Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is not something to take lightly. Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can be life-altering and sometimes even life-threatening. Between time spent in the bathroom and time spent in the hospital, IBD can be downright miserable. Mainstream medicine tells us there’s “no cure” and that it’s something you’ll have to deal with for the rest of your life, but is that really true? Since conventional treatment options are restricted to symptom management with medications and surgery, many people are starting to seek out integrative care and natural remedies. Believe it or not, dietary changes and herbal medicine can go a long way toward improving quality of life for those suffering from IBD.
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an umbrella term for chronic inflammatory disorders of the digestive tract. It refers to two main conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (1)
- Crohn’s disease is a condition of an inflamed digestive tract. While it most commonly affects the small intestine, it can also affect the large intestine (colon) and upper GI. Crohn’s disease may inflame only the outer lining or reach deeper layers of gastrointestinal tissue. It can also cause symptoms outside the GI tract, like eye pain.
- Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a disease of the large intestine (colon – hence, “colitis”). It is characterized by inflammation and ulceration (sores) in the lining of the colon and may also affect the rectum. UC is especially associated with bleeding from the intestines, causing blood in the stool.
Both Crohn’s and colitis range in severity. Some patients have mild symptoms and may have years of remission between flares. Others struggle daily or weekly and take several medications to bear the pain. Severe IBD may lead to surgical removal of parts of the intestines.
Symptoms of IBD
The symptoms of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis overlap quite a bit. These are some of the main signs and symptoms of IBD:
- Abdominal pain
- Constipation, diarrhea, or alternating between the two
- Multiple bowel movements a day
- Rectal bleeding (especially ulcerative colitis)
- Weight loss
IBD patients can go months or years without symptoms or may have to be on disability benefits due to unrelenting digestive symptoms, fatigue, and pain.
How is IBD Different from IBS?
Many people confuse IBD with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). While it’s possible to have both conditions, IBS is a functional disorder (syndrome) causing a collection of symptoms, while IBD is an autoimmune disease that causes destruction in the gut lining. (2)
Symptoms of IBS include many of the same symptoms as IBD, including pain, cramping, and bloating. However, IBS is a condition of disordered movement through the gut and doesn’t involve serious damage and bleeding in the intestines as IBD does. IBD may lead to hospitalization, while IBS is usually addressed through outpatient care.
How is IBD Diagnosed?
Patients struggling with their digestive health may first go in their primary care doctor with symptom complaints. After some testing, they may be referred to the gastroenterology department. A gastroenterologist will then recommend a combination of follow-up lab testing, endoscopies, and/or imaging procedures. (3)
- Blood tests – Used to check for anemia or elevated white blood cell count from bacteria, viral, or parasitic infections.
- Stool tests – Used to detect blood or parasites in the stool.
- Colonoscopy – Used to get a picture of the entire colon with a lit-up tube and camera. A sample of tissue (a biopsy) may be taken along the way.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy – This procedure is used when the colon is too inflamed to perform a whole colonoscopy. It just scopes the rectum and sigmoid, the last section of the colon.
- Upper Endoscopy – Upper endoscopy is used to examine the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine (duodenum) when Crohn’s disease is suspected.
- Capsule Endoscopy – The capsule version is occasionally used to confirm Crohn’s disease in the small intestine. The patient swallows a capsule with a camera inside, and the images are transferred to a recorder. The capsule passes through the system safely and painlessly.
- Balloon-Assisted Enteroscopy – This test allows the medical professional to see further into the small intestine, which would not otherwise be visible with a standard endoscope.
- X-rays – X-rays help rule out serious complications, like a toxic megacolon, perforated colon, or tumor.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans – A CT scan provides more detail than an x-ray and can give images of the inside and outside of the intestines.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – MRIs use radio waves and a magnetic field to get detailed images inside the body. In the case of IBD, MRIs help to examine fistulas in the anus or small intestine.
These procedures can help determine that a dis-ease process is taking place. However, that’s only the first step. Next, it’s time to determine what can be done for the inflamed intestinal tract and restore digestion.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we describe the mainstream viewpoint on healthcare versus our understanding and methods as the “fireman approach” or the “carpenter approach.”
Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out in a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.
The Wellness Way doctors are like carpenters. They assess the damage with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild the body with the required nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are additional natural therapies that help with healing.
