DOWNLOAD MY CROHN’S AND ULCERATIVE COLITIS FOOD SURVIVAL GUIDE!
Hi, I'm Danielle Gaffen, MS, RDN, LD
Learn more about my story, and the reasons I decided to become an IBD Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who focuses on Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
My husband has Crohn's disease.
I want you to know: I don’t just counsel people with inflammatory bowel diseases. I live with someone who has one.
My husband, Ari, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 17. He’s 6 feet and weighed 127 pounds at his lowest due to symptoms of the disease. He literally became afraid to eat because he associated all foods with pain, diarrhea, and discomfort. He’s also struggled with complications of the disease like iron and B12 deficiencies.
Upon working together, we learned that he’s lactose intolerant, but also has sensitivities to artificial sugars, red meat, caffeine, and alcohol. By focusing more on foods that made him feel good, eating the macros and micronutrients to give him energy, and learning which foods actually did cause pain, discomfort, and digestive issues, we lowered the pain after eating, improved his digestive issues, and slowly but surely removed the fear and anxiety from eating!
Since we’ve been together, I’m proud to report my husband has gained a healthy amount of weight to feel better and have enough energy to make it through the day.
My mom had an ostomy bag and became malnourished.
My interest in nutrition grew when my mom developed 3 perforations in her colon after taking pain medications and steroids for a rare autoimmune reaction she developed, transverse myelitis. From complications of the disease, she needed two feet of her intestines removed (and a temporary ileostomy bag), lost 55 pounds, and needed IV nutrition just to stay alive. I realized how powerful food and nutrition can help manage symptoms and help the gut heal.
The contrast of these very distinct diseases has allowed me to understand, both professionally and personally, that nutrition looks very different for each person and gut disease.
I obtained my master's degree in nutrition and earned my registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) credential.
Understanding the link between nutrition and gut disease prompted me to obtain my master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University while concurrently enrolled in the Didactic Program of Dietetics (DPD).
I completed over 1000 supervised practice hours in clinical, food service management, school nutrition education, and community areas of nutritional science. To obtain my RDN credential, I passed the national board exam. This credential can assure you that I have the necessary knowledge and experience to help you on your nutritional journey. To maintain my credential, I will need to complete continuing professional education hours so that I am offering you the most current nutrition therapy based on validated peer-reviewed research.
Giving Back to the Community
Beyond my professional and personal life, giving back to the community is a core value of mine. I’ve had the privilege of volunteering in the following capacities:
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation
• Healthcare Provider Committee Member: Collaborate with San Diego IBD healthcare professionals to advance IBD understanding, improve patient outcomes, and enhance the quality of life for those with Crohn’s and colitis.
• Champions of Hope Gala Committee Member: Contribute to event planning, fundraising efforts, and advocate for the needs of the IBD community.
• Guest Speaker: Provide nutrition education on inflammatory bowel disease to chapters nationwide.
• Medical Volunteer at Camp Oasis: Proudly serve as the first-ever dietitian volunteer on California’s Camp Oasis’ IBD medical staff, assisting children with Crohn’s and colitis by ensuring their confidence in food options and addressing any confusion they might have.
Alive & Kicking: An Ostomy Recovery Program with Rolf Benirschke
• Volunteer Dietitian: Create comprehensive educational materials, including videos and written content, focusing on nutrition for individuals anticipating or recovering from ostomy surgery.
I'm honored to help people like my husband and mom.
Now I work with people who have Crohn’s and colitis who are struggling with confusion around what to eat to manage symptoms, which leads to a limited diet, weight loss, and fatigue. I help my clients:
- Find food triggers to reduce symptoms
- Learn more about personalized nutrition for a healthy gut
- Build confidence to eat without fear
- Get back to a healthy weight and improve energy levels
- Manage flares and lower inflammation with diet