011 due to Crohn’s disease. As the founder of Intense Intestines Foundation, he’s an advocate for those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease & Ostomies. He enjoys swimming, cycling and the great outdoors.

Lessons Learned

By Lois Fink

“You have Crohn’s disease.” Those paralyzing words are as clear today as they were forty-eight years ago. I was seventeen, sick, and no one was listening. Instead, the severe diarrhea, alarming weight loss, crippling abdominal pain, fevers, and arrested physical development were ignored. A sigmoidoscopy performed by a dismissive gastroenterologist announced I was “nervous.” My mother urged me to “get a grip on myself… nothing is physically wrong.”  The voice in my gut rebelled. Something is wrong.

Excruciating abdominal pain were later diagnosed as appendicitis, and I was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Accepting the diagnosis, weighing 62 pounds, not being able to return to school due to my fragile health, and adjusting to a restrictive diet proved difficult. Steroids distorted my face.

Six months later a bowel resection became necessary.

The night before surgery coincided with my high school prom, and my mother expressed sorrow at my missing this event. I resisted saying, “I don’t have the boobs to hold up the dress!” After surgery, I gained weight and my stunted physical development rebounded. A year later a major flare occurred, college courses were curtailed, restricted food, and steroid therapy resumed.

Over the next nineteen years, my remaining colon and rectum were assaulted. Knowing the exact location of a bathroom wherever I went was crucial. I carried spare underwear because humiliating bowel incontinence was a daily occurrence. Siting through a movie or restaurant wasn’t possible without running to the restroom. My world narrowed until the only place I felt secure was my bathroom.

At age 34 ostomy surgery was recommended and I recoiled in horror.

To me it meant being mutilated. Bolting from the doctor’s office, I spent two years in denial until I realized watching people’s feet go by from a bathroom stall was not living.

A total proctocolectomy and permanent ileostomy resulted in the removal of the diseased colon and rectum; the inch of small intestine brought through the abdominal wall created a stoma. For the first time in nineteen years I experienced a life free of pain. No longer did I have to worry about finding a bathroom, or my body betraying me.

Crohn’s disease and ostomy surgery have taken me down paths I never would have traveled.

They allowed me to discover talents I didn’t know I possessed, introduced me to amazing individuals who made a lasting impression on my life. Refusal to take no for an answer from the producers at the Sally Jesse Raphael show resulted in a frank discussion about Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and ostomy surgery on national television!

I’ve shared my story with medical and nursing students and practicing nurses. Working with my state representative and testifying before legislative committees, afforded me the opportunity to understand the process by which a bill becomes law.

In the middle of a crisis it is difficult to ask what benefits this situation might ultimately bring us, what gifts we might receive if we are willing to see the incident in a different light. When we change how we view our situation, our life automatically changes. We can learn to be grateful.

I no longer resent Crohn’s disease or miss my colon and rectum.

I’m grateful for the lessons and gratitude. The gifts I’ve gained far outweigh their loss. You can live life to the fullest without a colon and rectum. And I’ll never have to go through a colonoscopy again!

This article originally appeared in the April, 2014 edition of Companion Magazine for IBD

Optimal Wellness

By Kyle Jindel | Disclaimer

In general, most people don’t think much about how their body digests food. But anyone with an ostomy should know – in fact quality of life depends on knowing – how their body processes different kinds of foods.  The reasons for this is simple: knowing how diet affects digestion is going to make stoma output more predictable, provide superior health and wellness, and avoid embarrassing or difficult situations.

Ostomates have concerns for digestion that are unique: food blockages can happen (where larger pieces of undigested or semi-digested food block movement through the body), constipation, indigestion and diarrhea are all different experiences for those with ostomy. But the smart management of diet and nutrition for an ostomate is absolutely essential for living well with ostomy.

Here are some tips along with some common foods that affect digestion patterns:

  • Slow Down and Chew – Chewing food properly lessens the chance for food blockages around the stoma, keeps you from overeating and also keeps you from swallowing less gas that ends up in the pouch.
  • Schedule Regular Meals – Eating small meals throughout the day is best, without skipping. Skipping meals and overeating produce extra gas.
  • Drink Water – Stay hydrated; it’s common many ostomy patients experience higher levels of fluid loss due to the nature of colostomy / illeostomy surgeries and its impact on how the intestines process water.
  • Don’t Get Fat – Stay slim and healthy, it’s better for your stoma and better for your overall health.
  • Make Gradual Diet Changes – This helps you determine how foods effect your digestive system. You will begin to notice how certain foods are digested and their impact on how your pouches fill.
  • Keep a Log Book – Make notes of when, what, and how you eat, then also how it affects your digestion and ostomy. This helps keep track of what foods work best for you.