While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or even “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness in healing.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to IBD
Mainstream medicine looks at IBD and other autoimmune diseases as genetically determined. They may even be convinced that what you do or how you eat has nothing to do with the condition. Therefore, first-line treatment of IBD involves suppressing the symptoms with a medication and hoping it works. If it doesn’t, they’ll prescribe another to try. If nothing helps, there’s always surgery.
Common Medications For IBD
Conventional treatment of IBD includes a variety of medications, including corticosteroids, immune system suppressants, antibiotics, and biologic agents. Some are used for life and others are only used short-term during disease flare-ups.
When you look at common medications for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, you might be surprised to find the side effects are similar to the disease symptoms. A common drug for ulcerative colitis, mesalamine, “may cause intestinal bleeding.” Yet, it’s given to treat intestinal bleeding…
Here are the most prescribed medications for Crohn’s and colitis: (3)
- Corticosteroids: Examples include budesonide (Uceris), prednisone (Prednisone Intensol, Rayos), prednisolone (Millipred, Prelone), and methylprednisolone (Medrol, Depo-Medrol), are all glucocorticoids used for IBD.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: Examples include mesalamine (Rowasa), balsalazide (Colazal), and olsalazine (Dipentum).
- Immunomodulator drugs: Methotrexate (Otrexup, Trexall, Rasuvo), azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran), mercaptopurine (Purixan)
- Biologics: Examples include infliximab (Remicade), adalimumab (Humira), golimumab (Simponi), certolizumab (Cimzia), vedolizumab (Entyvio)
- Antibiotics: These may be used if gut infections are an issue. Frequently prescribed ones include ciprofloxacin (“Cipro”) and metronidazole (Flagyl).
And there are others…
These medications suppress the inflammatory response and may help with symptoms. However, they work by suppressing the immune response. It makes sense if you see the problem behind autoimmune disease as an overactive immune response.
However, what’s associated with an underactive immune response? Cancer. If you suppress the immune system over time, you increase the risk for cancer –especially colorectal or colon cancer.
Surgical Procedures For IBD
If the medication route isn’t working for IBD, or if cancer develops, gastroenterologists may recommend surgery: (4)
- Strictureplasty – for a narrowed part of the intestine.
- Removal or closure of a fistula – (an abnormal connection or tunnel between the intestine and skin or other places).
- Removal of diseased sections of the intestines – especially in Crohn’s patients.
- Removal of the entire colon and rectum – especially in ulcerative colitis patients.
If IBD hasn’t progressed to that point, there’s a lot you can do by addressing the contributing factors to this dis-ease process.
What Causes IBD? Trauma, Toxins, & Thoughts
While mainstream medicine admits certain toxins may contribute to IBD, they are slow to consider natural treatments like detoxification or adding nutritional supplements. At The Wellness Way, we know there are always several contributing factors to dis-ease. Addressing them naturally can allow the body to heal itself. Here are the three categories of stressors, as delineated by the chiropractic field: Traumas, Toxins, and Thoughts.
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute or chronic. Chronic subluxations in the spine can inhibit nerve and blood flow to the small intestine, leading to dis-ease there, and triggering an autoimmune response. Other potential traumas behind IBD include:
- Neck injuries
- Sexual assault/rape
- Car accident
- Severe illness or infection
- Witnessing violence or a natural disaster
- Military combat – PTSD
- Having a baby
- A death in the family or a close friend
Physical traumas and the potential of chiropractic care should not be underestimated when it comes to inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers have found that chiropractic care and spinal manipulation can help to calm the nervous system, taking the body out of fight-or-flight and allowing it to heal. (5)
Traumas are made worse when coupled with toxic exposures.
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
Toxins are biochemical stressors that may be either natural or synthetic. Toxins associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease/Crohn’s or colitis include:
- Medications – Chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) increase your chances of developing IBD. (6)
- Bacterial Infections – Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP) is the infection most associated with both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (7) Salmonella or Campylobacter also increases the risk of developing UC. (8)
- Dysbiosis – An imbalance within the bacterial environment can also contribute to Crohn’s and colitis. (9)
- Viral Infections – Inflammation can activate dormant viruses like cytomegalovirus, worsening the inflammation and contributing to UC. (10)
- Sugar – Continuing to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods increases your likelihood of a flare. (11)
Keep in mind that most infections are opportunistic, meaning they are more likely to occur if the body is already compromised. Traumas and toxins are made worse by negative thought patterns and emotional stress.
