Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Top 10 Ways to Control Your IBS Symptoms With Diet & Exercise

Happy Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month! I know, it’s not a fun topic; I mean, who wants to talk about bowel discomfort? It can be embarrassing to talk about your stomach problems, and you might even think the pain and bloating are normal because it’s all that you know. But don’t let shyness get in the way of healing. You’re bloated, you’re uncomfortable, your stomach is in pain, and maybe you’re worried about going out because you need to quickly find bathrooms. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you have symptoms, talk to your primary care physician or health care provider. The good news is that you can help control your symptoms through diet and nutrition.

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a functional gastrointestinal tract disorder. That means the symptoms are caused by changes in how the GI tract works (read: it’s not working properly). Symptoms include abdominal pain or discomfort, cramping, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea. While it may be painful, IBS does not damage your organs or lead to disease. IBS affects an estimated 24 million Americans, according to a report from Harvard Medical School. It’s more commonly found in people under age 45, and is twice as common in women than men.

Top 10 Ways to Control Your IBS Symptoms With Diet & Exercise

1. Exercise regularly. A 2011 study of IBS patients found that 20-30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity coupled with supportive phone calls from a physiotherapist resulted in a significant improvement of symptoms compared with those who just had phone calls. 

2. Avoid high-gas food. If you suffer from bloating and gas, you may find relief by reducing or avoiding high-gas foods like carbonated beverages, salads and raw fruits and vegetables — especially crucifers like broccoli and cauliflower.

3. Consider the FODMAP Elimination Diet. Some researchers propose that people with IBS have a hard time digesting and absorbing certain sugars called FODMAPS (fermentable oligio-di-monosaccharides and polyols). When they eat a sugar their body can’t properly break down, it contributes to their symptoms. The FODMAP approach is an elimination diet that helps you determine which sugars you are sensitive to, and what foods to avoid.

4. Increase fiber slowly. Quickly adding fiber to your diet may cause gas and trigger other symptoms, so increase intake slowly by 2-3 grams per day to reduce the risk.

5. Try peppermint oil.* Enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules may help reduce symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating and gas.

6. Take a probiotic.* Probiotics are live micro-organisms similar to the ones in our digestive tract. Taking probiotics has been associated with improved IBS symptoms — especially abdominal pain, bloating and gas.

7. Drink lots of water. 

8. Eat smaller meals instead of three big meals every day, recommends the American Academy of Family Physicians.

9. Start a food log. Record what and when you eat, your symptoms and bowel movements. This will help you determine which foods worsen your IBS.

10. Keep an eye on common “trigger foods” like milk products, alcohol, chocolate, beans, cabbage, red peppers, green onions, high-fat foods, artificial sweeteners sorbitol and xylitol (often found in sugarless candy and gum), wheat and caffeine (in coffee, tea, soda and some medications like Excedrin and Midol). *Always talk to your healthcare provider before taking any herbs or supplements.

American Academy of Family Physicians: Fiber: How to Increase the Amount In Your Diet. Updated December, 2010.
American Academy of Family Physicians: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Treatment. Updated August, 2012.
Cleveland Clinic: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Reviewed January, 2011.
Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School: Understanding and treating an irritable bowel. Mayo Clinic: Irritable Bowel Syndrome: treatments and drugs. July, 2011
Medline Plus: Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Reviewed June, 2013
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Complementary Health Practices. Updated February, 2012.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Updated October, 2013
University of Gothenburg. Physical activity improves symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. (January, 2011).
ScienceDaily. Exercise improve symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome. Retrieved March, 2014. WebMD: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Reviewed January, 2011.
WebMD: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center: IBS, Constipation, and Laxatives. October, 2012

This blog post was originally published on Food & Nutrition Magazine's Stone Soup blog on 4/1/2014.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Confessions of a (non)yogi & a recipe for homemade fruit leather

Hi friends! I'd like to introduce you to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and writer who is beautiful from the inside out! McKenzie Hall, of NourishRDs brings her positive spirit and "lets get real here" attitude to the blog. I met McKenzie soon after moving to Los Angeles and we've been exploring the city together ever since! Today, she shares her love of yoga clothes, wholesome snacks, and how to find a workout that you like - the only kind that's gonna stick. She's got a wonderful blog too  - so definitely check it out!
McKenzie Hall
Here's McKenzie:
I wish I were more into yoga. Is that a weird way to start to this blog post? I hope not.
It was actually the first thought that came to mind when Caroline and I were brainstorming ideas for this guest blog as we strolled through the Venice canals one lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon.
“You could write about fitness, McKenzie” she said, “That would be great!”
As it just so happens, I absolutely love talking about fitness and nutrition and how the two go hand-in-hand. I love viewing food as fuel; as something that our bodies use to do the things we love to do. And what I love is hiking, dancing, swimming, and hiking some more. But, I’m not the biggest fan of yoga. And I really wish I were. I love the idea of yoga, the principles of yoga and the lifestyle it encourages. And yoga clothes are so amazing. Even my mom is a yoga instructor – you think the yoga gene would be somewhere in my blood! But when it comes right down to it, yoga just isn’t for me.