How Certain Foods Affect You

Everyone’s body is different, but here are some good foods to eat and foods to avoid. Generally, high fiber foods and high fat content foods produce more gas and odors, but everyone’s body is different and you’ll only know if you experiment with different types of foods.

  • Foods to avoid for odors and/or gas: Asparagus, coffee, garlic, prunes, beans, cucumbers, green peppers, radishes, brussel sprouts, eggs, milk, turnips, cabbage, fish, vitamins/certain drugs, alcoholic beverages, apples, soda, dairy products, onions, drinking straws & chewing gum (you’ll swallow more air), melons, mushrooms, corn, broccoli, spinach, nuts, cabbage.
  • Some foods that help decrease odors: Buttermilk, parsley, yogurt, cranberry juice, spinach.
  • Foods that thicken output: Yogurt, bananas, milk (preferably boiled), creamy peanut butter, breads, cheeses, pastas, potatoes, rice.
  • Food that thin output: Fruits and fruit juices, chocolate, green beans.


Fluid loss is an important factor for any ostomate, but it’s even more so with cases of diarrhea. Potassium and sodium are two minerals that are usually lost in dehydration and must be replenished. Here are some foods high in Potassium that help get back lost minerals due to diarrhea and fluid loss: Milk, Chicken, beef, fish, pork, turkey, V8 Juice, apricots, bananas, avocado, potatoes, oranges and orange juice, watermelon, berries.

Salt is very easy to get back, basically any pre-packaged food product or canned soup has enough sodium to get back what was lost!


Stay aware and stay fit! Having an ostomy does not mean you can’t live well and enjoy the foods you like. With some simple precautions and a good understanding of your digestive system, it is possible to continue to optimize your diet and nutrition to make your pouching more predictable and easier.

Kyle Jindel writes on home health topics like ostomy, urological/urinary, catheterization, impotence, senior aid, patient care and more. To find ostomy supplies and home medical supplies, visit

Photo credit: Depositphotos 


Survive The Holidays

Posted Originally Here

The holidays are fast approaching and that means parties galore! Office get-togethers, family gatherings, and neighborhood celebrations are filling up the calendar now until New Year’s Eve.

As much fun as the holidays can be, it can also be a time of stress for ostomates. It’s important to recognize that this can be a crazy time, and with so much going on it’s sometimes easy to forget to take care of yourself and manage your ostomy.

Here are 7 tips to help ostomates enjoy the holiday season, from what to wear, to what to talk about and more.

1. Plan ahead and prepare for ordering challenges.

Do you have enough ostomy supplies on hand? If not, now’s probably the best time to place an order. Online medical suppliers and shipping companies are extra busy during the holidays, so you may experience delays due to staff shortages or bad winter weather.

2. Let family rituals change.

If you’re attending a family event, it doesn’t mean you need to eat food that you’re not comfortable with just to please them. Consider updating holiday meals with some new recipes to go along with the familiar dishes, it’s a great opportunity for everyone to try something new. Most holiday celebrations are potluck style anyway, so offering to bring something won’t be too out of the ordinary. If you are the host, suggest that your guests bring a dish so that they everyone can enjoy their favorite food.

3. Know what to say.

Relatives and friends who know about your ostomy understand and won’t insist you eat everything that’s being served. If you encounter a situation where people do not know you’re an ostomate, there’s no need to go into any long explanations at the dinner table. Saying “no thank you” should work if you’re passed a dish that you prefer not to eat.

4. Drink plenty of water.

I know this is probably something you hear every time someone talks to you about an ostomy (especially an ileostomy), but it’s true that staying well hydrated can help. Water is essential for the proper circulation of nutrients in the body. Sometimes headaches can be caused by dehydration, so drinking water can prevent or alleviate the pain. Make a conscious effort to stay hydrated during the holidays!

5. Wear whatever feels right.

Loose clothing that is not too tight around your belly can help you feel more relaxed about your ostomy. Whether the party is casual or formal, don’t stress over your outfit. Be comfortable and remember to pack extra ostomy supplies and clothes if you’re taking a road trip somewhere far from home.

6. Slow down and eat for pleasure.

Eating slowly and chewing your food well is important to help prevent blockages when you have an ostomy. It may sound obvious, but enjoying the flavor of food makes it a pleasurable experience. When you savor your food, you’re less likely to overindulge which can cause unwanted digestive issues.

7. Make time to express gratitude.

Letting your family and friends know that you are grateful for their support during your ostomy surgery and recovery can actually make celebrations even better. If this is your first holiday with an ostomy, it might be an important thing to do. Sharing love and appreciation with others has such an uplifting effect.

Who's Disabled?

Author: Jessica Grossman -

A few months ago, I wrote about how I had applied for the Canadian Disability Tax Credit here in Canada, (*editor's note - very good post you should check it out) which, when approved, comes with some tax benefits. If you remember, I had quite a time trying to get approved, but, eventually, after going through the process of re-applying, rewriting applications, bugging my GI doc to fill out some extra forms, I was finally granted disability status in Canada.

