Crohn’s Fitness Food
Raina O’Dell: Ulcerative Colitis Warrior finding the silver lining in every day (E61)

Raina O’Dell: Ulcerative Colitis Warrior finding the silver lining in every day (E61)

October 12, 2020

In today’s Crohn’s Fitness Food podcast interview, Raina O’Dell shares her journey with Ulcerative Colitis, talks about the growth and transformation in her life from @rainavsfood to @its.just.raina, and how she’s been able to stay positive – always searching for the silver lining.

While Raina struggled with symptoms for about a year before diagnosis, she found herself pushing through and just attributing the symptoms to either nutrition or stress. Finally, in the early part of 2016, she started searching for a doctor who could give her answers and eventually found one who performed a colonoscopy. She immediately came away with a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis, medication, and no knowledge of what IBD was.

After returning home from the hospital, she poured over research and learned as much as she could about what was happening with her body. Drawing upon her background and experience as a health and fitness coach, she was determined to help her body heal without the use of medications. She refocused her efforts in diet and exercise, using the tools and knowledge she had, and succeeded in achieving remission by October of that year – just over six months after being diagnosed. She stuck to the foods that made her feel good (“eat good, feel good” was her mindset), cut out inflammatory foods, and took the same approach with fitness.

But remission didn’t last and the stress in her life wreaked havoc on her IBD. Her previous efforts of diet and fitness were not enough to overcome the stress and flare up this time. Her IBD journey escalated quickly and in February of 2017, she was in the hospital. A few months later in May, she had a total colectomy and temporary ileostomy. In July, she went in for the j-pouch surgery, but knew immediately it wasn’t working. Despite knowing what her body was telling her, she left the hospital that summer and was back in February of 2018 with abscesses on her j-pouch and an infection. The next step was a permanent ileostomy.

But two and a half years later, she’s more vibrant, healthier than ever, and thriving. She’s spent the last few years focusing on reducing stress, becoming more mindful, and using movement and nutrition to intentionally care for her body and become her best self. Both meditation and mindfulness help to reduce the noise in life and allow her to take a breath and slow down. During her flare ups and surgeries, she took the time to listen to her body and allowed it two full years to heal, unable to even do yoga as she battled fatigue. Fast forward to today and there’s nothing she can’t do now. With the green light from her doctor to workout again after her last surgery, she slowly and steadily built up her strength and she loved every aspect of getting back into fitness. From bodyweight workouts and lifting to fitness bands and yoga, you won’t find her skipping a day of movement now!

Today, she finds the silver lining in being able to serve as an inspiration to others. Her journey has made her stronger and being able to help just one person to feel better keeps her motivated to do more, share more, and enjoy life more. To everyone out there with an ostomy, IBD, or anything else that might currently be holding them back, she dares you to talk about it and to search for the silver lining in every single day.


Want to get the shorts she wears when working out:
Use code: raina10

Angie Venetos: Crohn’s, perspective, and compassion (E60)

Angie Venetos: Crohn’s, perspective, and compassion (E60)

September 28, 2020

In today’s episode, Angie Venetos shares her Crohn’s Disease journey and how it’s impacted not just the way she views IBD, but life overall. From learning to adapt her workouts by listening to her body, to seeing how strong her support network is from the love of her family and friends, she’s rewriting the story of Crohn’s Disease in her life and is working to share a message of hope, compassion, and awareness.

Angie’s first signs of inflammation in her body, and the onset of Crohn’s, was in late 2017 when she developed psoriasis for the first time in her life and later severe joint pain. That November, she started experiencing more stomach issues and seeing blood when going to the bathroom. With her dad being a gastroenterologist, she was able to quickly get a scope, and in December, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s. 

After the diagnosis, she was started on medications and tried to resume her life. Things were going well, but a stressful 2018 resulted in a major flare up that hospitalized her for a month. It was during her stay in the hospital that she realized how deep and strong her support network was. The support and love her family and friends showed her, in addition to her faith, helped her get through the pain and physical disability of it.

