We Are What We Drink: Water For Good Digestion


 They say that water is life. 

Indeed, 70% of the Earth is covered by water.  55-65% of an adult’s body is made of water (the number is even higher for infants and children), the human brain is 75% water.

So it’s no wonder that human beings, on average, cannot go more than 3 days without water.  We literally are what we drink.

Experts have said for years that people should drink 64 ounces of water each day – and for good reason. Water is vital.  It delivers oxygen to our cells, which gives our cells energy. It enables our cells to distribute essential nutrients within our bodies. It removes waste products like toxins that our organs reject.  Water helps to lubricate joints and provide oxygen for easier breathing.  It regulates our body temperatures so we don’t overheat.  It enables normal electrical properties in our cells (including neurotransmitters) and empowers natural healing in the body. That is why so many health issues result from dehydration; without water, our organs cannot properly function.  This is especially true for the gallbladder, pancreas and stomach, the three main organs involved in digestion. Indeed, signs of dehydration range from seemingly benign food cravings to weight gain, heartburn, constipation and even ulcerative colitis.

But knowing when to drink water can be almost as important for digestion as knowing how much to drink.  Drinking copious amounts of water, or any fluid, during meals is not good for good digestive health.  Water can dilute your stomach acid to the point that it cannot properly break down your food, and as a result, large particles of food end up in places the body cannot recognize.  This can cause a whole host of issues such as leaky gut, reflux and even an autoimmune response.

So, how do you know if you are dehydrated?

For starters, if you’re thirsty or your fingers are pruning, you are already dehydrated.  So you must get ahead of dehydration and drink at least 8 glasses (of 8 ounces) of water daily.  But remember, you want the water to reach your cells – you don’t want it go to right through you (as in, drink a glass of water, urinate 10 minutes later).  If you are having a retention issue it might be because you are low on electrolytes or minerals.  You can drink your water with a dash of good sea salt or high quality electrolytes. You can also dress up your water like you’re at the spa, or use the following foods to help you reach your daily dose.


Fruits and Vegetables with High Water Content:

Watermelon, Strawberries








Pineapple, cranberries, oranges, raspberries


Apricot, Blueberries, Plums


Apples, Pears


Cherries, Grapes


Cucumber, lettuce


Zucchini, Radish, Celery




Green cabbage


Cauliflower, Eggplant, Red Cabbage, Peppers, Spinach





So, the next time you’re irritable, moody, depressed, anxious or have a headache, ask yourself: “How much water have I had to drink today?”

The Road to Healing

Welcome to Themindfulgut where I will share what I have learned on my lifelong journey from chronic pain and illness to good digestive health and overall wellbeing. The science is clear: better digestive health will help with metabolism, nutrient absorption (which is the root cause of so many ailments) and a better mental state. It is possible to feel better and live a healthier and happier life, simply by understanding the importance of what we eat, learning what our body needs and then eating and living mindfully.

At the age of 14, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease or IBD). Ulcerative colitis is an auto-immune disease that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) causing severe abdominal pain and gastrointestinal bleeding, among other things.  There is no known cause of Ulcerative Colitis and there is no cure, other than to remove the colon. I resigned to live a life where I casually took nine capsules of medicine daily, always felt mildly uncomfortable and often was in pain.  I lived with the disease by managing it, which worked for many years.  Until it didn’t.

When I was in my late twenties, I saw top specialists for a variety of physical ailments, but no one was connecting the dots.  I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), psoriasis, spondylitis - all autoimmune disorders - but no doctor saw that these issues were related. The doctors treated symptoms individually, but there was always something going on - and as time marched on, more symptoms arose. When I spoke to my doctors about ways I could change things for myself by way of diet and nutrition, I was told there was nothing I could do to help myself other than take my drugs and try to reduce stress.

So I did what I could to reduce stress.   Yoga and psychotherapy helped.  I ate a diet of mostly organic foods.  Although I was ill into my thirties and was sick during both of my pregnancies, none of my doctors seemed alarmed.  Indeed, I was told that I was high risk for getting colon cancer and lymphoma, but it was understood that since I was being monitored by the top doctors in New York City, whatever disease I might get would be caught early enough to treat.  This was unsettling, but I felt there was nothing I could do except trust these highly regarded experts.

It was not until my infant son began to have health problems, that I learned I could heal myself.  In order to understand and resolve his health and developmental issues, we went to a very progressive developmental pediatrician.  We completely changed my son’s diet, eliminating dairy, gluten and soy.  In solidarity with him, I took dairy out of my diet.

