First, I was a nurse who happened to develop Crohn’s disease…
As a newlywed, I started my nursing career as an ensign in the United States Navy, while my husband (Bob) was training in Navy flight school. At first, we were both assigned to Pensacola, Florida. Less than a year later, Bob moved to Texas to complete pilot training. It was a very stressful time of life for me – as a new nurse, I was the one and only nurse assigned to cover all the patients in three inpatient units for the 11pm-7am shift (General Surgery, Special Surgery, and Orthopedics). Thank God for excellent corpsmen – one corpsman per 35-bed unit!
Looking back I see that my body held a perfect storm of genetics, extreme stress, and Western diet which led to the destruction of my intestinal system. My Crohn’s disease was the second of four IBD cases in my maternal grandparents’ lineage.
From 1977 to 1981, I experienced new stress as I learned how to handle life-threatening Crohn’s disease flares. One Navy wife admitted that she cried after visiting me on my sickbed; she thought the next time she would see me would be at my funeral. One day, my young Navy doctor called me at home to say that I could be “dead in 2 weeks,” if I continued to refuse his recommendations to follow a low-fiber diet and take the prescribed drugs. I was pregnant at the time and he said “some doctors” would recommend I get an abortion.
The ROAD to Stool School
My fiber education journey started with Ray Hill’s Bran book (left). From Hill, I learned how wheat bran has long been used to resolve gastrointestinal problems, including chronic diarrhea. I learned wheat bran is soothing, not irritating. I learned that rabbits being fed a diet containing no cellulose (the fiber in wheat bran) develop bowel inflammation and die. I learned water-holding capacity of wheat bran can stop the diarrhea caused by excess water in the bowel.
I also learned the importance of avoiding refined flour and concentrated sugars in my diet.
Equipped only with the Bran book alone (see more about the book in “About Wheat Bran”), I established a simple ‘diet’ that works for me 100% of the time.
In 1991, I returned to clinical nursing…
From 1991 to 2007 I worked with gastroenterology patients, some of whom had inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), primarily Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. By the time I returned to clinical nursing in 1991, I had already experienced many, many years of symptom-free Crohn’s living.
It was during 15 years in gastroenterology nursing that I learned that many people have dangerous misconceptions about dietary fiber and gut inflammation.
With physician approval, I shared dietary fiber information with carefully screened individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases in my clinical nursing practice. I witnessed successes in clinical practice, and these successes convinced me that more research is needed.
Examples of successes I witnessed:
- At one of my hospitals, I was asked and did share dietary fiber information with a young woman who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in our unit; she is the daughter of a prominent person at the hospital; two years later, this prominent person saw me, stopped me in my tracks and put his hands on my shoulders and said, “My daughter says that if she had not met you, her life would be miserable.”
- At one of my other hospitals, I was the nurse assigned to care for a young woman who was crying after her colonoscopy procedure. She had been suffering from Crohn’s disease for awhile; at the time I met her, she was dependent on prednisone, unable to wean off of the drug without having her Crohn’s disease flare up. Her tears were the result of being told once more that her Crohn’s disease was not under control enough to permit her to safely carry a baby. She was desperate to start a family. After obtaining permission from her doctor, I shared with her what I had learned about wheat bran. After implementing the information she received from me, she changed her diet and successfully weaned off of the prednisone under the supervision of her doctor. She successfully carried two pregnancies, and 5 years later she emailed me to say that for her “fiber is the answer” to Crohn’s disease.
In 2007, I resigned my clinical nursing position…
…and began my research career as a pre-doctoral fellow at the University of Virginia, School of Nursing, Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies. In 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded me 4 years of individual funding for the purpose of scientifically testing my diet.
By 2012, the fiber/IBD education that started with Ray Hill’s book had expanded to two graduate degrees:
- a Master’s Degree in Community and Public Health Nursing
- a PhD in Nursing
During my graduate school education, I completed a two-semester fellowship in the federal office responsible for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I also presented research findings at regional, national, and international audiences at many scientific conferences during my graduate school years.
After graduation, I published six scientific IBD articles in peer-reviewed journals…
…and completed a 2-year post-doctoral research fellowship at George Mason University.
In the second year of my post-doctoral research fellowship at George Mason University, NIH selected me to participate in their month-long intensive Summer Genetics Institute. Genetics is of particular interest to me. Genetic differences in human DNA are of interest to IBD researchers, and many IBD research articles can only be understood with a firm grasp of genetics.
However, my particular interest in genetics is the genetics of gut bacteria (the microbiome). We all differ from one another because of our human DNA, but we differ much more from each other because of the DNA in our microbiomes. See more about this topic in Genetics under the “Fiber/IBD Research” tab.
Now, having decided against pursuit of a career in either academia or research…
I am excited to be learning to use social media networking…
to connect with other IBD patients, care providers, researchers, and dietitians who are carrying on a worldwide discussion about IBD and diet!
Stool School is…
I am grateful… to God for His faithfulness to His Word:
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which you know not.” Jeremiah 33:3
I am grateful for my amazing husband and selfless mother…
who took care of me for months at a time when I had those early years of repeated Crohn’s disease attacks. Bob and Mom took over my responsibilities, which gave me time to read nutrition books, experiment with diet, and figure out how I needed to eat to achieve and maintain remission. What I learned to do was the opposite of what I was told to do – I was told to go on a low-fiber diet, and instead I learned to use an ultra-high-fiber diet. The result has been that I have been free of Crohn’s disease symptoms for decades, without using drugs or having surgery. Recently, researchers have made great strides toward alignment with my understanding of the anti-inflammatory role dietary fiber plays in gut health. There is still no cure for Crohn’s disease; however, my life is a demonstration of the value of fiber/gut inflammation research that is emerging from research centers around the world.
I am grateful for my supportive family…
who stood by me, always cheering me on as I pursued my dream of learning the science related to fiber and IBD. Many, many thanks to each of you for making the family sacrifices that allowed me to focus my efforts over a long haul!
I am grateful for IBD researchers around the world…
who continue to look for answers to the remaining questions regarding diet (especially fiber) and gut inflammation…
My role now is to provide educational information to people who care about inflammatory bowel diseases and other gastrointestinal disorders.
PLEASE NOTE: A full understanding of pages listed under the “Scratching the Surface” tab is needed to understand pages under the “Digging Deeper” tab. Therefore, please carefully read the following “Scratching the Surface” pages FIRST:
- About Dietary Fiber
- About Wheat Bran
- About Kellogg’s All-Bran Bran Buds®
- About the American Low Fiber Diet
- About People with IBD Avoiding Fiber
- About Other Brans
- About My Food Choices (Why I Love My ‘Diet’)