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Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Healing rather than Coping

Published on November 1st, 2014 by Dr. Jennifer Nardella and Dr. Meghan Haggarty

Modern western culture is starting to suffer from an abundance of health conditions, both acute and chronic, that may be unknown or uncommon to previous generations. One thing that is becoming clear with many chronic conditions we face: they’re associated, one way or another, to inflammation.

Two conditions that are a direct consequence of inflammation are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These two conditions are collectively referred to as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). IBD is a chronic, autoimmune disease, which if not managed properly can have severe consequences.

Both are due to chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Both cause symptoms like weight loss, abdominal pain, blood in stool, fatigue, developmental delay, loss of a regular menstrual cycle, and even more depending on the severity of the IBD. Both can be very detrimental to live with, and can be debilitating.

An important feature of both Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis is the relapse-remission cycle. Like many chronic conditions, they both cause stretches of time that are symptom-free mixed with “flare-ups” that bring symptoms roaring back. Both require treatment to mitigate symptoms and reduce the possibility of the flare-ups happening at all.

There are definite points at which Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis diverge. Ulerative colitis is limited to the large intestine and affects only the inner lining. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract and will involve the entire thickness, not just the lining. Crohn’s can also cause a hopscotch pattern of diseased and healthy tissue, whereas ulcerative colitis does not. These attributes help differentiate the two conditions when using diagnostic imaging.

The very nature of IBD – having an inflammatory aspect – means that many of the treatments that can reduce damage and symptoms are anti-inflammatory in nature.  Some possibilities include intravenous therapies such as curcumin and DMSO, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), and supplements. Naturopathic treatments are also used that help to correct nutritional deficiencies that result from impaired absorption and digestion such as intravenous vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

The topic of diet is one of importance in many diseases, especially when dealing with IBD. Although an anti-inflammatory diet is a great starting point, the exact role of diet in IBD varies from patient to patient. Improving and tailoring the diet to the individual can improve overall health and help improve symptoms and reduce flare-ups. In the case of IBD, a specific diet may also give your body what it needs to heal as well as replace some of the deficiencies that arise as a result of impaired digestion. This tailoring ensuring all the fuel and micronutrients your cells require will be provided for overall health and the prevention of secondary disease. Testing of food allergies and sensitivities also helps to identify which specific foods are most important for a patient to avoid to reduce excessive stimulation of the immune system.

Regardless of which treatments are recommended, each will be custom-built and pieced together for you and your situation. The first step to relief and healing is to talk with one of our naturopathic doctors.

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