Yes. In Canada, I am considered disabled.

And yes, I know I don’t look it.

According to the Canadian Government’s definition of disabled, I do, in fact, fall under that category. My ostomy makes being alive very different and more complex than non-disabled people. Though I’ve had it for almost 12 years and it is part of who I am, it still has its ways of being a pain. The extra time, cost, and complexity of my ostomy qualifies me as being disabled.
And it doesn’t matter that I don’t look it.

One of the benefits of having the tax credit is that I am able to open up a special savings account. As everything is when it comes to government, it’s a process to get it set up and comes with many stipulations and rules. Before I set up this savings account, I wanted to do my research, so, I went from bank to bank, talking to their employees, asking the questions I needed answered.

And from bank to bank, I would get the exact same thing:

“Hi, I’d like to talk to someone about opening an RDSP here at your bank.” I would ask.

“Ok, I can find someone for you to speak with. Who did you say this is for, again?” They would say.

“It’s for me.”

“A Registered Disability Savings Plan is for you.”


“You know you have to be approved for it, right?”


“Have you been approved?”


“Ok… let me just get someone for you…”

And off they’d go, walking a few steps, then looking back to get a good look at me in my skinny jeans and high heals, and wondering if I was just some idiot.

Eventually, I found the bank I wanted to open the account with (not from the help I was getting, but from the investments…) and I went to set it up.

I went to the teller, and said the same thing I did time and time again – I wanted to open an RDSP. After witnessing another round of confusion and hesitation, I was eventually taken to an employee who could set it up. It was only after a quick introduction that it went straight into the usual:

“This RDSP is for.. you?” he asked.

“Yes.” I responded.

“Disability Saving Plans, right?”


“With a D.”

“Yes. I’ve been approved for it. I know how much money I can put in. I know the rules about taking money out. I just need someone to set it up for me.”

“You seem like you know a lot more about this than I do.”

“Well, I’m not mentality disabled!”

Eventually, I started giggling out of frustration and exhaustion and just wanting to have the whole thing finally done with. The banker, recognizing that I was laughing at my own inappropriate joke, relaxed into the conversation and we were finally able to get it done.


Not a single part of me was surprised by the confusion and questioning I experienced during this process. In fact, I expected it.

But why did I expect it? Why was it ok for me to accept that others couldn’t accept that I’m considered disabled? Why was it ok for the employees to question me in this way? Even further, why was it ok for them to speak to me like I have the IQ of a 5 year-old?

Well, you all already know that I’m not someone who cares about what anyone thinks of me. But what if I did? What if I was someone who could be offended by something like this? Would you have been?

For those of us with Crohn’s, Colitis, ostomies, and other chronic illnesses, we’ve heard it before: “Well, you don’t look sick.”

No, on the outside, we don’t look sick. In fact, on the outside we look like strong, beautiful people.

Because we are.

But on the inside?

Some of us are in pain, some of us can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t move, can’t muster up the courage to hang out with friends.

On the inside, we’re not ok.

This is a picture of me that was taken last weekend:


Guess what?
I was having stomach pain when this picture was taken.

I have been on clear fluids and soft foods all week.

While I know my mother is going to read this and call me and yell at me for not telling her sooner – she saw me this past Friday and couldn’t tell.

Most of the time, you can’t tell. And none of you would be able to tell if I hadn’t opened up about it. This is why it is so important that all of us speak out.

It’s important that we teach. It’s important that we help the public understand that there is a lot more than what’s on the surface when it comes to our health. This is why I am always talking about what I have, to remind people that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

And you can too.

Whether you take time to explain it to a few family members, or a group of friends, or you open up about what you have to an entire auditorium of people – We all have a reason to talk about what we have.

Without us speaking out, we will continue to be judged by our appearance and not understood by what we’re going through. We will continue to be scrutinized for having to leave school early, for missing a day of work, for not being able to wear a certain pair of pants, or for not being able to share a certain dish at a restaurant. Without educating those around us about what we’re going through, they’ll never learn.

Because they can’t see it for themselves.

Friends and followers – I have some exciting things coming in the next little while for Uncover Ostomy that I want all of you to be a part of. While I can’t divulge many of the details yet, there is a way you can be involved. Over the next few weeks, you can educate. Over the next few weeks, I want to see you share. I want to know why you talk about your #ostomy.

Tweet to @UncoverOstomy, post on our Facebook page, and use #ostomy on an Instagram post.

Tell me why you open up. Whether it is to just a few people or hundreds of people over, I want to see your reason. I want to know why you have joined our cause.

Soon, you’ll get see why….

No, we may not look disabled on the outside, but that’s only because the strength that comes from dealing with our diseases is what shines through most.