Crohn’s disease is a type of autoimmune Inflammatory Bowel Disease that involves chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Inflammatory bowel diseases are considered autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s own immune system attacks elements of the digestive system.
Crohn’s commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum), the beginning of the colon, and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from the mouth to the anus.
While Crohn’s disease may at first seem intolerable, one can combat it with holistic treatment and by becoming aware of food triggers. The following is crohn’s disease natural treatments information.
While the disease can occur at any age, Crohn’s Disease commonly has an onset in adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35. Men and women are equally likely to be affected, and Crohn’s disease may affect as many as 700,000 Americans
People with symptoms of Crohn’s disease are referred to Gastroenterologists, who focus on the digestive system and disorders that affect the digestive system. However, since there are many concomitant issues from which patients suffer, they may also be referred to other medical specialists like Rheumatologists, who treat diseases of the joints and connective tissues.
How Crohn’s Feels
Common symptoms of Crohn’s Disease include persistent diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, constipation, rectal bleeding, sensation of incomplete evacuation, and an urgent need to move bowels. General symptoms commonly associated with IBD are fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, and loss of one’s menstrual cycle. Crohn’s disease patients with significant bowel inflammation can lead to holes in the gut, called fistulas, which may require surgery to eliminate the diseased portion of the bowel.
How Crohn’s is Conventionally Treated
Crohn’s disease is usually treated with medicine that stops inflammation in the intestine and prevents flare-ups. Severe symptoms may require stronger medicines, a combination of medicines, or even surgery.
To control inflammation, doctors often suggest antidiarrheal medicine, antibiotics, aminosalicylates, and medicines that suppress the immune system. Severe symptoms may be treated with biologics or corticosteroids injected intravenously. Common pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for Crohn’s include loperamide (Imodium, for example), aminosalicylates such as sulfasalazine or mesalamine, antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin or metronidazole, and immunomodulator medicines like azathioprine and mercaptopurine. Severe Crohn’s symptoms are treated with biologics such as tumor necrosis factor inhibitors like infliximab or adalimumab along with corticosteroids such as budesonide or prednisone.
These medications may be necessary for some individuals, but they all have many potential side effects. They may increase the risk of infection, and they may induce high blood pressure or the onset of osteoporosis, just to name a few.
HOLISTIC HEALING FOR CROHN’S SUFFERERS
While Crohn’s disease may at first seem intolerable, one can combat it with holistic treatment and by becoming aware of food triggers. There are many ways to treat Crohn’s disease and if one takes proper care of themselves they can live with the disease. The various holistic treatments that can remedy and prevent symptoms of Crohn’s disease, like herbal medicine, aromatherapy, homeopathy, Ayurveda,Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, and acupressure, all help soothe flare-ups and prevent them from recurring.
Naturopathic medicine is “a comprehensive array of healing practices, including diet and clinical nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, hydrotherapy, therapeutic exercise, spinal and soft-tissue manipulation, physical therapies involving electric currents, ultrasound, and light therapy, therapeutic counseling, and pharmacology”. Naturopathy originates from the healing traditions of many ancient practices, including Traditional Chinese medicine, Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Native American medicine, and Greek Hippocratic medicine. Modern naturopathic doctors draw from the various traditions.
Modern Herbal Medicine comes from a rich background of ancient medicinal practices, ranging from Traditional Chinese Medicine in China, to Tibetan Medicine, to the system of Ayurveda in India. Each tradition has its own set of herbal medicines. Combinations of herbs that serve as medicines often come from particular regions in which they are grown, but with the modern accessibility of technology and the Internet, herbs can be shipped to almost any part of the world. The health benefits of natural medicinal plants are numerous and they can be ingested in a variety of ways. Many popular herbs are made into teas or tinctures that are then used to treat a range of conditions. Plant flavonoids (such as quercetin), for example, help reduce the inflammatory response which comes with Crohn’s disease.
Since each person has unique health needs, it is best to consult an herbalist in order to find which particular herbs are appropriate for your body.
