Inflammatory bowel disease, most commonly manifesting as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, affects approximately 1 million Australians. It is one of over a hundred autoimmune Illnesses, in which the body’s defense forces (immune system) mistakenly attacks the body—in this case the small or large intestines.
Although standard medical therapies consist largely of steroids (prednisone), immune suppressants and modifiers (e.g., Remicade), salicylates and sometimes surgery to treat complications, the good news is that natural therapies can be very effective to both treat the cause of the inflammation and the inflammation itself.
Symptoms include persistent diarrhea, crampy abdominal pain, fever, and intermittent rectal bleeding. It is the latter two symptoms that distinguish inflammatory bowel disease from the more common (and more benign) spastic colon and irritable bowel syndrome.
Although Crohn’s disease most commonly affects the end of the small intestine (the ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine (the colon), it may involve any part of your intestines. In ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, bowel involvement is limited to the colon. In Crohn’s disease, there can be normal healthy bowel in between patches of diseased bowel. Ulcerative colitis causes a more continuous inflammation, which usually begins at the anus.
Natural Treatments for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Treat the nutritional deficiencies (which are widespread in Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis). Low zinc has been associated with markedly increased complications from inflammatory bowel disease (called fistula where the inflammations drains to the skin or other organs). We can test your zinc in the clinic. Also, a recent study showed vitamin D deficiency (which is associated with many autoimmune illnesses) plays a role in Crohn’s.
Herbs and Supplements. The herb Boswellia is VERY helpful for inflammatory bowel disease in general and it is very safe and well tolerated — being as or more effective for colitis than many of the medications. Turmeric is also beneficial as an anti-inflammatory, along with ginger which is specific for the gut. Chamomile is another prescribed herb due to its calming effect on the gut. Probiotics are also very important, especially taking a correct one, as we prescribe a specific type when dealing with inflammatory bowel disease. Slippery Elm is also recommended.
Treat food allergies. Obviously, gut inflammation is worse with food intolerances and allergies, as these irritants further create immune dysfunction. Though the food allergies may not be causing the inflammation, the inflammation will result in “leaky gut” and secondary food allergies, which may then cause more problems. For more information about the food intolerance testing we do at the clinic, click here.
Diet modifications. Talk to us about diet modifications you may need to make. Often, switching to a medeiterean-style diet is helpful, as it is rich in omega-3’s, which are good general anti-inflammatories. Triggers for gut inflammation also need to be avoided, like coffee and alcohol (very acidic for the intestinal tract).
Reduce stress. Stress can be a major factor in gut flare-ups so we also recommend a stress-reduction plan. Check out our 10 stress reducing tips here.