Amazingly, within five days, some of my son’s physical and neurological symptoms diminished. And within weeks, my colitis and many of my other ailments began to disappear. Six weeks after taking dairy out of my diet, and putting myself on omega 3 and probiotic dietary supplements, my gastroenterologist of ten years performed a colonoscopy and said,  “I don’t recognize you. Keep doing whatever you’re doing”. One year and another colonoscopy later, my doctor said, “If I didn’t know you, I’d never know you have ulcerative colitis.” After that visit, I took myself off of the drugs entirely.  One year later, my doctor said there is no sign of the disease and that he saw no evidence that I ever had ulcerative colitis.

This was diet. I now live disease-free and drug-free.  I have educated myself through reading, research and learning from various alternative and open-minded medical practitioners.  I am now a Nutritional Therapy Consultant, where I help people understand that they, too, can take control of their health and see dramatic shifts in their physical, neurological and mental health. It is not too late to reverse the effects that your diet or your genetics or your microbiome has inflicted on you. You don’t need to accept poor function or chalk things up to the effects of aging. Our bodies have an innate intelligence that can guide us to healing. The key is to find, in your specific case, how best to get on that healing track. Hopefully these articles, recipes, mindfulness exercises and alternative therapy recommendations will help you find a way to help yourself.

Avocado, Spinach & Date Smoothie

This creamy and delicious treat is packed with omegas, niacin, zinc, protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese and healthy fats that will keep you satisfied for hours. The Coconut, flax and chia all have anti-inflammatory properties that keep your body in balance and leave you feeling cleansed and nourished.


2 Cups Coconut Water

1 Cup Spinach

4 dates (pitted)

½ large or 1 small Avocado

½ tsp Flax seeds

½ tsp Chia seeds

Crushed ice as desired

All ingredients can be mixed together in a high powered blender.  If a Vitamix or other high powered blender is unavailable, make sure to grind the seeds and finely chop the dates prior to mixing.

On Meditation, Loneliness and Inflammation

Talk amongst yourselves . . .

A recent study confirmed the long held belief in yoga and in healing circles that meditation decreases illness, inflammation and depression.  One thing however that this new study suggests is that people who meditate are also less lonely- further decreasing inflammation and depression, leaving practitioners of meditation in overall better health.

Loneliness is one of those human emotions that all people experience but few discuss.  Talking about it can make us seem needy or depressed, and could possibly make us more lonely by alienating us from other people.  That said, we all have moments when we feel alone, unheard or situated in a place where we cannot relate to anyone else.

For many years I struggled with colitis in silence- I never shared any real details of the disease with anyone for I feared others wouldn’t understand my plight or would find it boring.  Sometimes, I just didn’t want to bring myself down by talking about it.  Now, I realize that my avoidance may have been one of the things that kept me sick for so long.

Many people are finally speaking out about Colitis and Crohns Disease and those suffering are finding community through the internet and other channels.  Hopefully this will eradicate the notion that people suffering from Colitis or Crohns have to go it alone.  Because now we know, this could be one of the important factors preventing us from healing ourselves.


I was mixing the second of five concoctions that I would ingest that day.  This cleanse was serious; five drinks and one colonic each day for five days.  No solid food.  Just water. As I stood at the kitchen counter, intently mixing bentonite clay, psyllium seed husks, apple pectin and peppermint leaf, I turned to see my husband staring at me with amazement.  “Do you think I’ve gone over the edge?” I asked.  “Well,” he began, “I just feel like you should be wearing a sari, not an outfit from the Barney’s sample sale.”

I saw his point.  I had changed significantly since embarking on a journey that began in 2009 when, in an effort to stand in solidarity with my son as we dealt with his apparent GI disorders, I took dairy out of my diet.  It was so radically beneficial for me, I went further.  I helped myself by changing my diet in other ways, deepening my yoga practice and finding and releasing the great stressors in my life.  Over the course of four years, I went from buying food only sold at my neighborhood co-op, to reading the labels at the co-op, to making many of my own ingredients in order to cut out additives and chemicals - even those generally deemed harmless. I also went weekly to a craniosacral therapist, participated in a yoga teacher training program, and started writing as a way to deal with the difficulties in my life.  I came up with the idea for this blog in an effort to share the nuggets of knowledge I managed to pick up along the way with a community of like-minded people.

As most readers of this blog probably know, there are many of us out there; individuals with autoimmune disorders seeking answers and advice as to how best to cure, or at least minimize, our afflictions.  We look for community to connect, share ideas and commiserate.

