Category Archives: ulcerative colitis

Colonoscopy – What To Drink

I have ulcerative colitis (UC).  It was diagnosed years ago, after 15 years of a misdiagnosis of IBS.  I was finally diagnosed after I had my first ever colonoscopy.  In the  years since my diagnosis I’ve had five colonoscopies.  The fifth one just recently.  I’m one of the fortunate ones.  I take no daily medications for my UC and have no major issues when I eat according to my nutritional plan.  My primary triggers appear to be stress and sugar.  I work hard to try to reduce both in my life as much as possible.

It had been five years since my previous colonoscopy and my doctor and I agreed that it was prudent to have a colonoscopy just to check things out.   I’m fortunate enough to have found a GI doc who is amenable to my nutritional plan, supplemental routine, and the use of functional foods.  His comment when we scheduled was, “I’m interested to see what’s going on in there.”  My reply?  “Me too!”

Prepping for a Colonoscopy

I’m not going to lie to you, the prep isn’t fun.  There’s nothing like deliberately giving yourself the worst ever case of diarrhea to put a slight off-kilter aspect to your day.  But it’s a necessary part of the procedure so there’s no help for that.  Luckily over time it’s gotten better as the medium used for the prep has gotten a little less disgusting to swallow.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the allowed foods.  As a holistic health professional I am not happy about the list of what you can have to “eat” during this time.  Obviously solid foods are out as that’s counter to the point.  And you’re not allowed red, blue or purple dyes.  It can color the walls of the colon and look like inflamed tissue.  (That’s okay, anyone who reads this blog or my book knows that I am against artificial food dyes anyway.)  But what is allowed, and what I don’t like, are some of the other “foods.”  Jello, gatorade, soda, and popsicles.  They all have artificial ingredients in them.  Many of them have sugar.  If you’re getting a colonoscopy because you have a condition which is sensitive to sugar it doesn’t make sense to take in something with sugar which is going to promote inflammation and stress your system.  Even if you don’t have a condition which makes you sensitive to sugar, that’s just not a good idea on an essentially empty stomach.  It can spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling droopy and out of it.  Plus all the other chemical nasties just are not a great health choice.

Healthy Colonoscopy Prep

What’s on that list that I do like?  Broth, tea, and juice.  So here’s what this holistic health professional had for my meals throughout the day of my prep.

Start with one large cup of warm water with the juice of a half a lemon to alkalize the system.

Throughout the morning I made fresh juices mostly consisting of cucumber, celery, romaine, and green apple.  It was delicious, just juice, and because it was fresh it was full of nutrients.  It’s important to note that if you’re going to drink juices they must be free of pulp.  Buying over the counter juices may not be pulp free so read the label and think about what you’re purchasing.  Because I ran mine through my juicer all of the pulp was extracted (and went to the compost heap).

I made sure to continue to stay hydrated by drinking water and teas.  Coffee is on the list but I don’t drink it and even if I did I don’t want the dehydrating effect.  Decaf or herbal teas are perfect for this.  Warm beverages are important, especially towards the end of your prep day.  

Later in the day I switched from fresh juice to a nourishing broth.  I had made this earlier in the week specifically for this prep day.  It’s delicious, provides a wonderful, gut-supportive beverage, and is a functional food.  If you don’t know how to make your own nourishing broth I’ve listed the recipe below.  The beauty of this broth is that it’s beneficial for gut health, provides vitamins, minerals, collagen, amino acids, and, most importantly, is warming.  Anyone who has been through a colonoscopy will tell you that by the end of the day before your prep you are f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g.  That’s because deliberately emptying your system that way causes a drop in core temperature plus an imbalance in electrolytes and you may get very cold.  Drinking this broth helped considerably and although I was definitely feeling colder I did not feel the deep bone-chilling, shivery cold that I had in the past.

I’d asked if I could have coconut water but was told no.  This was mildly frustrating to me as it would have been a balanced electrolyte beverage which is something you really need to replace when you are prepping.  This is why the doctor will usually recommend gatorade however I’m not a fan of gatorade due to the ingredients.  When I asked if I could have coconut water the nurse was very specific and said no.  The next morning when I arrived at the facility and discussed it with the staff I was told yet it would have been allowed.  They think the nurse may have been confused and thought I meant coconut milk.  Good to know for next time, I’ll definitely be sure to add this in to my prep plan.  Please note, when purchasing coconut water it’s important to buy one with no unwanted additives.

The Plan

Here’s the plan in a nutshell. Remember you can drink as much of these liquids as you like but if you are purchasing juices or any of the other items you’ll need to read the label and avoid harmful artificial ingredients such as carrageenan, dyes, artificial sweeteners, flavorings, or preservatives.

