Crohn's disease is an inflammatory disorder that leads to severe ulceration of the digestive tract. This disease generally occurs in the last portion of the small intestine (ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine, but it can occur in any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Crohn's disease can affect the small intestine alone (35 percent), the large intestine alone (20 percent), or both-the last portion of the small intestine and the large intestine (45 percent). There may be just one ulceration or several, and they may skip areas of the digestive tract. When these ulcerations heal, they can leave behind scar tissue that narrows a portion of the gastrointestinal passageway.
As its sufferers know, symptoms of Crohn's disease can be exceedingly unpleasant. The most common symptoms include intense abdominal pain and chronic diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Other common symptoms include nausea, mouth and anal sores, fatigue, and a general sense of malaise. Crohn's can also lead to other disorders. Chronic diarrhea prevents the absorption of vital nutrients, with malnutrition as a frequent result. Persistent bleeding within the intestines can cause anemia, which only compounds the existing fatigue and nutritional deficiencies. People with Crohn's may also develop fistulas, abnormal tunnels that connect one part of the intestine to the other, or even to other organs. Sometimes the scar tissue is so thick, it partially or completely obstructs the bowels, a dangerous condition that is always a medical emergency.
The onset of Crohn's disease usually takes place during adolescence or young adulthood, with most cases occurring before age thirty-five, although it can affect the elderly, too. In some cases, the disease strikes once and never returns. For most people, however, Crohn's is a chronic condition that may flare up every few months or every few years. The condition must always be taken very seriously indeed, the symptoms make it hard to ignore-and sufferers must be under the care of a good doctor, preferably a gastroenterologist with experience in treating the disease. If Crohn's is left untreated, the bowels may eventually stop functioning altogether. Yet natural medicine has a lot to offer for people with this disease, and many find that they can keep the disease under control with a comprehensive natural approach, as described in this chapter.
As with many other intestinal disorders, no one is entirely sure what causes Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease is rare in "primitive" societies that follow diets based on whole, unprocessed food. In fact, the disorder was practically unheard of in the United States until the middle of this century, when consumption of refined and chemically treated products skyrocketed. Food allergies-which ten to afflict societies that rely on unnatural foods-are also thought to play a significant factor in this disorder, as are free radicals, which, again, are best counteracted with good nutrition. Dietary therapy is a crucial component of any treatment plan for Crohn's disease. Good eating habits will prevent many of the secondary disorders, like malnutrition and anemia, which Crohn's can cause; better yet, it will address the underlying problem. Although no one can officially claim a cur for this disease, many sufferers will testify that dietary changes have successfully eliminated their symptoms. Unfortunately, many doctors are unaware of the role that diet plays in this disorder.
It is critical that digestive function also be improved with this condition. Increased intestinal permeability is an issue that needs to be addressed. As well, flora imbalance (dysbiosis) and undiagnosed intestinal infection from parasites, harmful bacteria, or yeast need to be tested and treated. Lifestyle is very important as well. Smokers are more likely to have Crohn's disease, and stress can be a powerful factor in the development of, as well as the recovery from, this disease.
For severe, acute flare-ups, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or other medications. The goal, though, addresses the underlying causes with natural therapy so that you can heal the digestive tract, and decrease the susceptibility to future attacks. Even if more aggressive measures are needed, the treatments described here can still reduce your suffering significantly.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
Prescription for Natural Cures by James F. Balch and Mark Stengler
Super Prescription #1 Aloe Vera - LifeSource Product Take as directed on the container. Aloe soothes and heals the lining of the digestive tract.
Super Prescription # 2 DGL licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Chew 1 to 2 capsules or take 300 mg of a powdered form twenty minutes before each meal.
Super Prescription #3 Omega 3 - LifeSource Products - See All of our Omega 3 – Fish Oil Products. Take a total daily dosage of an eneric-coated fish oil product containing at least 480 mg of EPA and 360 mg of DHA, spread out over three times a day. Fish oil reduces inflammation.
