Crohn’s Fitness Food
Kiersten Thomson (@theformerfoodie), leverages the power of food to battle Crohn’s

Kiersten Thomson (@theformerfoodie), leverages the power of food to battle Crohn’s

November 18, 2019

In today’s episode, Kiersten Thomson shares her journey with Crohn’s Disease and how she leans on the power of food to help manage her symptoms. Diagnosed in 2017, she described herself as stubborn and decided against taking the medications her doctor prescribed after a colonoscopy confirmed Crohn’s. Her doctor, at the time, was adamant that food did not play a role in managing IBD, yet her instincts kept telling her different.

Not willing to accept the idea that food didn’t matter, she sought the help of a functional medicine doctor. For the next year, she did well. She cut out inflammatory foods like sugar and gluten and kept to a strict diet. But despite her best efforts, in late 2018, she developed a microtear in her colon. The intense pain sent her to the hospital and she was informed she would need immediate surgery.

In a surprising twist however, on the day of her surgery–just minutes before–her surgeon came in and recommended that she not have the surgery. Instead, he told her that she could avoid the surgery if she took medications and followed exactly what he said; she took his advice and followed his plan. Kiersten went on a round of steroids and was then able to start Humira injections, with the help of her first doctor who was able to assist her with the paperwork for Humira’s patient assistance program since she and her husband were self employed and didn’t have traditional insurance.

Humira helped her symptoms to calm down for most of the past year, but toward the end of that first year, the effectiveness was already starting to lessen. Kiersten shares her recent decision to come off of medication–from insurance to family planning–and talks about her renewed effort in focusing on her diet and adhering to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. While food has always been a passion for Kiersten, it also became a part of her identity. She talks openly how Crohn’s has challenged her emotionally and created difficulty in figuring out who she was...a former foodie.

She’s now embracing a new path, a new reality that has been shaped by Crohn’s. She’s sharing more of her journey, advocating for those with IBD, sharing research and information on her social media, and now revamping her blog to focus on what lies ahead with new SCD recipes and life with IBD.

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Shawn Bethea (, IBD Warrior and Advocate

Shawn Bethea (, IBD Warrior and Advocate

November 11, 2019

In today’s episode, Shawn Bethea shares her IBD story from her first diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis in 2009 to an eventual diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease this year. She’s been through medications, surgery, and countless diets and has finally learned to navigate life with IBD.

Shawn talks in depth about her ostomy surgery, describing the full year of research she did and countless back-and-forth decisions on whether to move forward. Finally–among all her searches–she found someone online in 2014 sharing her own personal ostomy story. It was then that she reached a point of comfort with her decision and was ready for her own.

In 2015 Shawn had her ostomy surgery and six months later had her j-pouch surgery. It was finally after the surgery that she had her life back and began to live again. Before the surgery, Shawn didn’t have any “safe” foods. Everything was a trigger for her, it was only a question of how severe. Though she doesn’t have any limitations on what she eats now, she looks at life differently and says, “you only get one j-pouch!”

Seeking ways, in addition to medication and surgery, to feel her best, Shawn follows a pescatarian diet, focuses on her mindset and has learned to listen to her body and accept support from others when she needs it. She is now an active IBD advocate, regularly attending conferences, serving on patient panels, blogging, and openly sharing her journey. Shawn encourages all IBD patients to build their support system, to ask for help when you need it, and to always aim for better!

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Facebook, Chronicallystrong


Troy Parsons (@flaredupfitness), IBD Warrior and Advocate

Troy Parsons (@flaredupfitness), IBD Warrior and Advocate

November 4, 2019

Today’s guest is Troy Parsons, Crohn’s Warrior and IBD advocate. Diagnosed 10 years ago at the age of 17, Troy has faced adversity, enjoyed accomplishments and successes, and suffered failures. But, through it all, he has continued learning, seeking health, and is ready to face any challenges that the next 10 years may bring.