Mira’s Colonoscopy Prep Plan
  • 1 cup warm water with the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • fresh green juice – 1/2 cucumber, 2 ribs celery, 1/2 small head of romaine lettuce, 1 small green apple
  • water, decaf, and herbal teas
  • nourishing broth
  • coconut water


Nourishing Broth
  1. 1 whole chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bones, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings
  2. (organic, pastured chicken recommended)
  3. gizzards from one chicken (optional but highly recommended)
  4. 2-4 chicken feet (optional but highly recommended)
  5. 4 quarts cold filtered water
  6. 2 tablespoons raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  7. 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  8. 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  9. 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  10. 1 bunch parsley
  1. If using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley.
  2. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer the stock cooks the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.
  3. Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in the refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in the refrigerator or freezer.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy



I’m happy to report that all went well.  My doctor doesn’t want to see me again for several years and I was told to “keep doing what I’m doing.”   I’d also like to encourage anyone who is 50 or over who has not had a colonoscopy to consider having one.  It can be a life-saving procedure as it is the only way to diagnose colon cancer and other GI conditions.  As a preventative measure I believe it is worth doing.

Can Probiotics Make You Sexier?

mice | photo: AleXXw

Probiotics have been gaining a lot of attention these days.  Mainstream science has begun to realize how important they are for  overall health and that good digestive function in required to maintain a healthy body state.

Probiotic therapy is beneficial in restoring intestinal flora when there has been an illness such as diarrhea or one that requires the use of antibiotics (which indiscriminately kill both good and bad bacteria).  Unfortunately our modern diet is not supportive of a strong, healthy gut which further depletes the amount and strength of available probiotic colonies.  Many people find it beneficial to add probiotics to their diet.  This can increase the availability of certain vitamins and minerals in the diet.  Probiotics can also support good bowel health, help with allergy symptoms, and provide other beneficial supports for our bodies.

Now there may be another reason to consider probiotics.  According to recent mouse studies there was an increase in “sexiness” among those mice who consumed higher levels of probiotics.  The original intent of the research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was to study the effect of probiotics on the issue of obesity.  Surprisingly, an unexpected set of results emerged.  It turned out that the mice who ate probiotic yogurt had thicker fur (an indication of good health), the males had larger testes (as much as 15% heavier than the mice fed a “junk food” diet), females were impregnated faster, there were more pups, and females were better at weaning large litters.

All joking about “mouse swagger” aside the study has some interesting implications for humans as well.  We share approximately 99% of our DNA with mice, with 80% being identical (the rest have one-for-one matches).  This is why so many medical studies require the use of at least one rodent study.  According to Dr. Jorge Chavarro, a nutritional epidemiologist who has looked at the correlation between yogurt consumption and the quality of semen in men, there does appear to be a positive association.  Studies are on-going on the issue of probiotics and fertility.

While eating more live culture yogurt may not make you “sexier” in the conventional sense, it may well be a beneficial support for those seeking to get pregnant.  If nothing else it will certainly support better digestive function, and for that, it certainly makes sense to include more probiotics into your diet.

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Understanding Gluten Free

gluten free rice flour | photo: Andrea Nguyen

I’ve realized that I need to put together this post on gluten free.  I’ve been writing about the topic for a while but mostly in smaller posts either on Facebook or Twitter.  But there still seems to be some confusion out there about gluten so I’m answering a number of questions and putting it all in one place.

Let’s start with what is gluten?  Gluten is a composite of gliadin and glutenin and is the active protein which makes flours sticky enough to rise when baked into  bread products.  The more gluten there is in a grain the more stretchy the flour made from that grain will be, and the more it can rise.

What’s the big deal about gluten?  For those who have autoimmune disorders such as Celiac Disease or an IgA deficiency eating gluten can provoke an inflammatory body response and is very damaging to the intestinal system. It can cause a wide range of digestive difficulties including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, pain, and damage to the intestinal tissues.  Additionally many people who suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis) find that they do not do well when they eat gluten.

Trudy Scott, author of The Antianxiety Food Solution notes in her book that there are a number of clinical studies showing that gluten can also provoke anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.  Trudy provides easy to understand instructions for a gluten elimination challenge on her blog.

Which grains have gluten?  Fewer grains are glutinous than non-glutinous; they are easy to remember using the mnemonic BROWS. That stands for Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat, and Spelt. While oats do not contain gluten they are often grown near, stored with or transported with grains that do contain gluten so there is a concern regarding cross contamination.  Therefore many people who need to avoid gluten choose to buy certified gluten free oats.  All of the other grains do not have gluten; these include quinoa, teff, amaranth, corn, rice, buckwheat, and millet.

Gluten free does not mean low carb – I have heard that there are some people who think that if a product is gluten free that also means it is low carb.  Grains by their nature are higher in carbohydrates; so gluten free grains (any grains really) do not qualify as low carb.  It is important to note that some grains are lower in carbohydrates than others.