Shortly after that, Angie began sharing her experiences and raising awareness for Crohn’s on her Instagram. Prior to Crohn’s, she posted about fitness and her love of weight lifting. But she found herself retreating from social media for a few months during and after her hospital stay. When she was ready to post again, she felt compelled to explain the silence and her 20 pound weight loss that occurred in just a few weeks. Since then, she’s been sharing her IBD journey alongside her fitness journey. 

Throughout her time since diagnosis, she’s learned that stress is a major trigger for her and she’s learned the importance of balance and its role in keeping her in remission. Whether it’s working out too much/too hard, focusing too much on work, or overdoing any other part of her life, she knows stress will trigger a flare up. She’s learning to trust herself and listen to her body, knowing when she needs to slow down and honoring that. Having a support system is also beneficial in helping her to slow down. She credits her boyfriend for not being shy about letting her know when she’s working out too much or focusing too hard on work and reminds her to rest!

Though she’s still learning what foods work best for her, she has found that plant-based proteins and plant-based protein supplements make her feel less bloated and gives her energy before working out. She incorporates a variety of supplements in her diet on a daily basis, including Apple Cider Vinegar, collagen, a multi-vitamin, turmeric, gynostemma and milk thistle; when she’s going through a flare up, she incorporates bone broth smoothies.  

With fitness being a major part of her lifestyle, she’s had to learn to adapt and be flexible in her schedule. Her weekly routine will usually include weight lifting, running/walking, and yoga, but she’s learned that she now needs 1-2 days off each week. She’s also found that sticking to bodyweight exercises in the morning works well for her and by taking a nap early in the evening after work, she can then get to the gym with lots of energy and have a good lifting session. Angie’s willingness to adapt to the challenges that Crohn’s has given her has helped her to learn to work with her body and not against it. Although Angie makes finding balance and listening to her body look easy, she admits that it’s actually been one of her biggest challenges since being diagnosed – learning to listen to her body and not her head. 

In addition to finding and constantly working to achieve balance, she’s had to learn to deal with the emotional stress that comes with IBD. Not knowing what the future holds, but knowing what the potential outcomes may be, causes anxiety that, if not kept in check, can lead to flare ups. It’s taken a shift in mindset to focus on the present moment, to take a step back to simply ask, “am I OK right now.” She uses prayer daily and makes a gratitude list each evening to help put herself at ease.

Having IBD has changed her view on a lot of things in life and has allowed her to become kinder and more compassionate and empathetic about what other people are dealing with in their own lives. But, above all, having IBD has made her want to help others who are going through the same thing. She’s driven to be a voice for those who are afraid to speak up and in sharing her own journey, she hopes that someone else may benefit from it. 

Follow Angie on Instagram at: @angie.m.vee

Bec Simson: Family, IBD, and Rugby (E59)

Bec Simson: Family, IBD, and Rugby (E59)

September 21, 2020

In today’s episode, Bec Simpson shares her journey with Crohn’s Disease and how she balances life, competitive sports, work, and family. Her journey began almost a decade ago when she struggled with symptoms that she thought were due to IBS, which was common in her family. But in 2011, after running out from the class she was teaching with an urgent need for the restroom, she knew she needed to see a gastroenterologist. 

Her initial colonoscopy, however, didn’t show anything and she continued to struggle and manage her symptoms for another five years. Finally in 2016, she had another colonoscopy and Crohn’s Disease was confirmed. After that, she quickly went through a number of medications, from Prednisone, Pentasa, Methotrexate, and Humira (from which she suffered side effects) to now, finally seeing results after just one infusion of Stelara. Bec shares what it was like to go through the different medications and how grateful she is to have a gastroenterologist who provided her with a lot of information, but ultimately left the decision up to her. 

