Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are two major groups within the general category known as Irritable Bowel Disease.

Crohn’s Disease can be accurately diagnosed with a barium swallow whereas Ulcerative Colitis would be diagnosed with a barium enema. These tests would allow the clinician to observe the characteristic inflammatory changes in the bowel wall. There are significant changes in the location and how they affect the bowel wall that help differentiate the two.

The primary difference is the degree of involvement of the wall of the intestinal tract.
Ulcerative colitis is limited to the mucosa and the submucosa whereas Crohn’s Disease involves the muscular layer and the connective tissue layer below the mucosa.
If no physical inflammatory changes are noted then the diagnosis would more likely to be that of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

The cause of Crohn’s Disease has not been established, but it is likely that multiple factors are involved. That it is of a genetic origin has been postulated but as yet no specific genetic marker has been isolated.

Various micro-organisms have also been considered but the majority of these will not
survive in a healthy digestive tract. The link between any irritable Bowel Disease and compromised intestinal integrity is clear, and ultimately the health of these organs is paramount.

Crohn’s Disease can be quite difficult to treat but considerable relief of can be gained by using a combination of diet and herbal remedies.
Additional vitamins and minerals are always necessary as absorption by the body
is usually poor.

The usual symptoms of Crohn’s Disease are abdominal cramps with some
pain and/or tenderness
of the abdomen, often with accompanying diarrhoea and sometimes bloody stools, although in the early stages constipation may be more common, with the urge to defecate but only a scanty bowel movement.
As the condition progresses appetite loss, weight loss, fatigue and fever may develop.

The first recommendation is that  the patient keep to a diet that is smooth (not necessarily bland) – so as to not irritate the inflamed mucosal membranes – high in proteins ( eggs, fish, poultry, organic meats), fibre and essential fatty acids but low in
refined foods,
sugars, saturated fats and lactose-rich dairy products.
Avoid fruits and veges that contain seeds and remove hard skins.

Often the cruciferous veges such as cabbage and cauliflower will tend to cause allergic
reactions, as can corn, wheat, tomato and some citrus fruits. However, fresh
cabbage juice as been known to help heal the ulcerative condition.
If in a very severe state try putting steamed veges, brown rice, etc. through a blender to
help ease irritation.
Drink a lot of pure water and avoid coffee and strong tea. Tea contains tannins which can further worsen absorption of nutrients.

Secondly, take food enzymes with everymeal. Preferably a product containing  protease, amylase, lipase and cellulase.  This is extremely important as the majority of digestive and related bowel diseases start with poor digestion.
Taking food enzymes greatly improves the digestion of all foods, not only so that nutrients are better absorbed but also so that undigested foods do not further overload the colon and cause even more imbalance and irritation.
It is often this overload of poorly digested foods that are the source of food sensitivities and intestinal imbalances.
I generally recommend the use an enzyme product that is entirely plant derived,
contains effective dosages of digestive enzymes and are extremely well
tolerated. See page on ‘Enzymes – facts’.

Thirdly be sure to take Colloidal minerals daily. This is because mineral absorption will be poor and for any healing to take place it needs to be maintained constantly. Colloidal minerals are particularly well tolerated andwell  absorbed.
See page on ‘Minerals – facts’ and  Minerals – why we need to supplement’.

Small amounts of Spirulina in smoothies is also an excellent idea and adds
proteins to the diet.

Also important are the use of Yoghurt and other Probiotic products.
In humans with Crohn’s Disease the bacterial balance can be quite different to that
of a normal gut. Probiotics help hugely in are keeping bowel flora in better condition and should be used as much as possible as colonies of normal flora will protect against the establishment of pathogenic populations.
See page on Probiotics.

Products such as Colostrum will also greatly improve the immune status of the bowel (and in turn the immune status of the entire body) and this in turn will greatly reduce the number of food intolerances that often occur.

The constant lack of energy can often be aided by supplementing with Vitamin B12 and Folic acid. These are often at low levels in people with Crohn’s Disease
because of poor absorption, poor bowel flora and in some cases the use of drugs
that deplete Folic acid levels.
If taking B12 orally be sure to take it on an empty stomach to get maximum absorption.
See page on Vitamin B12

Next would come the use of herbal remedies.
Slippery elm powder is particularly important as it soothes the colon and can help regulate the bowel motions.
Marshmallow is also very useful in this context. These should be used daily to help ensure that the intestinal wall is as soothed and as protected as possible.
Licorice can have a wonderful anti-inflammatory effect on the intestinal wall, but if you use Licorice be sure that you have true Licorice extract and only use very small amounts and do not use if you have high blood pressure. See page on ‘Licorice’.

To help in this situation there are products available that combine these specific herbals with quercetin.  Go to ‘Ask Alison’ for more advice.

Small amounts of Aloe Vera juice can also help heal ulceration and all these herbs help keep the bowel moving freely.
Herbs such as Echinacea and Astragalus are very good anti-bacterials and are needed to promote a more normal immune system, but by far the best in this category would be Golden Seal which inhibits the growth of many disease causing organisms but should only be used for short periods of time.

Calming herbs are also often put to good use. Chamomile, especially, as it has a great affinity for the bowel, often combined with Marshmallow. At times Kavakava can also help, especially where there is great anxiety, and with some people Valerian is also very effective.

In cases of Ulcerative Colitis the flavoniod Quercetin is one of the best anti-inflammatory agents to use as it not only reduces inflammation but also greatly reduces the effect of allergic reactions.

Extra essential fatty acids are also important, either as fish oils to supply extra Omega 3 and/or as Evening Primrose oil, which also aids anti-inflammatory action. Researchers have found that people who take fish oil supplements are less likely to suffer relapses than those that do not.