Author Archives: drbarbarabolen

What’s New with IBS

Have you noticed how times of great life changes often trigger some reflection on the past? For me, my leaving my position at has brought to mind how much has changed on the IBS scene since I wrote my first book, “Breaking the Bonds of Irritable Bowel Syndrome” in 2000. I thought you might find this interesting…

When I was doing research for “Breaking the Bonds,” info on IBS was SO limited. Here is where things were at:

  1. IBS was still seen as something “all in your head”
  2. The only treatments were psychological – CBT and hypnotherapy
  3. Celiac disease was called “celiac sprue” and was considered very, very rare
  4. Food was considered to have no relevance in IBS

Where things are at now:

  1. IBS is now recognized as a complex disorder, involving dysfunction in many body symptoms
  2. Pharmaceutical companies are pouring money into developing IBS medications with a few already on the market
  3. Celiac disease affects a large part of the population and is under-diagnosed in people who have IBS
  4. The low-FODMAP diet not only recognizes that certain foods are IBS triggers, but offers an effective non-medication treatment for IBS

What is new:

  1. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) long dismissed by medical practitioners as being related to IBS, is now recognized as the underlying cause for a surprisingly high number of IBS patients. Even better, it is treatable! If you have a lot of bloating, or your IBS developed after a bad stomach bug, you may want to ask to be tested for SIBO.
  2. Bile Acid Diarrhea (BAD), once just a theory developed by small-town physicians is now also being recognized as being behind IBS in approximately 1/3 of people diagnosed with IBS. If you experience diarrhea right after eating or no longer have a gallbladder, you may want to talk to your doctor about BAD. Like SIBO, it is treatable!
  3. Health Coaching! When I first started to write about IBS, the only tool in my bag for supporting my IBS clients was CBT. Luckily, health coaching is a booming area of growth and has become an effective way to show people how to care for themselves so as to heal from chronic illnesses like IBS.

Hopefully this has been helpful! And you can see that just because I am no longer writing for, doesn’t mean that I have stopped being a source of support for people like you who have IBS.
Because “just live with it” is not an option.


P.S. Boot Camp will be starting soon! Make this the Spring where you finally free yourself up from your IBS. Stay tuned!!!

Dr. Barbara Bolen
Transformational Health Coach

Getting Free of IBS Without Drugs

I am writing to share with you an extremely well-written article by Chris Kresser that completely echoes and validates my own approach for helping my clients to free their lives up from IBS.

I am a huge fan of Chris’s work – and have a bit of a science geek crush on him. I may have deep knowledge of IBS, but he takes the science to a whole other level. And as he digs into the science, he takes it beyond the party of line of the conventional medical establishment.

As you read his article on ways to treat IBS without drugs, you will notice SO many similarities to my free workshop “Freedom From IBS 101.” And if you haven’t listened to that, shame on you! (Just kidding, but seriously, click here and you can listen today.)

I hope that between my workshop and Chris’s article, you walk away today knowing that there is hope – that IBS is treatable – and that there are things that you can do – beyond what your doctor offers you – to enjoy a life that is free from IBS. And that is what I am here for.
Because “just live with it” is not an option.


Dr. Barbara Bolen
Transformational Health Coach

Health & the Dead Guy In the Envelope

envelopeGot your attention, didn’t I? Well I just wrapped up my Six Day Back to School Challenge in my Freedom From IBS Facebook Group. I was blown away by the efforts of those who participated and their openness to trying whatever it takes to feel better.

The upshot to all this made me come up with the wacky connection between health and a game I used to listen to on morning radio, “Dead Guy in the Envelope.” In this game, the DJs would pick a male celebrity who had passed away and award a prize to the caller who correctly ID-ed the dead guy. Each caller was allowed to ask one question and then make their guess. The game was much harder than you would think because the human brain seems to be programmed to come up with ONLY ONE solution to a problem. So, if the answer to the question asked was a “no,” callers would be stumped to come up with an alternative to their original guess.

What does this have to do with health? I think there is the temptation to do the same thing – to think that there is only one solution – the right doctor, the right medication, the right diet, the right supplement. But when we are talking about something as complex as IBS, best results are achieved when multiple things are tried all at once.