Super Prescription #5 Enzymes – Super Enzymes - LifeSource Product
Theses enzymes help aid in the digestion of food and are essential for all the metabolic activity in the body.
Super Prescription # 6 L-Glutamine - LifeSource Product
Take 1,000 to 3,000 mg (1 gram to 3 grams) three times daily on an empty stomach. This amino acid is involved in the healthy turnover of cells that line the digestive tract.
Super Prescription #7 Dophilus Plus – Probiotics - LifeSource Product
Take a product containing at least 4 billion active organisms daily. It supplies friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus. A product containing Saccharomyces boulardii probiotic has proved to be helpful for diarrhea associated with this condition.
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Vitamins Complete Line of Crohn’s Disease Fighting Products, Articles, and
- Abdominal pain
- Chronic diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Mouth and anal sores
- Low-grade fever
- Diet high in fatty and refined foods and low in fiber</div>
- Food allergies
- Free radicals
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Increased intestinal permeability
- Intestinal infection
- Poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking and drinking alcohol
Good nutrition is important for everyone, but people with Crohn's must be especially diligent about eating wholesome meals. It's best to buy fresh ingredients (organic, if possible) and prepare them yourself.
Protein deficiency is common in people with Crohn's. Incorporate quality protein sources into your diet, such as organic chicken, legumes, turkey, and fish, for two meals a day. Soy is also an option unless you are sensitive to it.
Homemade soups and broths are excellent. These meals are liquefied and easy to digest. Use a variety of fresh vegetables and quality protein sources, as described previously. This is particularly helpful during the time of a flare-up.
Juices are ideal for Crohn's sufferers, because they require little work from the digestive system and their nutrients are easily absorbed. Drink vegetable juices every day. Cabbage juice is particularly effective in healing ulcerated areas.
Eat a cultured product like kefir or, if you're not allergic to dairy, live unsweetened yogurt every day. A deficiency of friendly intestinal bacteria is common in Crohn's patients.
Make proper hydration a priority. Drink at least one glass of clean water every two waking hours. You'll replenish the water lost to diarrhea, and you'll also help your bowels regulate themselves.
Foods to Avoid
Consumption of refined carbohydrates is strongly associated with Crohn's disease. Eliminate white flour, white rice, and both white and brown sugars from your diet. Almost all packaged products are made with at least one of these ingredients, so read labels carefully.
Foods that are high in saturated, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated fat will irritate your gastrointestinal tract and make diarrhea even worse. Avoid red meat, as well as any fried or greasy foods.
Many people with Crohn's disease have undetected food allergies; when they remove the allergens from their diets, the disease often completely disappears. To determine if a food or foods is causing your problem, read the Food Allergies section and follow the elimination diet that accompanies it. Dairy and wheat are common triggers for people with this disorder.
Be careful with high-fiber foods such as wheat bran, as it is too harsh for some people with this disease. Slowly increase fiber-rich foods in the diet.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and spicy foods. Although these products don't cause Crohn's disease, they irritate the gastrointestinal system and can make your symptoms worse.
Limit the use of fruit juices, which commonly irritate the digestive tract of people with this condition.
If you have Crohn's, chances are that your body has been exposed to toxic quantities of refined carbohydrates, fats, and possibly food allergens. Give your system a rest by going on a three-day juice fast. Drink a wide variety of juices, broths, and herbal teas, and try to include cabbage juice as well.
- If you smoke, it is important that you break the habit. And everyone with Crohn's disease must avoid smoky rooms.
- Since intestinal bleeding is a real danger in Crohn's disease, always check your stools for signs of blood, especially if it looks like tar. If you see any, call your doctor at once.
- Exercise promotes bowel health and also helps bring stress under control. Take a thirty-minute walk every day, or find some other aerobic activity you enjoy enough to perform regularly.