Since a young age, Troy has always been into sports and nutrition for performance. But after his diagnosis, food became less about enjoyment and more about fueling his body. He shifted his mindset away from eating for pleasure to learning how to best manage his Crohn’s while providing his body with the most nutrition possible. His mantra, “nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.”

It’s taken him years of trial and error to discover what his trigger foods are and how to prepare other foods so they are more digestible. His healthy lifestyle, combined with surgery and medication, finally has him in a good spot with his disease under control.

Troy shares his experiences with elimination diets, meditation, fasting, and other tools he turns to during a flare up, such as bone broth, liquid diets, and smoothies. He also talks about how he’s learned to listen to his body over the years–resting when necessary and using practices like yoga or meditation when his body isn’t up for an intense workout. No matter what you do, however, he encourages everyone to find an activity that is fun and keeps you active and to do something you enjoy single every day.

After starting his blog and sharing his journey online, Troy became involved with Oshi Health and has been continuing to raise awareness for IBD.

Oshi Health: IBD Tracker & Magazine
Track your IBD symptoms and medication schedule, read IBD articles, and ask the experts your IBD questions in the Q&A section.

Follow Troy:
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook: @flaredupfitness

Alysa Johnsen: Healing Ulcerative Colitis with yoga, mindset, and plant-based nutrition

Alysa Johnsen: Healing Ulcerative Colitis with yoga, mindset, and plant-based nutrition

October 28, 2019

In today’s episode, Alysa Johnsen shares how she’s been managing her Ulcerative Colitis through yoga, mindset, and plant-based nutrition. After being diagnosed with IBD and suffering from the side effects of Lialda, she sought the help of an integrative medical doctor.

Once she found a doctor that she connected with, Alysa underwent a number of different test, including a food sensitivity test, that helped her doctor put together a comprehensive plan designed just for her. She was equipped with a customized food list and a variety of supplements that started her on a new journey and within two weeks, all of her stomach cramps had disappeared. As more time went by, her IBD symptoms improved and she was able to go off of her medications. 

Always active from a young age, over the past few years, she’s turned to yoga for daily fitness and as a way to check in with herself. She matches her yoga practice to what her body needs for that day and utilizes breathing techniques to help manage anxiety and stress, as well as twists and yin yoga to help with bloating or pain. 

Alysa also shares her tips for traveling with specific dietary needs, how her mindset has evolved over the years, and her daily mantra. She’s learned to focus on the positive things that IBD has brought her–from focusing on discovering better health to being a part of this community. She encourages everyone to find one thing you are grateful for each day.

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Allie Koplan, Ulcerative Colitis Warrior, dives deep into surgery, recovery, and mindset

Allie Koplan, Ulcerative Colitis Warrior, dives deep into surgery, recovery, and mindset

October 21, 2019

In today’s episode, Allie Koplan shares her Ulcerative Colitis story and dives deep into her ostomy and take-down surgeries, recovery, and mindset. 

Allie’s IBD journey began when she was 17 and experienced her first flare up while overseas in England. After coming back home to Chicago, it took another 10 months before she was finally diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Over the years, she struggled with body image, depression, medication side effects, and the mental stress caused by IBD. 

Though she’d been on progressively stronger prescriptions since diagnosis–from oral medications and steroids to biologics–her symptoms continued to get worse. In 2016 her doctors recommended an ostomy. After the surgery, she thrived for the next couple of years, taking back control of her life and living again. 

But in 2018 her doctors recommended she have her take-down surgery if she ever wanted the chance at being able to live life without a permanent ostomy. Recovery this time was much harder. She shares what helped her get through it and her mantra of “this is temporary.” She also shares how her mindset has evolved over the years and, although she’s experienced some dark and tough times, how she’s always been an optimist and used humor to help her through. Now, when she faces challenges, she has a strength that comes from within, knowing that she’s made it through worse.

