Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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If you suffer from Crohn’s or Colitis, you are probably hoping this web page has some new ideas or answers. It might.

Few IBD sufferers pay attention to hormone health. Balanced hormone levels control inflammation.

Mind and Body team up once again to put disease in its place. Most IBD sufferers pop pills. You did not get your IBD for lack of taking IBD drugs!

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a condition that creates a lot of confusion, both among the general population and the scientific community.

Irritable bowel syndrome has been called spastic bowel or spastic colon, nervous colon, mucous colitis, and functional bowel disorder. IBS does not cause permanent harm to the intestines and is not known to lead to serious diseases such as cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, well over one-million people have Inflammatory Bowel Disease;1 still, most people have never heard of IBD and are puzzled when they are first diagnosed. The confusion starts with the name. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is the overall name given to two distinct diseases: Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. The disease is also often confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – a different disease altogether. Scientists have their own struggles with IBD; they are puzzled by exactly what causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

The Difference between Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
While different, both Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis share a common feature: They are both diseases where the immune system is overreacting. Normally the immune system protects the body from infection, but for unknown reasons, people with IBD overact to food, bacteria, or other materials in the intestines. This inflammation produces open sores in the walls of the intestines that bleed and produce mucus. The inflammation often results in bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramping and pain. Mucus, pus, and white blood cells are often found in the stool and are some of the diagnostic markers for the disease.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease tends to occur in waves; there are typically periods where the disease is worse (or flairs up) and periods where the disease seems to have disappeared altogether.

The difference between Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis is the location and type of inflammatory changes. Ulcerative Colitis tends to be located in the colon or rectum alone, where Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract (from mouth to anus). In general, Crohn’s is a far more difficult to disease to manage; causing tremendous frustration for sufferers, but there is hope: Eat Right, Hydrate, and Balance your Hormones! Good probiotic formulas like VSL #3 and Ortho Biotic can be essential.

Inflammation in IBD
The cause of IBD leaves doctors and scientist scratching their heads. The list of possible causative factors is long and includes smoking, diet and food choices, drugs (side effects), where you live, social status, stress, microbial agents (bacteria, fungi, and viruses), history of surgery (appendectomy). 2

While the exact agent or event that sets of the inflammation remains a mystery, what is known is that once the cycle of inflammation begins it is tough to make it stop.

A novel new theory suggests that the immune system will overreact to normal gut contents when it doesn’t have parasites and worms to attack (which used to be common, but are now largely absent). This so-called hygiene-hypothesis suggests that we live in too clean of an environment and this causes our immune systems to overreact to many non-threatening proteins.3

The inflammation from the over-reacting immune system leads to a swollen, injured intestine, which in turn leads to chronic inflammation and damages the wall of the intestines. This chronic inflammation is why people with IBD are at more risk for severe bleeding and cancers that strike the intestines (including colon cancer).

Stress and Hormones

Scientists have discovered that the digestive system is much more complex than they would have thought. New research suggests that the digestive system acts as a sort-of second brain or what is called the gut-brain axis.4 The digestive system is intimately tied to our thoughts and it uses some of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does. Scientists are learning that the notion of a “gut feeling” is more than a common saying, but has real implications for our health: As we think, our digestive system feels. It should come as no surprise, then, that the emotions we have and the stress we feel can greatly impact the digestive system.5

What to do about Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A new way of treating Irritable Bowel Disease supports the hygiene-hypothesis by treating people by infecting them with cultures of the pig whipworm (Trichuris suis helminth). While this kind of treatment is hard for squeamish to stomach, it has actually proven to be quite effective, completely eradicating the problem in some people who taking the treatment.6

Medical Approach to Inflammatory Bowel Disease

  • Immuno-suppressive drugs: Sulfasalazine is a poorly absorbed drug that tends to stay in the intestines and reduce inflammation locally; it also acts as an antibiotic. Mesalamine is a newer form of sulfasalazine and tends to have fewer side-effects. Azathioprine, 6-MP and cyclosporine are also used to suppress the immune system.
  • Methotrexate: Used in cancer therapy, methotrexate is sometimes used in Crohn’s disease but has not been shown to be useful in Ulcerative Colitis.
  • Steroids: These strong anti-inflammatory medications resemble natural body hormones. Side-effects of steroids can be severe and include stomach bleeding, loss of calcium from bones, cataracts, and the potential to develop diabetes. Other side-effects include poor wound healing, weight gain and mental problems.

Complementary Approach to Inflammatory Bowel Disease

  • Meditation and Visualization: Mind/Body therapies are effective. Don’t expect to see a footnote here. The person writing this page has Colitis and—besides diet, probiotics, and hormone balancing—only meditation has helped hold it all together. Got bloating? Got pain? Does your colon wake you up in the middle of the night? Get your Mind right! Cool relaxation aids here.
  • HPA Hormone Balancing: When the HPA glands are performing at their best, the negative effects of inflammatory bowel disease are reduced. With saliva based lab tests that measure cortisol and DHEA patterns, natural therapies for hormone balance can be developed. Find a doctor to order lab testing.
  • Functional Lab Testing: As with any health condition or prevention plan, one should devote resources towards doing as much lab testing as possible to identify dysfunction. Test your gut, brain, hormones, liver, immune system…it’s your body! Your vessel for life energy. Treat it good – get tested.
  • Diet: A diet free of common allergens, called an Allergy Elimination Diet, which attempts to remove common food allergens, is thought to be helpful in IBD. The most common allergens are: wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, seafood.
  • Healthy Bacteria: The good bacteria, also called probiotics, can be supplemented and have been shown to be helpful in IBD.7 These bacteria are helpful to the digestive process and can help to reduce the numbers of harmful bacteria. Probiotics include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium bifidum and others. Get a full strain probiotic here.
  • Glutamine: Glutamine is an amino acid that has been shown to be helpful for repairing the lining of the gut wall.8 Get Support Mucosa with l-Glutamine and so much more.
  • Fish Oil: Fish oil that has an enteric coating (so it doesn’t open until after the stomach) has been used in IBD with some success.9 See the store for choices.

1 Centers for Disease Control: Inflammatory Bowel Disease: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dach/ibd.htm . Accessed 7/21/09
2 Danese S, Sans M, Fiocchi C. Inflammatory bowel disease: the role of environmental factors. Autoimmun Rev. 2004 Jul;3(5):394-400
3 Koloski NA, Bret L, Radford-Smith G. Hygiene hypothesis in inflammatory bowel disease: a critical review of the literature. World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan 14;14(2):165-73.
4 Van Oudenhove L, Demyttenaere K, Tack J, Aziz Q. Central nervous system involvement in functional gastrointestinal disorders. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2004 Aug;18(4):663-80
5 Maunder RG, Levenstein S. The role of stress in the development and clinical course of inflammatory bowel disease: epidemiological evidence. Curr Mol Med. 2008 Jun;8(4):247-52.
6 Summers RW, Elliott DE, et al. Trichuris suis therapy in Crohn’s disease. Gut. 2005 Jan;54(1):87-90.
7 Schultz M, Schölmerich J, Rath HC. Rationale for probiotic and antibiotic treatment strategies in inflammatory bowel diseases. Dig Dis. 2003;21(2):105-28.
8 Goh J, O’Morain CA. Review article: nutrition and adult inflammatory bowel disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Feb;17(3):307-20.
9 Turner D, Zlotkin SH, Shah PS, Griffiths AM. Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) for maintenance of remission in Crohn’s disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18;(2):CD006320.