Did you know that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease? This debilitating condition affects nearly 1.6 million Americans. (1) This number has grown astronomically over the past six years. Inflammatory bowel disease affects so many people each year that nearly 70,000 new cases are diagnosed, but what is IBD and what can we do about it?
What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
IBD is an inflammatory condition that includes both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These are chronic diseases that although cannot be cured, can be treated. If IBD is not treated properly, it can significantly impair the quality of one’s life.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
This particular disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract anywhere ranging from the mouth all the way to the anus. However, Crohn’s most commonly affects the end of the small intestine called the ileum. This disease can also affect some areas of the gastrointestinal tract while not affecting other areas. This disease is so inflammatory that it has the potential to cause inflammation through the bowel wall.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative Colitis affects the large intestine as well as the rectum. While the inflammation may start in the rectum as well as the lower colon there is a chance that the inflammation can spread and inflame one’s entire colon. Ulcerative Colitis can cause symptoms of ulcers as well as sores in the GI tract. (2)
Some of the statistics on Ulcerative Colitis according to the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation include:
- 48% of patients are in remission
- 30% have mild disease
- 20% have moderate disease
It’s also important to note that the longer the remission, the better the odds. It’s thought that the longer the remission, the less chance of a flare-up the following year. This is one reason why it’s so important to manage symptoms through both dietary and lifestyle changes.
What are the Symptoms of IBD?
The symptoms linked to irritable bowel disease (which remember includes Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis) are all related back to inflammation. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Feeling like you never have complete bowel movements
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
What Causes IBD?
The exact cause of either Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis is not necessarily known, but there are some ideas as to what triggers them to occur. Some studies have found a connection between the immune system as well as genetics, and environmental triggers. When dealing with IBD, the immune system comes into play because it targets the GI tract which then causes inflammation.
Some of the environmental triggers include smoking, antibiotic use, taking NSAID drugs such as aspirin, and ibuprofen, as well as certain dietary choices.
How to Reduce IBD Symptoms
While there is no cure for these conditions, there are treatment options. There are certain medications many doctors prescribe for IBD, and there are even some surgical options.
With that being said, while both medicine and surgery may very well be appropriate in certain situations, there are some other approaches that can be taken as well. As a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I like to look at the whole picture and work to control inflammation from its source. With diet and lifestyle changes remission may be more possible, and you may even be able to stay in remission for longer periods of time.
Here are some of the dietary and lifestyle suggestions I make to patients suffering from IBD:
- Reduce Stress: Stress causes even further inflammation and stress can directly affect your GI system. It’s critical that stress reduction be implemented into your healing protocol.
- Avoid/Eliminate Foods That Disrupts Your Gut Microbiome: Keep refined sugar out of your diet, eliminate refined grains and especially gluten, eliminate processed foods, avoid dairy, and avoid antibiotics when at all possible.
- Nourish Your Body With The Following Foods: Enjoy coconut oil, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild-caught salmon, flax seeds, blueberries, organic fruits, and vegetables, grass-fed animal products.
- Try a Paleo Style Diet: Trying a Paleo diet is a great way to heal your gut. It eliminates inflammatory foods and gives your gut a chance to heal. A Paleo approach also looks at different lifestyle habits and focuses on stress reduction and getting a good night sleep. It takes a whole body approach to healing your gut and getting into remission.
Many of the patients I work with suffer from digestive health issues as well as gut infections. The first thing I will do as a Functional Medicine Practitioner is run thorough testing for gut infections such as yeast overgrowth, bacterial overgrowth, parasites, SIBO, as well as leaky gut. These conditions are especially important to test for when an underlying digestive disease is present such as the case of Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis. After tests are run, I will then make a specific care plan based on those results. As everyone’s case is different, it’s very important to see a practitioner who offers an individualized approach. While IBD may be present, there may also be some underlying gut infections that could be making your symptoms even worse. Treating everything at the source is the first step in the healing process.
If you are suffering from weight gain, fatigue, hair loss and more, click here to schedule a phone call with me, so I can find out where you’ve been, where you want to get to, and how I can help you get there.
I know exactly where you are because I’ve been there myself…I remember being so tired that I could barely function. I gained 30 pounds out of nowhere and had a severe case of brain fog. I also started to get severe anxiety and panic attacks. I was driven and motivated…until I wasn’t. I didn’t know what was happening to me. All I wanted was to get my life back…
Finally, I learned about functional medicine and found a practitioner that I hoped could help me. They ran specialized tests that were far different than I had ever had before. When I got the results back, it turned out I had candida, parasites, high cortisol, the Epstein Bar Virus and many food intolerances. I also had an issue with my thyroid that no one found before because they were using the conventional medicine lab ranges which are way too broad….which I now know is one of the leading causes of hypothyroid misdiagnosis.
I went through treatment of all of these things and it completely changed my life. I immediately lost the 30 pounds I had gained plus more, I had a lot more energy, and my brain fog was gone. I felt amazing and knew that I wanted to help people find the underlying causes of their symptoms and disease.
- Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. The Facts About Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.
- Dr Axe. Ulcerative Colitis Diet: Foods, Supplements & Natural Remedies that Heal.
- Mercola (2016) How to Heal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Like Crohn’s Disease.