Over the years, Allie has learned to listen to her body and incorporated journaling and social media detoxes to help her battle stress and avoid her triggers. She encourages everyone to be their own advocate and to look out for themselves. Only you can make the right decision for yourself, she says, so weigh the options and seek to obtain the best quality of life that you can. But above all, respect yourself and don’t be so hard on yourself.

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Jenny Pascoe, @crohnieintheclassroom, talks travel, hypnotherapy, meditation, and fitness

Jenny Pascoe, @crohnieintheclassroom, talks travel, hypnotherapy, meditation, and fitness

October 14, 2019

In today’s episode, Jenny Pascoe shares her Crohn’s story and how it took 10 years of battling symptoms before a capsule endoscopy confirmed a diagnosis of IBD. She struggled during those years trying to find ways to manage her symptoms, including numerous dietary changes, and even found herself wondering if it was all in her head, as many of her doctors suggested. Eventually, it took the persistence of her mother to tell her she wasn’t leading a normal life and finding the right doctor to determine Crohn’s Disease.

After diagnosis, she was started on Humira, but it still took another six months before her symptoms really started improving. Although she’s not completely in remission, her symptoms have subsided and she’s taking back her life. Looking back on her journey, she shares how she didn’t communicate with her doctors early on the severity of her symptoms and what was happening. She tended to normalize her experiences and downplay how she felt.

Now on the path to healing and back from a recent overseas trip, Jenny also shares how complementary healing practices, such as hypnotherapy and meditation, helped her control her anxiety and better prepare her for an extended summer trip and international flight. She shares more of what she’s learned over the years about managing flares and also talks about how finding the IBD community on social media has allowed her to connect and share her experiences in new ways, finding an even greater level of support.

To keep up with Jenny’s journey, follow her on Instagram: @crohnieintheclassroom

Kristen Furey, 11 Health Patient Coach and HOPE Conference Project Manager

Kristen Furey, 11 Health Patient Coach and HOPE Conference Project Manager

October 7, 2019

In today’s episode, the first 11 Health Patient Coach, Kristen Furey, shares her Crohn’s journey. Diagnosed at age 12, Kristen has battled IBD for 13 years. She underwent her ostomy surgery in 2013 and had a total colectomy in 2015.

Kristen has been in a constant flare since her diagnosis, only reaching remission for the first time this year. She opens up and talks about the post traumatic stress she suffers from her medical trauma, but also shares how finding new passions has kept her moving forward and fueling her positive outlook.

About two years ago, Kristen joined the 11 Health family, a new company developing smart ostomy bags for patients. She soon became the very first Patient Coach and began developing and expanding the Patient Coaches program, from recruitment to training. There are now over 40 Patient Coaches.

Kristen is now sharing her own patient journey through social media, further developing the Patient Coaches program, and is serving as the project manager for 11 Health’s first conference, HOPE, that will be held at the end of this month in Las Vegas.

HOPE 2019 | Healthy Outcomes for Patient Engagement
October 24-25, 2019
Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas
FREE to attend!

HOPE is a two-day conference featuring a series of informational speakers from doctors, to nurses, patients, and even medical administrators from all over the Ostomy world. At HOPE, you will have the opportunity to engage with some of the most inspired thinkers in healthcare and healthcare technology and get a chance to see first-hand the newest generation of wearable healthcare devices.

Register at:


11 Health

Patient Coaches

Sophie Howard, Crohn’s Warrior, talks about travel, stress, and community

Sophie Howard, Crohn’s Warrior, talks about travel, stress, and community

September 16, 2019

In today’s episode, Sophie Howard shares her journey with Crohn’s Disease. After being diagnosed at the age of 11, she learned to navigate the ups and downs of Crohn’s as a child and fought off countless infections over the years. Now, 14 years later, she chooses to look at the accomplishments in her life and hasn’t let Crohn’s hold her back.

Although food is not a trigger for Sophie, stress is. She’s learned the importance of sleep, stress management, and how to balance fitness and recovery. As an avid traveler, Sophie shares her tips for reducing stress while traveling, including why she packs as light as possible and why she increases her vitamins before a trip.