Some common herbal tea infusions recommended by practitioners include:
- Chamomile and peppermint tea are beneficial for gas, colic, and diarrhea that come with Crohn’s disease. They help to soothe the lining of the stomach and intestines and to reduce spasms in these parts of the body that lead to symptoms. Warm tea infusions of chamomile or lemon balm should be taken frequently.
- Licorice root tea combined with slippery elm bark, marshmallow, yarrow, geranium, or goldenseal has a similar calming effect.
- Warm Tea Infusions of chamomile or lemon balm may be taken frequently to calm the intestines.
- Astringents like bayberry, plantain, or marshmallow root tend to shrink or constrict body tissues. These help to soothe linings of the intestines as well. Antispasmodics such as wild yam aid the healing process. A mixture of equal parts peppermint, agrimony, bayberry, wild yam, and valerian can create a relaxing effect. One teaspoon should be taken three times a day.
- Antispasmodics such as wild yam may also aid the healing process. A mixture of equal parts peppermint, agrimony, bayberry, wild yam, and valerian can create a relaxing effect. One teaspoon should be taken three times a day.
- Robert’s Formula (sometimes called Bastyr’s Formula) contains a mixture of marshmallow root (a demulcent, which softens the tissues), wild indigo (for infections), Echinacea (an antibacterial that promotes normalization of the immune system), Geranium maculatum (which prevent bleedings), goldenseal (to inhibit bacterial growth), poke root (for healing ulceration), comfrey (an anti-inflammatory and promoter of wound healing), and slippery elm (a demulcent). Each of the herbs in this formula, which was originally created by pioneering naturopath John Bastyr, has a history of use in traditional medicine. Some of the herbs, like marshmallow and slippery elm, are known to contain mucilage, a sticky substance that soothes irritated linings of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Cat’s Claw is a medicinal plant that is used for digestive system disorders. It is a native species of South and Central America and is named after it’s hook-like horns. Using the root and bark of the plant, medicine is made to treat swelling and pain of the large intestine, inflammation of the bowel, and other digestive issues. It can be bought and taken in pill form.
* As with all herbs and supplements, to avoid side effects and drug interactions, it is best to consult your doctor or holistic provider.
Aromatherapy uses the medicinal properties of essential oils drawn from plants and herbs to treat a variety of conditions ranging from skin disorders and infections to stress and immune deficiencies. There are certain essential oils that have antispasmodic qualities which can help treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
- Di-Gize – Offered by Young Living, a blend called Di-Gize provides support for digestive concerns. It contains a mixture of ginger, peppermint, tarragon, fennel, juniper, lemongrass, anise, and patchouli.
- Copaiba – This essential oil comes from oleoresin of the Copaiba Tree. It has been used traditionally to assist digestion and help the body’s reaction to injury or irritation. It contains more beta caryophyllene than any known essential oil.
- Peppermint oil can help cramping associated with Crohn’s disease. Enteric-coated capsules of peppermint oil can be taken between meals to alleviate spasms caused by inflammatory bowel diseases. “[Peppermint oil] could spell relief from abdominal cramps and pain,” says Tim Koch, MD, chief of gastroenterology at West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown. According to him, peppermint oil “can potentially block contractions of the smooth muscle that surrounds the stomach and intestines, and it may help the muscle to relax”.
- Spearmint oil is used to treat diarrhea, gas, indigestion, nausea, gastrointestinal tract spasms, bile duct and gallbladder swelling (inflammation) gallstones, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Created in Germany in the early 1700s, homeopathy was developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a physician who studied folk remedies and looked for more natural methods of healing. Homeopathy can be used by anyone, regardless of age, and it is implemented to bring harmony to a person by relieving any emotional and mental imbalances. Homeopathy addresses the life principle in each person; the immune system or the “Vital Force” in each person; “that aspect of all things which is alive and vital and acts as the internal guiding principle to regulate every bodily function… that part of us that responds to life“. Homeopathic remedies are made from minerals, animals, and plants. Professional homeopaths consider each individual’s constitutional type—physical, emotional, and psychological—before prescribing remedies.
Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type – one’s physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each person.
Three homeopathic treatments for Crohn’s disease include:
- Mercurius—Appropriate for individuals who feel exhausted after bowel movements, who experience variations in body temperature, who sweat frequently, and have thirst for fluids that are cold. It is mainly used to treat foul-smelling diarrhea with possible streaks of blood. Also used to treat diarrhea accompanied by sensations of incomplete emptying.
- Podophyllum—For diarrhea that worsens after eating or drinking and which is explosive and painless. May be appropriate for people who feel painful cramps in the feet and lower legs.
- Veratrum album—For watery diarrhea accompanied by cramps in the stomach. Also for diarrhea accompanied by a bloated abdomen, vomiting, chills, or exhaustion. This diarrhea worsens after one eats fruit. The person who needs this therapy tends to crave cold liquids.
Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
“Physician-sages” as early as 5,000 B.C.E. formed these two healing traditions, which held that human beings were comprised of body, mind, and spirit. Both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are similar in that health is said to represent a balance between these three aspects of existence.
Today, Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners typically evaluate patients and identify their particular “constitution” or balance of natural elements—vata (air), pitta (fire), or kapha (earth) for Ayurveda, and fire, earth, water, metal, or wood for TCM. While a person may have a dominant element(s) present in their constitution, all individuals are a unique mix. The relationship of these elements is said to determine the qualities in the constitution of an individual, such as their health strengths, health weaknesses, and personality. Experienced Ayurveda or TCM practitioners are able to understand the interactions between these elements and can create personalized holistic treatments to bring each patient to optimal health. Much like herbalists, Ayurvedic practitioners can help you develop a diet and suggested lifestyle balanced with nature that works with your current health needs to bring you to a more optimal state of health.
In Ayurvedic medicine, a strong digestive tract is the key to preventing disease. All things ingested from the environment including toxins, viruses and bacteria can be eliminated if the body’s digestion is optimal. Therefore, Ayurveda focuses on improving digestive “fire” and rebalancing the gut. For individuals suffering from Crohn’s disease, Ayurvedic herbs can offer great digestive support.
- Triphala, or “three fruits,” is comprised of amalaki, haritaki and bibitaki and can help restore key gut flora depleted from Crohn’s.
- Demulcents such as slippery elm bark, licorice and marshmallow root offer a soothing benefit from Crohn’s inflammation.
- Two additional ayurvedic herbs include turmeric and extracts of Boswellia serrata, commonly called frankincense. Preliminary studies with turmeric in Crohn’s patients show promise in reducing inflammation. Moreover, in an 8-week clinical trial, frankincense extract was shown to be as effective as the drug mesalazine for treating Crohn’s patients.
Although there are numerous online remedies for Crohn’s disease, it is best to see a local Ayurvedic or Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner to discover the benefits of each system, to understand health safety, and to help you decide which therapy is best for you.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
A part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture supports the idea that our bodies, out of balance due to years of stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices, can be brought back to equilibrium through the practice of needling points on energy channels (located throughout the body) called meridians.
Acupressure, or shiatsu, works with the same system of meridians and points but does not use needles. A shiatsu practitioner uses his or her fingers to hold down acupressure points on the body, therefore rebalancing one’s chi, or life force, to promote health.
- St 25 – Tian Shu – Heaven’s Pivot (Stomach Meridian)
Location: On the middle of the abdomen, 2 cun lateral to the umbilicus.
Purpose: Regulates the rise and fall of Qi, regulates the large intestine, and treats dysfunctions of the intestinal function in diseases of the large intestine.
- ST 37 – Shang Ju Xu – Stomach Meridian (Stomach Meridian)
Location: On the lower leg, beneath the knee. 6 cun below St 35, one middle finger-breadth lateral to the anterior crest of the tibia.
Purpose: Regulates and restores balance to the large intestine and treats diseases of the large intestine.
- Du 5 – Xuan Shu – Suspended Pivot (Du Mai/Governing Vessel Meridian)
Location: On the lumbar region, in the depression underneath the spinous process of the first lumbar vertebra.