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Emotional stress is a significant contributor to inflammatory bowel disease and may make it difficult to heal. Here are some contributors to emotional stress or negative thoughts, which may lead to chronic illness or dis-ease:
- Watching or reading the news (fear/worry)
- Emotional stress from marriage, financial, career, or other issues
- A state of overwhelm by major life changes, such as marriage, a new baby, graduation, divorce, or even moving to a new city.
- Grief/feelings of loss
- Pent up anger
Research published in 2020 confirmed the fact that psychological stress (acute or chronic) could lead to a leaky gut and, eventually, a diagnosis of autoimmune disease, like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. (12)
The Wellness Way Approach to Inflammation in The Gut
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We start with testing to see where there may be imbalances and then develop a personalized nutrition and supplement plan to help your body heal itself.
Important Tests For Assessing Your Gut and Immune Health
With Inflammatory Bowel Disease, it’s critical to first lower inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and then find out what’s going on with the gut microbiome. Finding which foods are triggering the immune response and eliminating them is one of the most critical ways to allow the gut to heal.
Here are some commonly recommended tests at The Wellness Way:
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
- Antibody Test: Aurora Life Sciences – Autoimmune 30+
Testing depends on which ones your Wellness Way practitioner considers most important for your health history.
Dietary Changes For Those With Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases
First and foremost, we must lower inflammation so the gut can heal. That means avoiding your food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as recommended by your Wellness Way practitioner. These are some additional guidelines for inflammatory and autoimmune conditions:
- No sugar or processed foods – Both increase inflammation. Certain additives used in processed food, such as carboxymethylcellulose, polysorbate-80, carrageenan, maltodextrin, titanium dioxide, sulfates, and guar gum, may increase the risk of flares. (13)
- Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, keeping autoimmune conditions active. Following a gluten-free diet may improve symptoms in those with IBD. (14)
- No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated –and even beneficial. (15)
- Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory. (16) Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm, or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
- Avoid alcohol – Alcohol compromises the intestinal lining, increases inflammation, and alters the bacterial balance, causing dysbiosis. (17)
- Consume an overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods.
- Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program, based on your food allergy test results.
- Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for added nutrition.
- Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, and foods high in polyphenols can help keep inflammation under control.
- Omega-3-rich foods – Wild caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. (18)
Diet is paramount, but supplements can help the body in healing the digestive tract.
Supplements For Supporting Gut Health + Balancing The Immune Response
Every patient is different, but some supplements used at The Wellness Way for those struggling with digestive and immune imbalances are the following:
- Apple Cider Vinegar – In an animal model of UC, vinegar supplementation reduced inflammation and disease activity while increasing good gut bacteria. (19)
- Albizia – Albizia herb has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which may be helpful for IBD. (20)
- Vitamin D3 – Vitamin D supports the immune response and helps normalize gut bacteria balance in IBD. It also helps maintain a healthy intestinal barrier. (21)
- Rehmannia – “Nature’s corticosteroid”? Rehmannia is very supportive of a balanced immune response. It improves the gut bacterial balance in UC and strengthens the gut lining. (22)
- Chamomile – Chamomile reduces inflammation and supports intestinal healing in ulcerative colitis. (23)
- Licorice – A compound in licorice has been shown to lower inflammatory markers and help heal the gut in an animal model of ulcerative colitis. (24)
- Boswellia – An extract from Boswellia serrata (a type of frankincense) was similar to mesalazine in its effects on those with Crohn’s disease. (25) It also helped those with ulcerative colitis achieve remission. (26)
- Wormwood – Wormwood can block the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha, which may help Crohn’s patients stay in remission. (27)
- Turmeric – Curcumin, the main active constituent in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties and is promising for IBD patients. (28)
- Bromelain – Bromelain, a blend of enzymes from fruit (often pineapple), decreases the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the gut. (29)
- Aloe vera gel – The gel inside the aloe leaf soothes the gut lining, promotes healing, and supports a normal immune response in those with ulcerative colitis. (30, 31)
- Fish oil/omega-3 fatty acids – Crohn’s patients who took fish oil were twice as likely to stay in remission from their disease as those on a placebo supplement. (32)
- Enzymes – Digestive enzymes, like those contained in Well-Zymes, can support digestion and reduce symptoms of gas and bloating.