During all this time, Bec continued (and still does) to play competitive sports. She plays in the Touch Rugby League in Australia and has learned to balance her passion for fitness and rugby while managing IBD. Realizing that she was able to get away with pushing her body harder and past its limits when she was younger, she knows now that rest and listening to her body is key for staying healthy and managing symptoms. She’s also learned to change her mindset and rather than getting upset at the limitations Crohn’s may have placed on her, she focuses on doing the best she can and being grateful for that. 

Outside of sports, Bec relies on her strong support network, made up of her family and partner, that allows her to balance life and continue with her passions. Recently, her gastroenterologist also sent her to see a psychologist who works with patients with chronic illnesses. While simply being able to talk and vent about the disease was beneficial, the psychologist also gave Bec a number of different strategies to help manage stress in her life, which is the main trigger for her symptoms and flare ups, including mindfulness and not being afraid to take a step back to rest. 

Bec is now sharing her journey with Crohn’s on social media and raising awareness. She encourages others who are also fighting IBD to take it easy – still work hard to achieve your goals, she says, but listen to your body. You can follow her on Instagram at @becs_ibd_journey

Nicole Candelaria: IBD Journey Part 2 (E58)

Nicole Candelaria: IBD Journey Part 2 (E58)

June 15, 2020

In today’s episode, we continue Nicole Candelaria’s story from her decision to begin traveling to and from New York to see a gastroenterologist who specializes in IBD. Everything happened quickly as her new doctor was determined to not let her suffer any longer, but she quickly became weary of the travel and the reluctance of her doctors in Florida to cooperate. 

In New York, however, her doctor blew her away with the amount of information she knew about IBD and her willingness to explain and discuss in detail the answers to many of Nicole’s questions that her doctors in Florida were never able to give. From medications to surgical options, her new doctor shared the reasoning behind every step of her treatment plan. 

This past fall, Nicole went on short-term disability and began seeing her doctor in New York once a week. As she began healing, her visits dropped to every other week and then every few weeks. Using Methotrexate to help her transition from Remicade to Stelara, Nicole and her doctor finally started to see an improvement just this past February. 

It was then, after all the years battling IBD and only achieving remission for one brief period, Nicole finally had hope and she realized that in order to get better she needed to move to New York to be able to continue this journey with her new doctor. As the timing worked out, she was able to move and get settled into a place in New Jersey just before the Coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in March. 

Today, Nicole is vibrant, energetic, and thriving. Looking back, she realizes what a shell of her former self she had become – not realizing she was simply going through the motions day in and day out. Now, she’s happy, appreciating every moment of life, and sharing her story with the IBD community.

One of her biggest struggles throughout her journey, with all the highs and lows that IBD brings, was body image. Nicole often found herself hating her body for fighting against her, she was uncomfortable, and had no self love. Over the years, however, she gained a different outlook. Her experiences with IBD, she said, were humbling and she learned to love and be grateful for her body and everything it was doing to fight FOR her. With that new perspective, she created her Instagram handle, @crohnsically_beautiful, and began sharing her journey to help provide comfort and show others that they are not alone. 

To those who are newly diagnosed, Nicole gives a reminder that you will get through it, you’re not alone. For those who are currently battling flare ups, “you’ve got this!” And for family members, she shares the importance of reading up and becoming as informed as possible to help better understand the person in your life with IBD.


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Nicole Candelaria: Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Perianal Crohn’s (E57)

Nicole Candelaria: Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Perianal Crohn’s (E57)

June 8, 2020

In today’s episode, Nicole Candelaria shares her IBD journey that began in 2007 during her first semester in college. After ignoring the symptoms for a few months–attributing them to stress–she finally went to the hospital and a colonoscopy revealed both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. From there, life became a roller coaster. 

Like many who are unfamiliar with IBD, she was overwhelmed. Her life changed dramatically as flare ups prevented her from doing the things she loved. From band to athletics, she started losing a sense of who she was as IBD started to define her.