And that is what everyone did who participated (or lurked!) in my challenge. And that is the beauty of holistic health. And that is the beauty of working with a health coach. Someone to prompt you to think of, and attempt, multiple solutions to your health problem. And to make sure that you don’t just try things for a short while, but that they become what you do all the time, without even having to think about it. To make it fun, easy and do-able.

And to make sure it is a long time before you find yourself in any kind of envelope…


P.S. No worries if you missed the challenge! Just head right over to the group, click on the Photos tab at the top, then the Videos tab. Lots of great content from me – and lots of great inspiration from people who are just like you, trying to uplevel their health and find their way out of the IBS maze.

The Abundance Mindset & Your Health


I want to fill you in on some thoughts I had about the law of attraction and your IBS. Yes, that law of attraction – that woo woo, wacky idea that was in the book, The Secret...

Whether or not you buy into all that spiritual juju stuff, there is a very helpful take-away regarding the difference between an abundance mindset and a scarcity mindset. In the first, you look for and focus on the gifts and opportunities that you are presented with, while a scarcity mindset is one in which you think there is only so much of things to go around.

How does this relate to health? Modern medicine, which I can say many wonderful things about, by its very nature of diagnosis and treatment protocols, is consistent with a scarcity mindset. Diagnoses become letters of the law, you are doomed to have health issues as you get older – do you see the picture?

An abundance mindset when it comes to your health implies that their is always room for expansion, for improvement, for healing! One of the key elements of an abundance mindset is that it requires that you be open to whatever chances and opportunities come your way.

Now let me put such an opportunity right in your path: My Heal Your Belly Boot Camp: 8 Weeks to a Better-Behaved Belly. This opportunity is right for you if:

  • Bathroom trips are either terrifyingly urgent or happen maddeningly infrequently
  • It feels nearly impossible to commit to anything, let alone anything fun
  • You feel like life is passing you by
  • You have no idea what you should be eating
  • You feel like you have tried everything, but you are still struggling with awful, embarrassing symptoms
  • You haven’t been satisfied with the help you have received from your doctor

Want to learn more? Click here!

Should You Be Worried About Osteopenia?


Bone health is not my area of expertise, but I just learned something about osteopenia that is so shocking that I feel compelled to share it.

I just had my first bone density test and my joke ahead of time was that if I didn’t pass, everything I know to be true is a lie. So you can imagine my surprise when they diagnosed me with osteopenia! I was shocked – how can this be when I am the poster child for how to live to prevent osteoporosis?

As you can see by what I grow in my garden, I eat like a giraffe – lots of leafy greens. I also eat a wide variety of calcium-containing foods. I do both of the recommended osteoporosis-preventing types of exercise – weight-bearing (walking or hiking every day) and resistance (practice yoga four days a week). So how on earth did my test results land me in the yellow bar of the test results? Not green for normal or red for osteoporosis, but right smack dab in the osteopenia category.

The answer is disturbing – not in terms of my risk for osteoporosis – but in terms of companies that are profiting from fear. The reason behind my test results is that the test is comparing me to the average 30-year-old woman – and that the slight thinning in my bones measured by the test is normal!

Here is where it gets disturbing. (You can click here for one of my sources for this information.) It turns out that scientists have a good sense of the type of bone changes that lead to increased risk of fracture – and this is when a diagnosis of osteoporosis is made. However, a group of scientists felt the need to come up with a term to describe the thinning of bone as a person ages. They dubbed this “osteopenia” but did not intend for it to be seen as a disease state – and certainly not one that required treatment.

However, drug companies like to sell drugs. It turns out that a major osteoporosis medication was not meeting sales expectations. Capitalizing on the scientist’s “osteopenia” label, this company prompted the development of lower-cost bone density screening machines – making them appealing for doctors to install in their offices. These machines produce that nifty little green/yellow/red chart that makes a dot in the yellow area look so alarming. And these alarming results are a great way to sell more medication. So, the system is a win for the machine manufacturers, the drug makers, and the average physician who can now bill for the screening as well as any follow-up visits if a person started taking osteoporosis medication. The loser in this scenario is people like you and me who are being treated for something that may be nothing more than normal aging.