- Probiotics – Megabiotic Powder may support an ideal microbial balance in the gut.
- Prebiotic – Chicory Root Inulin and other prebiotic fibers and starches can feed the good bacteria in the gut and promote a healthy mucus lining in the intestines. (33)
- Cannabis – Cannabis is a potent anti-inflammatory that a systematic review found may help with symptoms of IBD. (34)
Everyone is different – what works for one person may not work for another. Part of that is due to body chemistry, including genetics and allergenic responses, and part is due to differences in the contributing causes of IBD.
Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies to Support IBD
- Regular chiropractic care – Chiropractic care helps to improve blood flow and nerve flow while decreasing overall physical stress on the body.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture has a beneficial effect on gut dysbiosis, intestinal barrier function, gut hypersensitivity, movement of food through the gut, and pain. (35)
- Enemas – Doc recommends aloe and/or coffee enemas for some people with IBD. They may help to soothe the mucosal lining of the gut.
Be a well-informed patient! Here are some resources for learning more about Inflammatory Bowel Disease and autoimmune conditions.
Educational Resources For Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Videos & Webinars Related to Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Articles to Support Those With Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Autoimmune Disease is NOT an Immune Issue
- Normalizing Autoimmune Disease –Is It Really a Lifelong Diagnosis?
- What Causes Leaky Gut and How Can You Heal It?
CONNECT WITH US!
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help!
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
- Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: History, Pathophysiology, Clinical Features and Rome IV – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
- Surgery for Crohn’s Disease | Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (crohnscolitisfoundation.org)
- Neurobiological basis of chiropractic manipulative treatment of the spine in the care of major depression – PMC (nih.gov)
- NSAIDs, gastrointestinal toxicity and inflammatory bowel disease – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease: is Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis the common villain? – PMC (nih.gov)
- Enteric Salmonella or Campylobacter infections and the risk of inflammatory bowel disease – PubMed (nih.gov)
- doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2004.03.024 (gastrojournal.org)
- Cytomegalovirus and ulcerative colitis: Place of antiviral therapy – PMC (nih.gov)
- The Role of Diet in the Pathogenesis and Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Review – PMC (nih.gov)
- Psychological Stress, Intestinal Barrier Dysfunctions, and Autoimmune Disorders: An Overview – PubMed (nih.gov)
- What Should I Eat? | Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (crohnscolitisfoundation.org)
- Prevalence of a gluten-free diet and improvement of clinical symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases – PubMed (nih.gov)
- In vitro evaluation of immunomodulatory activities of goat milk Extracellular Vesicles (mEVs) in a model of gut inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation – PMC (nih.gov)
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in primary Sjögren’s syndrome: clinical meaning and association with inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Vinegar Treatment Prevents the Development of Murine Experimental Colitis via Inhibition of Inflammation and Apoptosis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Anti-inflammatory activity of Albizia lebbeck Benth., an ethnomedicinal plant, in acute and chronic animal models of inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Vitamin D Modulates Intestinal Microbiota in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Rehmannia glutinosa polysaccharides attenuates colitis via reshaping gut microbiota and short-chain fatty acid production – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Antioxidant Supplements and Gastrointestinal Diseases: A Critical Appraisal – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Licorice protects against ulcerative colitis via the Nrf2/PINK1-mediated mitochondrial autophagy – PubMed (nih.gov)
- [Therapy of active Crohn disease with Boswellia serrata extract H 15] – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with ulcerative colitis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Steroid-sparing effect of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) in Crohn’s disease: a double-blind placebo-controlled study – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Curcumin and Its Modified Formulations on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): The Story So Far and Future Outlook – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Bromelain Treatment Decreases Secretion of Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines and Chemokines by Colon Biopsies In Vitro – PMC (nih.gov)
- Anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera gel in human colorectal mucosa in vitro – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral aloe vera gel for active ulcerative colitis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Effect of an Enteric-Coated Fish-Oil Preparation on Relapses in Crohn’s Disease | NEJM
- Studies with inulin-type fructans on intestinal infections, permeability, and inflammation – PubMed (nih.gov)
- A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy of Cannabis and Cannabinoids for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: What Can We Learn From Randomized and Nonrandomized Studies? – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Acupuncture in Inflammatory Bowel Disease – PubMed (nih.gov)