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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)



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What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that represents a group of intestinal disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.  The digestive tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and the large intestine.  Any inflammatory condition that affects any of the aforementioned components of the digestive tract is considered an IBD.  The two most common types of IBD include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which typically involve abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, and severe diarrhea.  IBD can be painful, disruptive to regular life, and it can occasionally be life-threatening.

Signs Of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

The symptoms of IBD will depend on severity of inflammation and where it occurs.  Some people experience minor symptoms, while others experience debilitating symptoms.  Most cases of IBD involve periods of intense symptoms followed by periods with no symptoms at all.  The most common signs of IBD include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Blood in the stool 
What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Unfortunately, the exact cause of IBD is unclear.  Doctors originally thought that stress and diet were the primary causes, but they have determined that these factors aggravate existing IBDs, as opposed to causing them.  The current thought is that immune system malfunction is to blame.  A normal immune system attempts to fight off a virus or bacterium that enters the body.  An abnormal immune response can cause the immune system to attack the cells in the digestive tract.  Common risk factors are listed below:

  • Hereditary (you are more at risk if you have a family history of IBD)
  • Race or ethnicity (statistically, Caucasians have the highest risk of IBD; people of Ashkenazi Jewish decent have an even higher risk)
  • Cigarette smokers (many people with Crohn's disease were cigarette smokers)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (certain medications increase a person's risk of IBD)

Dherbs Approach...adjusting your diet is always key!

Natural Remedies
  • There is sound rationale for the use of pro- and prebiotics in the treatment of IBD.  Studies have shown that some probiotics seem to bee more effective than others.  S. boulardii is one such probiotic strain that has shown promising results in controlled trials.  Prebiotics enhance the efficacy of probiotics, but more studies need to be conducted to determine how they work together to remedy IBD.
  • If you have IBD, there are certain foods that you need to avoid.  Patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease find that certain foods trigger flare-ups.  People with IBD should avoid creamy sauces, spicy foods, meats, fatty/fried foods, caffeinated beverages, sweets (candy, soda, and bottled juices), alcohol, and nuts, beans, and seeds.
  • Focusing on the right foods is one of the best ways to manage symptoms of IBD and to avoid flare-ups.  Sometimes it can be difficult to obtain daily nutritional needs via these foods, so you may need to supplement with certain vitamins and minerals.  If you want to avoid flare-ups, focus on wild rice, mashed potatoes, steel cut oats, bananas, homemade applesauce, or avocados. 
  • Slippery elm has been used in Native American cultures to help remedy diarrhea and other digestive-related issues.  Recent studies have found that slippery elm may be beneficial for those with inflamed bowels.  The antioxidant properties of slippery elm are promising for reducing inflammation, but more research needs to be done for it to be recommended as a commercial treatment. 
  • People with IBD are encouraged to engage in regular exercise to help manage symptoms, strengthen the immune system, and increase bone density.  Health experts recommend that people with IBD should swim or bike, both of which are moderate exercise, three to four days a week.  Moderate exercise releases myokines like irisin from working skeletal muscles, and this helps to reduce inflammation in IBD.
  • High stress levels can negatively impact the digestive system, and it is a major risk factor for people with ulcerative colitis.  Counteract your stress with meditation, deep breathing, Tai Chi, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation.  These methods help the body relax by shifting the nervous system out of the "fight or flight" mode and into a more restful state. 
Things you should eat
  • Pineapple
  • Turmeric
  • Probiotics (fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi)
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Avocado
  • Walnuts
  • Ashwagandha
  • Chamomile
  • Ginger
Vitamin C