She was put on a number of different medications over the next few years, from antibiotics and steroids to 6MP and Remicade, but nothing gave her the relief she was searching for and a few resulted in serious side effects. Nicole’s search for remission led her to a naturopathic doctor, and although she was able to achieve a brief period of remission by listening to his advice, changing her diet to a vegon one, and taking a variety of supplements and herbs, it didn’t last.

Over the next couple of years she found herself back in the emergency room on multiple occasions. She experienced intestinal blockages, partial blockages, fistulas, and had part of her small intestine collapse and deteriorate over her large intestine–dangerously close to ruptering. During one surgery, she had 10 inches of her large intestine removed and 12 inches of her small intestine. Between her surgery and blood infusions on separate occasions, Nicole said it was eye opening to just how serious IBD and the long-term effects of inflammation are. 

In 2017, Perianal Crohn’s Disease was added to her list of diagnoses and changes to insurance forced her to switch doctors. It started a search that led her to multiple physicians and discovering the difference that a doctor who specializes in IBD can make. Her search for relief eventually led her to a doctor in New York, over 1,200 miles away from her home in Florida. It was during her search that Nicole also realized the importance of advocating for herself and listening to what her body was telling her. 

Like many others, her journey has been–and continues to be–a long and winding one. Though she found herself wishing for the guide book on how to cope and accept IBD, she recognizes that everyone’s journey is different and that there’s not one clear path. In this episode, we break here in Nicole’s story and will pick up next week as she continues her journey with a new gastroenterologist in New York who specializes in IBD.


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Ryanne Sullivan, Crohn’s Warrior finding remission through diet and lifestyle (E56)

Ryanne Sullivan, Crohn’s Warrior finding remission through diet and lifestyle (E56)

May 4, 2020

In today’s episode, Ryanne Sullivan, shares her 20-year journey with IBD. Diagnosed with both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, she’s learned to manage her symptoms and achieve remission through nutrition and lifestyle. At age 14, she started treatment with medications, like many others, using steroids and 6MP to try and control inflammation and symptoms. But, she often found the side effects of medications to be worse than the IBD itself. 

Over the years, Ryanne has found stress to be a major trigger of her flare ups. Right out of high school she started working full time and living on her own, but the stress brought on yet another flare. Remicade helped to put her back into remission, however, it was short lived and soon after she was back to battling Crohn’s symptoms. 

After the Remicade failed, her aunt introduced her to “The Maker’s Diet” by Jordan S. Rubin. It focused on bringing nutrition back to the basics of real food, grown in nutrient-dense soil and improving the microbiome. The book kicked off her journey to discovering how she could control inflammation from within. Since then, Ryanne has only had a few flare ups due to the stress from each of her three pregnancies and with the knowledge and experience she’s gained over the years (and continues to gain!), she was able to get right back into remission. 

Ryanne focuses her diet around foods and supplements that help reduce inflammation, including plenty of fruits and vegetables and grass-fed meats. Her family eats the same and follows a healthy lifestyle with her, though she does try to let her kids be kids and enjoy the occasional bowl of ice cream and Goldfish crackers :) She’s learned to listen to her body and knows what the first signs of a flare up are for her, which gives her a chance to head off a full-blown flare up by sticking to the basics and giving her gut a chance to heal. Her go-to methods and supplements include intermittent fasting/gut rest, aloe vera capsules (or juice), Protandim® Nrf2 and Nrf1, prebiotics and probiotics, easy-to digest foods and soups, golden milk (made with almond milk, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon), and dandelion tea.

As many of us with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis know, genetics play a role in IBD. Recently, Ryanne’s 8-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s and they’re working together to help give her the same level of control and quality of health. Ryanne talks about what it was like to have open and honest conversations about taking a holistic route with her daughter’s pediatrician and gastroenterologist. While medications are not off the table, they are hoping to avoid them. Ryanne’s advice for other parents with children diagnosed with IBD: keep a food journal, learn everything you can about the disease, learn to talk to doctors openly, and  get involved in the community!

