Kathleen is a registered dietitian working at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a private practice with 6 other registered dietitians located in Maryland. She is currently completing a graduate degree in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine as she is passionate about seeing a person as an interconnected whole instead of a diagnosis. Kathleen specializes in digestive disorders, specifically IBS, as she has her own personal history with digestive disorders and is dedicated to helping others with these conditions. Kathleen’s insight into the realities of these struggles provide her with the compassion necessary to help support her clients during their journey to overcome the fear of foods that have caused such unpleasant reactions. Outside of her work as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Kathleen enjoys being active and playing sports, spending time at the beach, watching the Washington Capitals, and traveling with friends and family.
The following is a recent Q&A with Kathleen regarding the importance of support groups for those with digestive illnesses.
Epicured: Why do you feel support groups for digestive illnesses can be so impactful?
Kathleen: I feel that support groups for digestive illnesses can be so impactful given the psychological impact that comes from a diagnosis. IBS is more than altered bowel habits. It causes anxiety and stress about everyday activities that others without IBS do not have to worry about, such as is there a restroom nearby? What ingredients are in this meal when eating out? And much more. Plus, stress and anxiety is a common trigger in digestive illnesses. It is a time for people to share experiences in an open and welcoming environment to show that we are all in this together and you are not alone!
Epicured: What do you ask of attendees in terms of sharing and participation? What can they expect of you?
Kathleen: No one is ever forced to share in the group, but I have realized that everyone does. Participants find ways to relate to one another and find it helpful to share. Sometimes we run out of time because of all of the sharing! I typically will bring up topics or prompts such as traveling with IBS and share a bit about my personal experiences with IBS, but I serve as an additional listening ear. At the same time, I will add in pieces of education about ways to cope with some common IBS setbacks, which everyone appreciates.
"Having the support group gives me a safe place to talk openly and freely about my IBS, when normally it would be embarrassing. It's comforting knowing that everyone else in the room has had their own battles, and that you're not alone."
-Quote from a support group member
Epicured: What kind of environment do you try to create at the meetings?
Kathleen: I work hard to create an informal environment so no one feels pressured or
uncomfortable. Making everyone feel comfortable is key for him or her to open up
since talking about IBS isn’t always easy in the beginning.
Epicured: How do Epicured snacks contribute to the environment?
Kathleen: The Epicured snacks have been amazing! It is a way for people to try different low FODMAP products, and it contributes to the open and welcoming environment I try to foster. Eating has a strong social component, and with IBS, at times the enjoyment of eating is reduced so the snacks contribute to a positive social
Epicured: How do patients typically react to the groups?
Kathleen: All of the patients have loved the group so far. They enjoy when I ask questions/give prompts which contribute to what they take away and put into action outside of the group.