Meghan O’Rourke is one of those people, as she explains in her beautifully written piece that appeared in the August 26, 2013 New Yorker magazine, entitled “What’s Wrong With Me.”  O’Rourke’s essay chronicles her struggles with autoimmune disease and the mysteries surrounding her illness.  She is always aching, fatigued, in pain and confused about her ailments.  She is unsure what is going on with her body and wonders how she can get the energy and strength she needs to get through the day.  But she goes on to talk about a deep emotional side-effect of her journey – a fear that her efforts to heal and understand her body were altering her identity from person (perhaps with some mysterious ailments) to patient.  She engages with other sufferers online.  She completely changes her diet by eliminating many foods and she turns to a varierty of supplements, vitamins and minerals.  She engrosses herself in the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for a month.  She makes her own almond milk (no easy task), brushes her body to help stimulate her lymphatic system and rid herself of toxins.  She swallows pills and liquids that can make one gag.  It is very compelling and extremely familiar.  And although it’s working – she is healing herself somewhat – she questions whether the incremental medical gains are worth the nagging feeling of obsession and seeming loss of self.  Her excellent piece challenges us to look in the mirror and ask the questions she asked:  have I gone over the edge?  Am I letting all of this define me?

Those of us with disease do have choices.  We can immerse ourselves in the world of the healing.  We can read everything, connect to others with similar struggles, change our diets, our habits, our environments and open our minds to new therapies and answers so that we can change our bodies and live a healthier life.  But along with that comes the risk of becoming obsessive about these ideas and driving ourselves and our loved ones nuts.

Of course, we also have the choice to do nothing, avoid change and carry the risks that go along with just living (in some cases for many years) with disease.  In our efforts not to get sucked into the fanatical world, we can go on living a “normal” life and hope for the best.

We also have the choice to find balance.

O’Rourke chose to eat well (but not always following everything to the letter) while living her life and accepting her disease.  I chose to immerse myself completely.  I allowed my journey to unfold before me, taking me on retreats to learn about proper digestion , working with different healers and eating many different foods.  All of this has worked wonders for me on a physical and psychological level.  But when I asked my husband if I had gone over the edge, what I was really doing was asking myself.  I realized that I might have been farther gone than I was emotionally healthy.  For years, I had followed a strict diet and created many wonderful new recipes which I loved.  But once I moved to Vermont and had more time on my hands, I went many levels deeper.  Defeating illness became my life.  That moment in the kitchen gave me pause; it alerted me that my ability to dive so deeply, while incredibly helpful and useful, could also be causing me to lose myself in a never ending quest.

The yogis say that just by noticing and acknowledging one’s behaviors, we can create the change we need.  By acknowledging, out loud, that I was close to fanaticism I was able to see things more clearly as how to approach my illness.  Yes, I continue to educate myself and encourage my family to try certain foods.  I still watch what I eat and try new things.  In fact, this week my son and I are eating soup, trying out the GAPS diet (so we can both possibly eat dairy again one day). But by taking a moment to pause, I was able to see this all in perspective.  What came out of this for me was the importance of living mindfully and with intention to feel good both physically and emotionally.   For me the key is focusing on family, friends, work, interests and hobbies - so that this disease is a part of my life, but isn’t it entirely.

Transition To A Healthy Lifestyle

I was not born this way. I was not born into a family of hippies, vegetarians or yogis. I was not born watching what I ate, supplementing with vitamins or meditating.

I grew up in a suburban Philadelphia community where my friends and I went to TGI Fridays after the movies, ate cheesesteaks and soft pretzels and drank plenty of alcohol once we got to high school and college. We really didn’t think much about our health, the food we ate, where it came from or why the produce looked so shiny in the supermarket.

Like most people, my friends, family and I did talk about losing or gaining weight. That was the one subject that to us, marked how healthy we were.

The house where I grew up was stocked with cans of diet soda, boxes of Sweet N’ Low, frozen Weight Watchers desserts and diet salad dressing. My parents have been on one diet or another since the Carter administration.

One day back in 1999, my cousin told me that her New Years resolution was to cut out all artificial sweeteners. I didn’t understand why she would do this or how she could! How can one drink coffee without lots of cream and Sweet N’Low? But she shed light on how these chemicals could really harm us and that it would be a noble effort to rid them from her diet. It made sense to me, so I did it.

First, I switched from Diet Coke to Coke. Coke was so sticky sweet I could taste the syrup. I somehow got used to regular Coke but eventually grew sick of it.

I gave up cola, then soda, entirely. I couldn’t drink coffee black or coffee without sweetener (sugar never quite made it there for me), so I switched to tea.

I educated myself on the benefits of organic produce and began to buy organic from a neighborhood delivery service in New York City.

When I moved to Brooklyn, I joined the local food coop and worked several different jobs as required by the coop. I spoke with the educated cashiers, read the coop newsletter and website and listened to others around me while I shopped. I learned an enormous amount in a very short period of time.

Then when my son got sick and we went to a developmental pediatrician who suggested we take dairy and gluten (and eventually soy) out of his diet, my learning curve went through the roof. The internet can be an amazing resource for learning about food and how you can make little steps toward a healthy lifestyle.