To keep up with Ryanne and her IBD journey, follow her on Instagram at:


Jackie Robbins, Ulcerative Colitis Warrior on a mission to help others become fearless! (E55)

Jackie Robbins, Ulcerative Colitis Warrior on a mission to help others become fearless! (E55)

March 30, 2020

In today’s episode Jackie Robbins shares her 30 year IBD journey. Diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at age 8, she spent most of her childhood feeling alone and angry. 

Once diagnosed, she was immediately started on prednisone that helped control her symptoms, but caused her to gain weight and eventually wreak havoc on her body image. Her symptoms never fully went away, however, and she spent her entire childhood going into flares. In 1998, at age 17, she had her colon removed and a temporary ileostomy made. Then in 1999 she had her reversal surgery, but things didn’t get better. 

While she struggled with symptoms over the next few years, she slowly started to close herself off from the world. Then, in her early 20s, things took a turn for the worse when she suddenly lost the ability to go to the bathroom. She couldn’t hold her bowels anymore and was left having to use a catheter that she later nicknamed her “poop straw.” Though she laughs about it now, and her vibrant personality radiates in her posts, podcasts, and everywhere she speaks, having lost the ability to go to the bathroom spiraled her into a version of herself that you wouldn’t recognize having met her now. 

Over those next 15 years, she became more and more distanced from friends and her outlook was negative. But it was only after she found out that people didn’t want to be around her, that she took a hard look at what had happened and how far away she was from the person she wanted to be. She worked on her mindset, focused on exercise (something that has always been a passion of hers), sought the help of a therapist, read many self-help titles, and pushed herself to become the person she wanted to be.

Her confidence grew and she started engaging in activities again. When she signed up for a Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Team Challenge event and discovered how openly and easily she could talk about her own story, she immediately applied to become an Ambassador. 

A year ago she sat down and started writing about her experiences. Out of that, came her eBook, The Fearless Academy, 21 Days to More Self Confidence. She’s on a mission now to continue raising awareness about IBD and help others overcome their fears and self-imposed limitations. Jackie’s advice, “You have the power to change your story. Don’t get stuck in one that you don’t like.”


Find and follow Jackie at:

Podcast: Being Fearless with Jackie Robbins



Episode support: 
PURPO by Beviva Foods (Use code CFF15 for 15% off your order)

Yovani Gonzalez, Crohn’s Warrior and founder of Purple Roots Clothing (E54)

Yovani Gonzalez, Crohn’s Warrior and founder of Purple Roots Clothing (E54)

March 16, 2020

In today’s episode, Yovani Gonzalez shares his IBD journey from rapid onset and diagnosis to turning down surgery and finding the right balance of medication, diet, and lifestyle changes to take back his health.

Before Yovani’s diagnosis, he was an active 26 year old working 12-hour shifts, hitting the gym hard, and enjoying everything in life–including great food and watching the game with a beer. But when he had his first sudden flare up and immediate Crohn’s diagnosis, his life turned upside down.

Steroids helped with the initial inflammation and then he started Remicade treatments. But his mindset was one of “let’s take a drug to fix this and go on with my life.” Young and stubborn, as he described himself, he wasn’t ready to make any lifestyle changes. But, Remicade eventually lost its effectiveness and he found himself back in the hospital. He switched medications to Entyvio and later to Humira.

At the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, Yovani faced his worst years yet. His weight dropped from around 170 lbs. to 138 lbs. and it was then that he decided he needed to do more than just take medications.

Yovani took a look at all areas of his life and with the support of his friends, family, and girlfriend (now fiancé), he made some significant changes. He took a new role at work that was less stressful, he began changing his diet and workout routine, and sought the help of a holistic doctor.

Yovani focused his workouts on endurance and started incorporating new activities, including yoga, which helped him slow down both physically and mentally. He focused on sleep and changed his priorities–allowing him to focus on his health. For his diet, he gave up beer (though he still has an occasional glass of wine or cocktail), learned what he tolerated and what he didn’t, and adopted the Autoimmune Paleo diet as his way of eating.