The nurse at my doctor’s office sent me home with the recommendation to start taking calcium supplements (2400 mg per day) and instructions for how to use a resistance band. She said I might hear from my doctor if he also wanted me to start taking an osteoporosis medication (no call yet!)

Here is the bottom line – osteoporosis is a bad thing. It puts you at risks for fractures, which can lead to other health problems and even premature death. (And if you have IBS, you might be at greater risk for osteoporosis – click here to read more about that!) Therefore it is important to eat calcium-rich foods, to make sure that your vitamin D levels are adequate, to eat a clean diet, and to do both weight-bearing and resistance exercises.

So, although I am no longer concerned about my osteopenia diagnosis, I am not going to turn a blind eye to any risk for osteoporosis and I will keep doing all of my healthy things. What I am not going to do is to take a calcium supplement, as there are concerns about calcium supplementation increasing one’s risk for osteoporosis. I will go back next year to be re-screened. I want to see how my bones look compared to themselves – not as compared to a 30-year-old woman.

Please remember that I am not a medical doctor. You need to have an open discussion with your doctor about your own personal risk factors. The information I have just provided you is intended to prompt you to do your own research so that you can make an educated decision for yourself – as opposed to be unnecessarily treated due to a self-serving nifty little color-coded chart.

UPDATE: My primary care physician has now informed me that the recommendations for osteoporosis screening put out by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have changed. In the absence of risk factors, screening should not occur until a woman is 65 years old. If my gynecologist had known this, I wouldn’t have been screened at all – and would have been spared from unnecessary testing and anxiety.

The Bottom Line?!?!

Get educated and work with your doctor on an approach that is safe and conservative, not one that is profitable for unscrupulous companies.


Eating Clean: A Long and Winding Road

eatingcleanHave you heard the term “eating clean”? It means to eat foods as Mother Nature intended them to be – free of pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, additives, preservatives – all of the not-so-wonderful wonders of the modern age. Although this sounds great in theory – and certainly optimal for our health – it is not always so easy to achieve and most definitely rarely happens overnight.

I was listening to a lecture given by Joshua Rosenthal, the Founder of IIN, the nutrition school I am attending, and was struck by a point that he made – that learning to eat in a way that encourages health and healing is a process. This got me to thinking about my own road to eating clean and how I am constantly making tweaks that bring my nutrition up to a new level. And, I recognize that sometimes I hit potholes (holidays, birthdays and that once a year hot dog!)

I also am keenly aware that for people with digestive issues, such as IBS, the road to eating clean can be a perilous one. Sometimes eating fruits and vegetables makes you feel worse, therefore it seems safer to avoid them. This is one of the reasons that I am so grateful for the FODMAPs researchers. They have provided people with a list of fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are less likely to cause distress, helping IBSers to eat these nutritious foods with more confidence.

My coaching mentor, Jeanette Walker, offers a helpful approach for steering on the road to eating clean – that of the notion of “bad, better, best.” This simple driving direction can be so useful as you evaluate the things that you typically eat. Can you take something that would be on the bad list – overly processed, filled with ingredients that you would have to be a scientist to know what they truly are – and find a substitute that is a little cleaner? Can you find a recipe and make it yourself so that you can ensure that you are using ingredients that your great-grandmother would easily recognize?

I am on the road to eating clean, but still have many waypoints to get to. A big area for me is in terms of finding (and affording) beef, chicken and pork for my carnivorous house mates that come from animals that have been raised humanely.

So, my fellow “happy health nuts” get on the road to clean eating! Read those labels, buy organic when practical, and cook your own foods!

Related Reading:


What Doritos Have to Do with Your Health

dorito effect

I just love reading books about the relationship between nutrition and health! How about you?

