Dana’s career as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist began after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2011. She was faced with the challenge of learning an IBD (Crohn’s or Colitis) friendly diet. Dana’s passion for the IBD community led her to attend the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN). She set out to help others who may be struggling with the confusion of IBD and diet through her private practice, Wellness with Dana. In addition to Dana’s private practice, she works with a team of Gastroenterologists conducting research to improve IBD outcomes.
Today, Dana is known nationally for the work she has done in the IBD community as she has dedicated her career to working exclusively with those diagnosed with IBD.
How long have you been living with Crohn’s disease?
I’ve been living with Crohn’s disease for 10 years now.
What was your biggest obstacle as a person living with Crohn’s disease and how have you overcome?
I’d say the biggest obstacle was trying to learn the ins and outs of everything. I would say it’s an underrepresented topic past the point of medication. From your doctor, you’re taught about meds, but you still aren’t really told about lifestyle, diet and so many of the ins and outs of daily life. That was really a challenge trying to learn those things — especially when you’re trying to do your research, there wasn’t a lot out there 10 years ago. I found myself googling “What is Crohn’s disease?”, “How am I supposed to live with it?” and those sorts of things. The way I overcame it was trial and error — it took a lot of time. Things went wrong and I learned from it, and things that went well, I learned to keep doing. In the diet aspect, it’s challenging to find what works with you and what doesn’t. It was all these things that led me to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, particularly an IBD nutritionist.
Why is a regulated diet so important for people with Crohn’s disease?
I would say because ultimately, we have a digestive disease, when we’re looking at diet, of course, the food that we eat is going to impact our digestive disease. Your diet can impact your sleep, how you feel, your energy and overall digestion, bloating, bowel movements, etc. The foods you eat influence your day-to-day and in turn your life. The diet plays a major role in managing the disease and can help ease symptoms, especially in a flare.
In terms of recreating your favourite meals to fit your dietary requirements, what easy substitutions can you recommend to those getting the hang of it?
I started with baking, because ten years ago there weren’t as many options for those who need to eliminate gluten or dairy, so there weren’t really store-bought options for baked goods that worked with my new diet. I wanted cookies, muffins and everything and wanted to enjoy things on my taste buds. The best substitution for me was using almond flour for baking because it allowed me to have moist baked goods that are gluten-free. For savoury, finding tasty alternatives for something like butter, for example, vegan butter — finding the alternatives so that you can still make recipes that you find just in a way that you can enjoy!
What advice do you have for those who are newly diagnosed/struggling coping with their diagnosis?
Find your community. Find a community that can help make you feel seen and validated and that is experiencing something similar to you. Find your people, the people who understand what you’re going through. It can be a very lonely and long journey when you’re going through something that no one around you understands.
Dana has a deep understanding of IBD and knows that no two people live the same IBD experience. Her philosophy is to use a customized approach. You are unique and your treatment plan should be too.