Over the years, he’s kept his positive outlook and tends to look at new hurdles as challenges that he can take on and overcome. He adapts to what life throws his way, looks at problems from new angles, and is grateful for the support of his friends and family around him.

One of the biggest life changes that Yovani and his girlfriend recently made was moving to Palm Springs. With long-term health as their focus, they wanted a quieter place that would allow them to be outdoors more with less traffic and stress. Throughout his journey, Yovani has always kept a focus on his roots–what drives him and what anchors him.

His focus on remaining true to his roots, combined with a passion for clothing and fashion, led him to start Purple Roots Clothing just over a year ago. His line is focused on clothing for active lifestyles that raises awareness and supports a cause (Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation), while at the same time being approachable and wearable by anyone–not just those with IBD. Purple Roots Clothing is about finding your roots–your anchors in life–and remaining true to those.

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Sanaa Lynne, Crohn’s Warrior from bedridden to businesswoman, Part 2 (E53)

Sanaa Lynne, Crohn’s Warrior from bedridden to businesswoman, Part 2 (E53)

March 9, 2020

In today’s episode, we pick up where we left off last week in Sanaa Lynne’s IBD journey. She continues her story today with how she regained her quality of life through dietary and lifestyle changes. As her health slowly returned, she began focusing on her passions, flipped her negative mindset to a positive one, focused on relationships that brought peace–leaving behind the ones that didn’t, and began taking courses in Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and nutrition.

Her new path led her to focus on healing the body as a whole, instead of addressing one symptom at a time. She learned the importance of gut health and how it impacts the entire body and how mindset and mind training–like meditation–are equally important to overall health. As she deepened her learning, she found herself on a path that was destined to help others and recently became a Functional Nutritionist focused on helping women with chronic illnesses.

At the same time, Sanaa began sharing the powerful formulas that she and her husband created together that helped with her symptoms and health. Shortly after, they started Ancient Remedy and are now in the process of making their supplements available on a wider scale. As their business is in its early phases, Sanaa is offering free samples of their Fatigue Fighter and Nighttime formulas to anyone who is interested in trying the products and providing a review–simply DM her or send an email.

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Episode support:
PURPO by Beviva Foods (Use code CFF15 for 15% off your order) 

Sanaa Lynne, Crohn’s Warrior from bedridden to businesswoman, Part 1 (E52)

Sanaa Lynne, Crohn’s Warrior from bedridden to businesswoman, Part 1 (E52)

March 2, 2020

In today’s episode Sanaa Lynne takes us through her IBD journey–including how she went more than 10 years undiagnosed. She battled a number of different health issues growing up and over the years, her doctors suspected everything from endometriosis and Celiac Disease to Mediterranean Familial Fever.

Though she underwent numerous colonoscopies, endoscopies, and a capsule endoscopy, the timing was always off and the procedures were never done when she was in a flare–leaving her doctors reluctant to diagnose IBD. She talks about the struggles and frustrations of a diagnosis taking so long and how it made her question her own symptoms after everyone dismissing her for so long.

Finally in 2016, at the age of 25 and after a nearly two-year-long flare up, her doctors were able to diagnose gastroparesis and then Crohn’s Disease. Had she not been so sick and exhausted, she said, she would have been mad at how long it took. But in reflecting back, she appreciated the doctors’ care and caution to not just jump straight into biologic medications and a lifelong illness.

But, after failing to respond to medications, she realized she needed to do something to take back control of her health. With the support of a Holistic Medicine Doctor and her husband’s expertise in botany, she began tackling IBD at the roots. Through meditation, mindset shifts, supplements, and dietary and lifestyle changes, she began piecing back her life.

In next week’s episode, we’ll continue Sanaa’s journey as she regains her health, goes in depth into the changes she made, and how it led her to become a Functional Nutritionist and to starting the business, Ancient Remedy, with her husband. She’s now sharing her knowledge and experiences with others on how she went from bedridden to businesswoman!

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