 How often do we think we should do something, be something, when it just doesn’t fit?

This goes for food, too. What works for some people, doesn’t work for everyone. Our bodies are all different and unique, and we respond to food (and exercise) differently. And what works for us today, may not necessarily work for us tomorrow. Who knows? I could be a full-fledged yogi in 20 years!
So rather than thinking you “should” eat this or do that – I strongly encourage you to find what works best for you –to find healthy habits that work for you and those that you can stick with. I’ve found that finding maintainable, sustainable habits is the secret to health and contentment. So even though yoga may not be for me, I do love being active each day – and I’ve come to embrace the activities I love.
Regardless of what you love to do, here’s a recipe that will fuel you to do the activities you love to do. Prior to exercise, it’s best to eat a snack made up of easily digestible carbohydrates, such as fruit, a low-fat yogurt, or a granola bar. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel; they help you run that extra flight of stairs, climb to the top of the steep hill, or even master tree pose.

What activities do you love to do? I’d love to know!

{DIY 2-Ingredient} Apple Cinnamon Fruit Leather

Keep a few of these fruit leathers on hand to give you the added boost of energy you may need to fuel your next activity.
Homemade DIY Fruit Leather
  • 3 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to lowest temperature possible. I was able to set my oven to 170 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap or a silpat silicone mat.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, mix apple sauce and amount of desired cinnamon.
  4. Spread the apple mixture out onto the baking sheet. For best results, spread as evenly and thinly as possible.
  5. Place in the oven and let bake for 6-7 hours.  Fruit leather is done when it is a little bit sticky.
  6. Let cool for approximately 20 minutes. Cut into desired width and roll into wax paper. Store in an air-tight container.
Homemade DIY Fruit Leather
McKenzie Hall is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Los Angeles, and co-founder of Nourish RDs, a nutrition communications and consulting business. McKenzie alongside with her business partner and best friend, Lisa, believe eating well is not about what you can’t eat—it’s about what you can eat. Their best (non) diet advice? Eat real food and share it with those you love! You can follow them on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram and check out their recipes and nutrition tips on the Nourish RDs blog. You can also check out McKenzie’s personal Twitter & Pinterest accounts here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Storming Capitol Hill - Fighting for Health Legislation

Sorry that my blog has been pretty quiet the last few days. I have been at an exciting public policy conference in Washington, DC with over 400 Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, dietetics students and interns, and Dietetic Technicians, Registered.

We stormed Capitol Hill yesterday to talk to our legislators about three very important pieces of legislation that can help improve our nation's health. They included securing funding for meals-on-wheels and congregant meal sites for older Americans, providing more affordable access to evidence-based obesity treatments, and making it easier for legislation focused on PREVENTION to get passed!

Members of the California Dietetic Association at the Public Policy Workshop (I'm fourth from the right)

I am passionate about my work, and I truly want to make it easier for people to be healthy, feel their best, and prevent chronic disease through food and exercise. Yesterday, I made that clear to Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Diane Feinstein, and Representative Henry Waxman of the Great State of California.

(L) Meeting with Representative Henry Waxman's Legislative Assistant, Matthew Connolly. (R) Photo Opp with Joy Bauer, the Keynote Speaker

(This is a long one, so if you skipped to here, here's the bottom line: I'm here for you.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy Monday. I hope you a wonderful, productive, and – well – lovely, week.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What's Inside My Fridge?

Robin, the culinary and nutrition expert over at Robin's Bite asked me to open up my refrigerator and answer questions about my shopping and eating habits. I even had to take photos of the inside, so you know it's legit. While the contents of my fridge shift around over the course of a month, I always keep basic staples in there. 

Refrigerator photo taken two weeks ago

Right now, it's a little more full than in the photos you see above because I just went food shopping. I almost always buy raw meat, poultry, and fish within two days of cooking it, so what's in there depends on what I'm cooking in the near future. Sometimes you'll find leftovers, and other times it's kind of empty because we've polished them off. In addition to what's in the recent photos, I also have leftover rotisserie chicken, steamed green beans, sliced turkey, stuffed grape leaves, ripe strawberries, guacamole, light sour cream, and ridiculously good bruschetta sauce from Trader Joes. I made Ellie Krieger's amazing easy chicken-mushroom quesadillas a few nights ago, hence the abundance of dips...

My interview with Robin doesn't just review what's in my refrigerator - we also talk about how I feel about leftovers (very pro), what brands I swear by, how often I go grocery shopping, what piece of cooking equipment I adore, and more. Here's a portion of the interview.  For more, click on this link to hop over to the full post.

