Elkridge resident's journey to better health becomes a career

For Howard Magazine
When life gave her lemons, she made broths, stocks, fermented foods and, ultimately, a career.

When Gina Rieg’s life gave her lemons, she didn’t make lemonade — she made broths, stocks, fermented foods and, ultimately, a career.

Starting in college, Rieg suffered from debilitating cramps and bleeding caused by ulcerative colitis, a digestive disorder. After a decade of taking medications that treated symptoms but not their cause, Rieg, now 34, began a food regimen to alter her gut bacteria and better address her illness, even as she completed certification in health coaching from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition at the State University of New York.

The Elkridge resident, now a certified health coach and a graduate of the Nutritional Therapy Association’s Practitioner program, founded Simplified Wellness For You (formerly Simplistic Wholistic) to explain and advocate for this switch of gut flora via a menu of “a la carte” classes, groups, corporate wellness programs and individual counseling.

Emphasizing “real food” that hasn’t been processed, Rieg teaches tried-and-true recipes “to incorporate traditional food ways [such as fermentation] into modern lives.” Through field trips to health food stores, for instance, she’s taught clients her philosophy on selecting gut-friendly foods.

Her work is “not about short-term change but a food lifestyle,” she says. Those changes in diet are designed to help not only people with digestive diseases but those suffering from migraines, weight problems, fatigue and even asthma.

With demonstrations and samples of finished products, “[Rieg] makes it very approachable, going step by step so you don’t worry about the whole process at once,” says Mandie Benge of Columbia, whose digestive issues have benefited from both individual and group instruction.

Student Jim Renae of Columbia, too, has found that incorporating fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut into his diet has made a huge difference for his stomach issues — and it’s one of the only measures that has helped.

Kris Berry, a Columbia resident, doesn’t have health problems to address, but an interest in healthy living brought her to Rieg’s classes. She has taken some more than once, learning more each time.

Although local, seasonal, unprocessed and chemical-free foods are part of the program, Rieg says she is not trying to return clients to hunting and gathering — she’s simply teaching people to view their diets as they were before commercial interests influenced them.

“It takes more time, energy and resources,” she acknowledges. “We put that into things which are important to us.” 

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