My latest read, The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker, offers a fascinating look at how the development of so-called “natural flavors” have contributed to our current health crisis of rising rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

It turns out that Doritos are the first food that don’t taste like what they actually are. Prior to Doritos, corn chips tasted like corn chips and potato chips tasted like potato chips. Doritos are corn chips that taste like tacos! And buffalo chicken, and ranch dressing, etc., etc., etc. The use of “natural flavors” has expanded exponentially, so that you are consuming them when you eat almost anything.

What does this have to do with health? According to Schatzker, over the last century food producers have been breeding for yield, not flavor. Bite into any supermarket sold tomato and this fact will instantly be confirmed. However, this also apparently extends to livestock – for example, chicken today is bland and tasteless when compared to how chickens tasted at the turn of last century.

Schatzker provides a very convincing argument that science has established that nutrition and flavor go hand in hand. The more nutrients, the better the flavor. The less flavor, the less nutrients. He also explains that we have inner sensors that “turn off” hunger and provide a sense of satiation when we have taken in enough nutrients. When we eat foods like Doritos, in which the flavor comes from “natural flavorings”, and not from actual nutrients, our bodies will keep on eating as they are awaiting nutrients. This explains why we can eat an entire bag of Doritos, but have no interest in bingeing out on broccoli.

Your takeaway? Here is another reason to eat whole foods. Foods that contain the nutrients that are bodies need for ideal, healthy functioning. When you do this, you will be working with your body’s natural shut-off valve, thereby reducing cravings that lead to over-eating.

Do you find this topic as fascinating as I do? Then order Schatzker’s book!



Rice Cooker: A Health Nut’s Best Friend

2014-02-05 17.35.27

Do you know what a rice cooker is? It’s like a slow cooker for rice – in other words – it does the cooking for you!!! Once you have one, you will wonder how you ever survived without one. You can significantly up your nutrition game with this simple appliance as it takes away all of the difficulty of cooking whole grains.

As a creature of habit, I make out my grocery list once a week by coming up with menus for each night’s dinner. Brown rice as a side dish required scheduling – I could only cook it on a day when I knew that I could hang around the kitchen. As I like to walk the dog in the late afternoon after work, this was a big problem. I can’t say how many times the rice would come out a little funky because I had to turn off the flame when a child needed to be picked up somewhere.

Now that I have treated myself to a rice cooker, brown rice is a no-brainer. I just measure, rinse, add water, set the timer, and I am a free woman! And, rice actually tastes like it does when you get it from the Chinese restaurant – light and fluffy as opposed to the mushy stuff I usually ended up with no matter what I tried.

With a rice cooker, you will feel like you have your own servant. One night recently, I made a chicken recipe in the slow cooker and had the rice cooker cooking the brown rice. Dinner was truly cooking itself!

The rice cooker cooks more than just rice. The other morning I realized that someone had eaten the last of the leftover brown rice I had been planning on taking for my lunch. I quick popped some quinoa in the rice cooker before my shower. By the time I was ready to leave for work, I not only had quinoa for my lunch, but now I had leftover quinoa for breakfast for the rest of the week! The rice cooker has also played a big role in my new-found love of amaranth porridge – I no longer have to stand and stir until the porridge is cooked through.

So, I highly recommend that you add a rice cooker to that birthday list that already has an immersion blender on it. The right tools go a long way toward helping you to be a happy health nut!

Here is a link to Amazon’s collection:


Coaching versus Therapy: Which Is Better?



I am not really an education junkie…

Okay, maybe I am a little bit of an education junkie, but my main motivation for learning, learning, learning is always to better serve my clients.

I am proud to announce that I have just received certification as a Mastery Coach in the Transformational Coaching Method through the Health Coach Institute. This means that I now have advanced skills for helping my clients to achieve the enduring mindset and habit changes that allow them to quickly achieve their health goals – quiet bellies and the energy and freedom to do the things they love doing, which of course leads to happier, more satisfying lives.

As a former psychologist, I am in the unique position of being able to compare the benefits of therapy and coaching. And for me, right now, I believe that coaching is the better way to go.

Therapy is still a very valuable pursuit – particularly if you are struggling with deep depression, really debilitating anxiety, or un-processed trauma.