Purpose: Treats chronic enteritis and diarrhea in digestive disorders.
- Sp 5 – Shang Qiu – Shang Mound (Spleen Meridian)
Location: On inside of the foot. In the depression distal and inferior to the medial malleolus, at the midpoint between the tuberosity of the navicular and the tip of the medial malleolus.
Purpose: Calms diarrhea, chronic enteritis, and digestive dysfunctions.
HOLISTIC DIET & NUTRITION
Lifestyle modifications and eating habits can be implemented to change one’s natural state of health. They often involve personal research and experimentation.
Oftentimes, these changes involve replacing an unhealthy habit with a healthier one. Modifications differ for each individual and are subject to personal discretion, as well as doctors’ recommendations. It is suggested to:
- Avoid processed and common allergenic foods like wheat, corn, dairy products, and those that contain carrageenan, which is used to thicken and stabilize certain foods like ice cream, almond milk, soymilk, and yogurt.
- Avoid dairy, milk, and dried milk solids that contain lactose.
While one solution does not always work for everyone, there are certain diet trends that may provide relief. Several nutritional programs can also ease symptoms and restore digestive health.
Eliminating Inflammatory Dietary Allergens
Crohn’s patients often experience an immunological reaction to various foods that present themselves as foreign antigens to the body, thus exacerbating gut inflammation. Avoiding processed and common allergenic foods like wheat, corn, dairy products, and those that contain carrageenan, which is used to thicken and stabilize certain foods like ice cream, almond milk, soy milk, and yogurt, can be beneficial in reducing inflammatory bowel reactions. Similarly, eliminating dairy such as milk and dried milk solids (that contain lactose) from the diet can help reduce symptoms associated with improper food combinations. Doing so can also reduce gut congestion associated with dairy in the bowels.
The Alkaline Diet is helpful for all inflammatory conditions. It is based on the principle that some products like sugar, meat, wheat, and processed foods cause one’s body to produce more acid, which in turn leads to more inflammation. The Alkaline Diet aims to raise pH levels in the body so that acidity and inflammation are reduced. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease are curbed and balance is restored in the body’s digestive systems. In particular, the Alkaline diet emphasizes alkalizing foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fresh-pressed juices.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet
Developed by Sidney V. Haas, M.D., the Specific Carbohydrate Diet helps cure the unbalanced relationship between carbohydrates and intestinal microbes. It is this imbalance that often causes gastrointestinal disorders: bacteria multiply and food absorption declines in the gastrointestinal tract, and the body has difficulty digesting carbohydrates because of microbial overgrowth and toxins. According to Elaine Gotschall, M.Sc., if this diet is rigidly followed, many intestinal disorders “appear to be cured at the end of a year.” This diet focuses on eliminating all cereal grains in any form, while at the same time cutting out dairy products and processed foods.
Eliminating Crohn’s Triggers
Find your own triggers. Each person with Crohn’s disease has different food triggers that cause symptoms. It’s possible that at least a few of the following foods will cause Crohn’s disease flare-ups, so with the guidance of your treating clinician you may want to conduct an experiment and observe your health after eating them. If certain foods are in fact triggers, make an effort to cut them out of your diet. Some common food triggers for Crohn’s disease include: alcohol, coffee/tea, chocolate, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, oils, dairy, carbonated drinks, corn husks, fatty or fried foods, raw vegetables, raw fruits, foods in fiber, whole grains and bran, any foods that produce gas, like beans, legumes, lentils, broccoli, or onions, nuts (peanut butter, and other nut-based butters), seeds, red meat, pork and spicy foods.
For Crohn’s disease sufferers that have vitamin deficiency due to malabsorption, Vitamin B Complex may be helpful in restoring Vitamin B levels. Robert C. Atkins, M.D. states in his book, Dr. Atkins’ Vita-Nutrient Solution, that he has an 85 percent success rate of treating Crohn’s Disease patients with a sugar-restricted (low carbohydrate) diet and high doses of B-vitamins, including folic acid and pantethine.