She’s also learned to appreciate simple things in life, like walking outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and taking long, hot baths on a regular basis. She makes priority lists every morning to help her focus on what she wants to get done first and what can wait until later, if needed.

After feeling very alone as a child with Crohn’s Disease, growing up in a small town where she didn’t know anyone else with IBD, Sohpie embraced the support and connection that being an active part of the IBD community online offers. She felt immediately connected with fellow IBD patients from all around the world who shared the same disease. She’s now speaking up and sharing her voice in the community. She describes it as a place “where everybody is talking about their experiences daily...and we’re all pushing each other to be better and we’re all pushing each other to widen the conversation and to make sure we are educating everybody who doesn’t know about IBD...and what it’s like to live with it.”

She blogs about her travels at and shares her journey on Instagram (@crohnswithme). She hopes to show that life can be good and that it’s about making simple adventures as fun and as easy on yourself as possible.

Ciara Munnelly takes control of Crohn’s with mindset and fitness

Ciara Munnelly takes control of Crohn’s with mindset and fitness

September 9, 2019

In today’s episode, Ciara Munnelly shares her journey with Crohn’s Disease and how she’s learned to change her mindset and find better health through fitness and lifestyle.

Though she was always active growing up, as she got older, life got in the way of fitness. Then, when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s, she allowed the disease to take control of her life. She gave in to the fatigue and the bad days and, although medication helped control the severity of her Crohn’s, she was still sick and not living life to the fullest.

One year ago, after taking a good hard look at what she wanted out of life, Ciara started working on changing her mindset, focusing on the positive things in life, and joined a CrossFit gym. She focused on ways she could reduce stress in her life, including changing jobs, and was consistent with her fitness. On the days she felt fatigued, she learned to listen to her body and not her mind; pushing herself to get up and move when she knew her body could handle it. Her sleep improved and gradually, the aches and pains that were constantly there started to fade and her energy levels began to improve. She now feels stronger and more resilient than ever.

Finally learning to live her life and not willing to let Crohn’s control what lies ahead, she’s now preparing to move from her hometown in Ireland to Thailand. There, she’ll be spending the next couple of months training at Unit 27 and putting her life on the course that she wants–pursuing fitness as a new career and following her passions. She talks about how she’s preparing to make the move, while managing Crohn’s, and is ready for whatever comes next.

Keep up with Ciara and join her on her journey on Instagram by following @ciaracrohnsfitness

Molly Dunham-Friel, battling IBD, IBS and SIBO

Molly Dunham-Friel, battling IBD, IBS and SIBO

September 2, 2019

In today’s episode, Ulcerative Colitis fighter, Molly Dunham-Friel, shares her journey battling Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). One year after her Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis in 2012, she was diagnosed with IBS, and in 2018, SIBO was added to her list of gut conditions.

Over the past year, she’s tried a number of different diets, acupuncture, exercise, talk therapy, medications, supplements, frequency specific microcurrent therapy, detoxing foot baths and much more in an attempt to help heal her gut. She talks about the long and winding journey that battling gut conditions is and shares everything from the various diets and medications she’s taken to the lasting food fear and anxiety that still remains.

Throughout her entire IBD journey, Molly has been determined to find her best health–looking to thrive rather than just survive. Early on, she went through multiple gastroenterology clinics until she finally found one that made her feel like she was being heard and working with the staff, rather than just given medications and dismissed until the next appointment.

Her persistence for better care grew over the years as she became passionate about advocating not only for herself, but for others in the IBD and IBS communities. She’s been an active volunteer with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, moderating local support groups and supporting events, and this past summer, she even met with her local government representatives to discuss the needs of IBD patients and issues in the healthcare system, such as medication and procedure costs.

Though she admits she doesn’t have all the answers and the journey is full of twists and turns, she continues to fight, constantly seeking ways to improve her gut and overall health, and live life to the fullest.