I eventually gave up dairy, started taking omega 3s and probiotics and began to heal myself.

I encouraged my mom to join my shift to a healthier, more-chemical-free, diet. My mother had watched me evolve over the past decade yet, when she saw my daily regimen, she was like a deer in headlights - unable to move and protect herself from a dangerous appetite for industrial food.

But like me, she too has evolved; she must, if she wants to prevent disease and live longer than her parents. For many years, my mother looked at me and thought that she could never do what it took to change her lifestyle - she thought she was too old to change. But she is getting there, at her own pace. She now drinks green tea, no longer has diet soda, buys organic food and takes probiotics.

I imagine that for my mom, it was inspiring to see her daughter cure herself of ulcerative colitis. There it was, proof that changing diet and lifestyle could have a profound impact.

Will she take up yoga anytime soon? I don’t think so. But I guess one never knows how people evolve. I never would have thought I’d adopt my current diet - I had no idea how much I didn’t know when I gave up artificial sweeteners so many years ago.

So if the idea of change and learning all that there is about diet and supplements seems overwhelming, the best advice I can give is to focus on one goal. For me it was taking one ingredient at a time out of my diet – and it had a domino effect. Once you start to feel good (and successful!) with one change, you’re more likely to get excited and energized to do more - if more is something you need.

Pick one thing for yourself and take small steps - the first step is always the most difficult. With a little help from yoga, meditation or some other tool you might use to remain mindful of your body and your goals for good health, the rest will probably flow naturally. It did for me and for my mother - two very different women, on two different paths who each found what they needed, in due time.

Identifying Stress

STRESS! That ubiquitous word. The root of all disease. “Are you stressed?” The word takes your shoulders up to your ears as soon as you hear it. Even the sound of the word is harsh. When I hear that word I think, I’ve got to DO something about this stress, I must get rid of it. Putting that kind of stress on yourself to get rid of stress can be, well, stressful. Want to lower the risk of cancer? Don’t stress. Want to get rid of your headaches? Reduce stress. Want to stop having gastrointestinal woes? Manage your stress. Want to fall asleep, insomniac? I would, if I could stop stressing long enough about how I’m stressing which is causing my insomnia.

When I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 14 I was told that I had to reduce stress. So, what did that mean to me back then- um, don’t bother going through adolescence? Don’t bother going to high school or trying to get into college? Clearly, I was not able to slow down life at that point, did not completely understand that the doctors were actually telling me to manage my stress and even if I had understood the advice, I was not self aware enough to change my stressful circumstances.

So many diseases supposedly are caused by this fiend, this stress, that causes problems in the gut, inflammation, headaches, backaches, muscle aches and insomnia. But what is it really? In the case of insomnia, thinking about not being able to fall asleep most definitely makes it harder to do so. But in the cases of other disease, is it really all in our head?

Much of this blog will look at the role that mindfulness plays in our physical state. Indeed, themindfulgut was born out of the idea that our mind and our gut are deeply connected and interdependent, so much so that we can often heal our bodies just by calming our minds. Even the most conventional gastroenterologist will tell you that the stress you have in your mind will most certainly contribute to your GI troubles.

Yet there is another kind of stress that is more tangible- it is the physical stress that we put on our body, that may or may not have born out of stress but has transformed into an actual physical problem. This often happens without our knowledge. This is not to say that our mind cannot help our bodies change, simply that there might be physical obstacles that might be hindering our mind’s ability to change our body. Indeed, all the yoga in the world might not be able to cure all of one’s physical ailments.

What I found was that the times in my life where my colitis flared, it wasn’t in my worst emotional states- it was when I put stress on my body physically. In college, I flared after I abused my body by binge drinking. In law school, I got sick from eating greasy and fatty food late at night while studying. Then the worst of it came during both of my pregnancies and the subsequent years spent nursing when my colitis and psoriasis flared out of control. The great physical stress of pregnancy and the depletion of nutrients from nursing are a huge stressor on the body- and one not mentioned in the What to Expect books.

Physical stress can stem from, among other things, an excess of stored toxins in the body, muscle tightness or tissue blockages left unattended over the course of many years. Often times, detoxing our bodies by eliminating known stressors such as gluten, dairy and animal fats helps to rid the body of accumulated toxins. Other ways to remove physical stress and obstacles are Massage, Myofascial Release and craniosacral therapy. By being mindful and paying attention to what physical obstacles we might have, and what irritants are harmful, we can start to understand what is aggravating our system. Once we address our physical obstacles and work out whatever these blockages are, we will see the deep benefits of relaxing and calming the mind. We can then go deeper, enabling us to function and heal more efficiently.