Gluten free does not mean whole grain – Sadly many people in the search for gluten free don’t stop to consider that the healthiest way to eat grains is in their whole form.  A whole grain contains the outer bran, the endosperm, and the innermost germ where the beneficial oils are.  Unfortunately many gluten free products available on the market are not made with whole grains.  They are made primarily with the starchy endosperm.  Whole grains are important as the fiber and the germ help to slow down how quickly your body can absorb the simple carbohydrate of the endosperm and also helps to balance blood sugar levels.  The fiber is also important for digestive and bowel health.  Eating a diet high in simple carbohydrates can cause weight gain, intestinal problems, and other health problems.

Gluten free is NOT a weight loss plan – I am not certain how this concept got it’s start.  The only supposition I have (and this is my personal thought, not substantiated as yet by any studies) is that people who went gluten free and lost weight did so either because they lost the “false fat” from inflammation, or because they changed their entire nutritional plan.  By being mindful of the gluten in their food they were also mindful of other aspects of their eating which in turn lead to weight loss.

Gluten free for athletes – This appears to be true.  While there are currently no definitive studies regarding this issue it seems many athletes are going gluten free and finding that they feel better and anectdotally report better performance.  Articles about gluten free athletic performance have appeared in magazines such as Men’s Health.  And according to the website The Gluten-Free Athlete a number of professional athletes are following this diet.  If you are interested in trying this you can either stop eating gluten and see how you do, or consider taking using Trudy’s gluten elimination challenge.

How pervasive is gluten – People who need to avoid gluten because of health issues need to be aware of the fact that gluten not only appears in food but also in many personal care products.  Our skin is our largest body organ and anything we put on it gets into our system.  Gluten can be found in lipstick, lotions, moisturizers, and shampoo products.  It is important that you read the ingredients on these labels as well as on your food if you need to avoid gluten.

Ulcerative Colitis On The Rise

My brain is reeling.  The following headline made me shudder. “The Ulcerative Colitis Drug Market Will Increase from $1.7 Billion in 2010 to $3 Billion in 2020 as New Agents Will Offer Additional Lines of Therapy for Moderate to Severe Disease.”  This is only the latest of an increasing number of articles that have come through on my news feed recently.

Sidestepping slightly I will share that I have a personal, vested interest in articles like this.  You see I was diagnosed with UC almost seven years ago.  This was after over 12 years of misdiagnosis with IBS.  Before I learned what was wrong with my digestive system I struggled with some of the less pleasant aspects of UC.  And frequently wondered what was wrong.  Fortunately for me I found answers, especially answers that worked for me, for my bio-individual body.  I also discovered that I’m one of the lucky ones.  I have a mild case.  Mild enough that aside from an occasional flare-up I am able to control my UC through diet.  I have friends who have had to undergo surgery to have large sections of their colon removed.

Because I don’t take medication on a daily basis it’s easy to get cocky sometimes when things are going well.  And the holidays are especially tough with all of the temptations that surround you.  But when I stray from my nutritional plan and routine I know it; my body makes it very clear that I’ve not been paying attention.  Stress is also a huge trigger and I work hard at living a more mindful life, focusing on what’s important to me and how I handle stress.  I like to think that over time I’ve gotten better at it but it is an ongoing process.

So why does that headline above bother me so much (and why am I sharing all of this personal information)?  It bothers me because if you read the article that accompanies it you’ll see that it almost crows about the growth in the market and the need for pharmaceuticals.  Don’t get me wrong I am certainly not advocating that someone who needs pharmaceutical intervention for the UC shouldn’t take it, quite the opposite.  However, phrases such as “promising novel agents” and ” sales of maintenance therapies in 2010 accounted for nearly three-quarters of major-market ulcerative colitis sales” and “will contribute to an increase in sales of maintenance therapies as well as an increase in sales of acute therapies” all point toward a burgeoning market that is being driven toward medication with no effort to look at the underlying causes.  More than a billion dollars in growth over ten years is a powerful market force.

I’m frustrated because in my own journey toward health, and that of clients that I work with, our concerns and questions are often disregarded; we are simply advised to take medication.  My first GI doctor was skeptical when I told him I wanted to change my diet.  But he didn’t stop me and I was able to avoid the need for daily meds.  While I’m certainly not cured, I’m definitely better.  And many people I know with UC lead much more manageable lives (some with and some without medication) by paying attention to their diet and whatever their personal triggers may be (stress being one of the biggest).

If we are experiencing huge growth in the market for this type of a disorder isn’t it worthwhile to look into the root cause?  Sadly I believe the answer is no because then the pharmaceutical industry wouldn’t be able to sell anything, or as much of anything as they are obviously planning on doing now.  Again, I want to make it perfectly clear that I would never, under any circumstances, tell someone to stop taking their medication.  I do, however, question why our current system does not seek answers by looking at the whole picture.  Why the system simply accepts that this, sometimes debilitating, condition is growing by such large numbers.  Shouldn’t we be helping people learn how to better meet the needs of their body rather than throwing medication at the “high unmet need?”  Shouldn’t we be figuring out why so very many people are starting to come down with this disease?