Refrigerator photo taken after Sunday food prep last year (includes canning jar salads)

Portions of My Interview with Robin (click here for the full post):

Robin: Where do you shop for food?
Caroline: My regular shops are Trader JoesWhole Foods, and Costco and I visit the local farmers market on the weekend occasionally.
R: Do you love food shopping or dread it?
C: I love food shopping! I have fun looking for new products and reading labels to find the healthiest version of what I need. I especially like looking at the nutrition labels and ingredients for products with lots of health claims and marketing on the package to see if it’s really as nutritious as they say. When I’m in a rush, I can shop quickly because I know exactly what I’m looking for on the label. If a packaged food doesn’t meet my criteria, it goes back on the shelf! For example, I only buy grain-based products with at least 3g of fiber and a whole grain listed first on the ingredient list, and I don’t buy anything with sugar as the first or second ingredient. Unless, of course, I’m purposefully looking for junk food – sometimes I want plain old potato chips!
R: What is the single most important thing on your mind when you are shopping for food?
C: I want to make sure that I have enough healthy options to create quick meals and snacks. I like to have reduced-fat snacking cheese, hummus, whole grain crackers and bread, nut butter, eggs, fruits and vegetables in my kitchen at all times. Whenever I’m running low on one of these, I make sure to pick up more! I’m always restocking the basics.
R: Do you believe in leftovers?
C: YES! Leftovers are a huge time saver and so many dishes taste even better the next day, like stews and one-pot chicken and rice meals. Even though there are only two of us, I always make recipes for 4-6 so we have leftovers for quick lunches and dinners over the next few days. I take home restaurant leftovers because they’re easy to work into my next meal – roast chicken or slices of steak are perfect for lunch salads, for example. If you’re worried about leftovers and food safety, check out the app, “Is My Food Safe?” I use it all the time! For example, the app tells you that a cooked chicken dish is good in the refrigerator for 4-5 days, and in the freezer for 4-6 months.
R: What brands do you swear by? Why?
C: I love The Laughing Cow’s mini babybel cheeses. They’re snack size (50-80 calories per wheel), and taste so rich and satisfying. I grew up eating the original in the red wax package, so there’s definitely a nostalgic pull for me – I would always peel the wax and pretend the shell was Pac Man. I limit my lactose intake, so I drink lactose-free milk, and I think Organic Valley is the best tasting brand around. Does Trader Joe’s count as a brand? If yes, then lately I’m a big fan of their mini 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Bars (100 calories of pure, sweet, antioxidant goodness), pre-washed kale and spinach, which make it easy to add vegetables to meals and snacks, and sliced mango. And, I can’t forget Hint Fizz, which helps me stay hydrated. I don’t even like carbonated water, but something about it is addictive; it’s flavored with fruit essence and I love having the pretty glass bottle on my desk!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Plant Power & a Quick Mediterranean Salad

I like quick, easy-to-assemble meals and snacks, so I keep a bunch of healthy staples on hand and  prep fruits and vegetables when I have some time (like weekends). In my guest blog post for Sharon Palmer, "The Plant-Powered Dietitian," I share exactly what those staples are, so head over for a list of my "must haves." One of my favorite throw-together meals is a Mediterranean platter or sandwich.

If you have hummus, some kind of whole grain (crackers, pita, quinoa, etc.), and prepped veggies on hand, you've got lunch. If you have leftover salad or you've prepped canning jar salads for the week - add that! You can easily include a hardboiled egg, beans, or roast chicken for more protein. 

It's a simple but filling meal, and you can find a more detailed recipe on Sharon Palmer's blog. Sharon is a registered dietitian, food and nutrition writer, and plant-based expert (she literally wrote the book on it). In my guest blog, I answered lots of personal questions like:

  • what I eat in a typical day,
  • where I get my plant-based recipes and food prep tips, and
  • what are my plant-based must-haves when food shopping.

I also share practical tips that make it easy to fit more fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains into a busy person's diet, without having to cook up complicated recipes or worry about food going to waste.

Check out my interview on Sharon's blog to learn more about how to power up with plants! 
[click here - the post will open in a new window]

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My radio interview on LA Talk Live!

Yesterday morning, I was on LA Talk Live! radio on their show Here's to Your Health with Josh Lane. Ruth Frechman, MA, RD and author of The Food is My Friend Diet, interviewed me about wellness for half an hour. We talked about a variety of common concerns from picky eaters to emotional eating to simply getting more fruits and vegetables in our diet. I gave her some of my best tips and we had so much fun talking - I think you'll be able to tell :)

If you came here searching for a link to the canning jar salads recipe and technique I described, click here and you'll be whisked to another page.

Check out the video of our 30 minute spot, above. We start at 1 hour, 15 minutes into the program, so you can skip to that part:

And some more "behind the scenes" photos from the studio (excuse the blurriness):