But if your issues are more around health, stress, dissatisfaction with the way your life is going, coaching is the better choice. If you ever find yourself saying, “this can’t be the life I was meant to have,” then coaching is the better choice.

Why have I become such a big fan of coaching?

  • Results are faster!!!!
  • Change is coming from within and so the effects are much more likely to endure
  • The focus is shifted away from the negatives of the past
  • The focus is instead on creating the future that YOU want
  • Self-care becomes easy and natural
  • Self-esteem rises naturally as goals are reached
  • Self-esteem rises naturally as you become aware of your unique gifts
  • Health improves without a lot of fuss as self-care is prioritized
  • Weight loss happens naturally as self-care is prioritized
  • And did I say, results are faster!!!!

As I have shifted my professional life away from doing psychotherapy to health coaching, I see all of the above every day. And, because I had to be coached as part of my training, I have also personally experienced all of the above. Life is now filled with such wonderful possibility!

I have heard it said, “Therapy takes you from bad to good, coaching takes you from good to great.” Just think – no athlete achieves success without a great coach. But in life – our biggest endeavor ever – we all too often try to go it alone. In this insane food culture that we live in, that approach can literally shorten your life – or keep your bowels in an uproar…

Change all starts with one potentially life-saving conversation. Click here to learn more about what my new coaching skills can do for you.

In love and gratitude,


My Great Kefir Experiment


kefir grains

If you have been reading my digestive health articles, you will certainly have heard me recommend fermented foods. Fermented foods are filled with a wide variety of strains of probiotics – so, so good for your digestive and overall health.

After I read Chris Kresser’s article on the health benefits of kefir, a fermented milk product, I have been a fan. I was particularly interested in the vitamin K2 of kefir – because it appears to be important for vitamin D to do its thing – and I always test low on vitamin D. I started buying store-bought brands of kefir, but didn’t always love the ingredients label. However, I read in so many places that it is simple to make your own kefir – so I thought I would give it a try.

I ordered my grains from a company called Cultures for Health as they got good reviews on Amazon. I followed their directions exactly. The first few days, nothing happened  and I poured a lot of milk down the drain. This is apparently normal as the freeze-dried grains need to become activated.

But on day three, the milk thickened up – I was ridiculously happy about this – I am not sure why – but it gave me such a thrill. Don’t laugh at me – but it felt like I had created life! Here is what it looked like:

Cultured kefir

Then I ran into a snag. The grains no longer seemed to be thickening up the kefir and I was afraid to drink the milk, fearful that I was drinking milk that had gone bad instead of kefir itself! I wrote the company – their customer service was fantastic! They helped me to understand that part of the problem may have been that my house is too cold (It is cold! I once had a goldfish that lived nine years!) Once I moved the jar into the warmest room of the house, it has been consistently giving me delicious kefir each morning! My green smoothies have never tasted better:

Green smoothie with kefir

As you know, I am a pretty busy person. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it only takes me about two minutes each morning to strain the grains out of the kefir and place them into some fresh milk to create tomorrow’s kefir. It feels a bit like taking care of a pet – and it makes me ridiculously happy to see the grains growing and thriving.

But as a digestive health expert, I know health is all about bacteria. One of the reasons that I love composting is because I know that my kitchen scraps create bacteria for my garden soil that then nurture the plants that nurture my body.  When I say making kefir makes me ridiculously happy, it is because my feeding these pet-like grains gets rewarded with them feeding me health-enhancing bacteria. Circle of life…

Hopefully, I have inspired you to start making your own kefir. Learn from my mistakes!

  1. Kefir cannot be cultivated from ultra-pasteurized milk. I had to search high and low to find pasteurized milk. I eventually found some at Trader Joe’s.
  2. Kefir needs a warm, stable temperature, somewhere in the range of 68°- 85°F.
  3. As soon as it smells sweet, it is kefir and not rotten milk!
  4. I like the taste better after it has been chilled. So each morning I put the new batch in the refrigerator and drink yesterday’s batch.

P.S. If you are lactose intolerant –  kefir can still be your thing! The fermentation process takes care of most of the lactose. You can also make kefir using coconut milk or coconut water.