The reason that I love treating Crohn’s disease is because there are so many natural and dietary treatment options available. These make a huge difference, can improve the symptoms and heal the ulceration without the need for medication.With a good nutritional plan you have the power to control Crohn’s and remain symptom free for life. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any portion of the digestive tract between the mouth and the bowel. It causes painful ulceration and inflammation that can lead to a host of symptoms such as pain, cramping, tender abdomen, gas, bleeding bowel movements or diarrhea. The ulceration is most common in the large and small intestines. Nutritional deficiencies are common as absorption of nutrients is compromised leading to a cascade of other problems. Often Crohn’s disease goes undiagnosed for years as it can only be determined via a colonoscopy or endoscopy investigation. Symptoms can seem similar to irritable bowel syndrome. Medical treatment involves long term anti-inflammatories that come with many side effects. While they may keep symptoms under control the effects wear off as quickly once they are stopped. For more severe flare ups immunosuppressant drugs might be given to get the symptoms under control.
A Naturopathic approach to Crohn’s disease:
Because Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder, one of the main factors to address is immune health. Reducing autoimmune tendencies is the most important long term strategy to reducing symptoms and this can be addressed using dietary techniques or using herbal medicines.
The second step to treatment always revolves around healing the gut and mucous and reducing ulceration and inflammation. There are a range of well researched nutritional and herbal medicines that can aid Crohn’s. Turmeric and ginger are amazing herbs that reduce inflammation in the gut. Increasing essentials fatty acid ingestion via flaxseed oil, fish, avocado, nuts and seed oils also reduces inflammation. Herbal medicines such as aloe vera, licorice, meadowsweet, chamomile and slippery elm all reduce ulceration and help to heal the mucosal lining.
Food intolerances play a huge role in Crohn’s. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of sufferers will have a food intolerance (or more) that is causing their flares. Investigating food intolerances via IgG food intolerance testing is a fantastic way to determine if food intolerances are playing a role for you. Identifying food intolerances also gives us a long term mechanism for controlling the disease- simply avoiding the problematic foods may be all that is needed.
Digestive enzymes can aid the breakdown of meals to take the strain off the digestive tract as often Crohn’s sufferers will have low pancreatic enzymes, bile flow and stomach acid production.
There has also a link between microbial infection in the digestive tract and the development or flare of Crohn’s. A stool analysis to assess whether you have a yeast, bacterial and parasitic infection is an important step. There are also specific strains of probiotics available that will help to heal the gut and reduce inflammation.
Stress levels also have a huge impact on Crohn’s disease and often a flare will be the result of a stressful period. Learning strategies to reduce stress levels and manage stress for life is an essential part of controlling the condition.
Poor diet can contribute to the development of Crohn’s. A high sugar or high animal product diet can make it worse. Low fibre, low vegetables, low fruit intake and low wholegrains can also contribute.
10 key steps to controlling Crohn’s symptoms
1- Balance the immune system and reduce auto-immune tendencies
2- Reduce gut based inflammation
3- Heal the gut mucosa and prevent further ulceration
4- Reduce systemic inflammatory levels
5- Test for and avoid food intolerances
6- Stimulate digestion by improving acid and enzyme production
7- Check for gut infection
8- Re-populate the gut with beneficial flora
9- Follow a healthy, clean, anti-inflammatory diet
10- Manage stress levels
While following these steps can go a long way to helping you along your way, they do not replace the proper evaluation of a trained naturopath experienced in treating this condition. For further help and advice please contact me at the practice on 02 9518 0722