Today, our Founder, Karolina Lewis is speaking to Aliza Marogy, a clinical nutritionist and a naturopath, Founder of Inessa Wellness, a clinical grade nutritional supplement company. In addition to running her own business, Aliza is also a mum-to-be (39 weeks pregnant).
She was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease ulcerative colitis in her late teens but didn’t respond well to medical treatment. After exhausting all medical intervention available at the time and with the prospect of having her bowel removed, she decided to try managing the condition into remission using dietary modifications and nutraceuticals, with a colonoscopy confirming total disease remission a year later. She then went on to re-train as a clinical nutritionist and naturopath specialising in using functional medicine to improve treatment outcomes for patients with autoimmune diseases and digestive disorders.
KL: Can you please tell us how you discovered your condition?
AM: I first reported symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (I was passing blood with each bowel movement) to my GP at around the age of 14, though I was misdiagnosed until I was 18 when my symptoms had become aggressive and like many people with chronic digestive disorders I was developing inflammation in other areas, including eczema and swollen joints.
KL: It seems we are hear about more people suffering from digestive disorders these days. Is there a surge or do we just understand more about the symptoms?
AM:I think that there are a couple of reasons that people are talking more about digestive health - firstly, people naturally feel uncomfortable discussing their bowel habits and it is only over the past few years that it has become less ‘taboo’ and therefore more widely talked about. Secondly, certainly in the Western world there has been an increase in the number of people diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease;- the science points to changes in the human microbiome being a likely culprit linked to among other things, over-sanitisation (often referred to as the hygiene hypothesis) and changes in our dietary patterns.
KL: What are nutraceuticals?
AM: It’s a good question and it’s one that provokes a bit of debate amongst healthcare practitioners. The general public would most easily understand it as being a therapeutic dose of a vitamin and/or mineral supplement. The technical definition is that a nutraceutical is a pharmaceutical-grade standardised nutrient or combination of nutrients in a dose and / or form which may be beneficial in supporting general health, and used in conjunction with healthy diet and lifestyle as part of the prevention and treatment of disease. The term ‘nutraceutical’ can refer to products that are isolated from herbal products, dietary supplements, specific diets, and processed foods such as cereals, soups, and beverages that other than for their nutritional value are also used for medicinal benefit.
KL: Did you have to manage your diet to adjust for pregnancy?
AM: I had great plans to be a model nutritionist and only eat the most nourishing foods throughout my pregnancy. However, that all went out of the window, particularly in the first trimester when I was nauseous and all I wanted to eat was toast and jam. I don’t even like jam ordinarily! I also made sure I cooked loads of veg and ate quality protein and fats for my main meals, even though I didn’t necessarily feel like eating these. Once I got past week 15 the nausea went away, my taste buds returned to normal and I stopped relying on the jam & toast!
KL: Many people believe that with a good diet you do not need to rely on food supplements. Where is the truth?
AM: Supplements shouldn’t be used as a substitute for a diet of natural wholefoods, as having a balanced diet is of course important (though everyone has a different idea of what a good diet is), and to me it’s not an ‘either/or’ it’s an ‘and’. People frequently benefit from additional support for their diet, including those who follow special diets such as vegans, those with allergies and intolerances, training for various types of physical activities and of course pregnant women.
From a clinical perspective, for those of us who have ongoing medical complaints, taking certain supplements can help to improve treatment outcomes - for me personally, probiotics, high strength omega 3 fish oils and turmeric all help with the management of my ulcerative colitis and associated skin and joint inflammation and my gastroenterologist supports my use of them as he agrees that there is enough scientific evidence to support their use in extending remission periods in some patients.
The other factor which has become increasingly important in the past 20 or so years is the challenge people face in maintaining a consistently healthy whilst living life today, not just because we lead such busy lives, but also because the nutritional value of our food may not be optimal due to the fact that so much of our food is flown from other parts of the world and intensive farming has affected the quality of our soil.
So whilst we shouldn’t rely on supplements and neglect our diet, we can benefit from taking them, whether it’s to improve our energy, sports performance and recovery, improve medical treatment outcomes for patients with long term illnesses or protect our health for the long term.
KL: What advice would you give to pregnant women suffering from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis?
AM: The most important advice I can give is to try to make sure you’re in remission before conceiving. Being in remission from the start has been shown to improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy. The hormonal changes during pregnancy can either significantly improve disease activity or trigger off a relapse, and this can vary from one pregnancy to another. The hospital staff have been fantastic at supporting me throughout, as an IBD patient I have extra scans to monitor the baby’s growth and have been seen by an obstetrician specialising in bowel disorders regularly. Fortunately I have stayed in remission throughout, though the team will be monitoring after the birth as the two periods during a pregnancy when a relapse is most likely to occur is during the first trimester and after birth.
For anyone that does have a flare-up during pregnancy, it’s essential to flag it up to the team taking care of you so that you can get the treatment you need for yourself as well as any extra monitoring of the baby that may also be necessary.
KL: Sleep is quite problematic in pregnancy because women suffer from many related side-effects. I remember having restless legs, evening sickness and insomnia to name just a few. How can we manage sleep better through nutrition?
AM: Unfortunately there’s only so much we can do to improve our sleep during pregnancy, though from a nutritional perspective magnesium can be very beneficial. In my case, taking a magnesium supplement at night and including magnesium rich greens in my diet helped improve my sleep (a bit - I have a night owl baby!) and has also completely stopped me getting leg cramps which I was starting to get early in the second trimester. Supplementing with magnesium also helps improve restless legs and may help alleviate headaches which can be a problem in pregnancy.
KL: Thank you for your time with us today Aliza. It has been wonderful speaking to you on a subject very close to our heart and all the very best for your family and the soon-to-be new addition! We cant wait to hear all about the new arrival!