What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease is the name of a group of disorders that cause the intestines to become inflamed (red and swollen). The inflammation lasts a long time and usually comes back over and over again. More than one million North Americans suffer some kind of inflammatory bowel disease and increasing numbers are being diagnosed every year.

If you have inflammatory bowel disease, you may have abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, weight loss and bleeding from your intestines. Two kinds of inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Crohn’s disease usually causes ulcers (open sores) along the length of the small and large intestines. Crohn’s disease either spares the rectum or causes inflammation or infection with drainage around the rectum.

Ulcerative colitis usually causes ulcers in the lower part of the large intestine, often starting at the rectum.

What causes inflammatory bowel disease?

Medical experts have not been able to tell us the exact causes of inflammatory bowel diseases. Some believe the disease may be caused by a germ or by an immune system problem.

The natural health community believes these conditions are directly related to bacteria imbalances in the colon and also not properly digesting the fiber in your foods, thus creating a toxic environment in the digestive tract, and losing the elasticity of the bowel wall that should bring nutrients into the body and pull waste out.

You don’t have to worry about your family members catching the disease from you, because it isn’t contagious. However, inflammatory bowel disease is known to be passed on as a genetic weakness down through generations.

How is inflammatory bowel disease diagnosed?

Based on your symptoms, your doctor may suspect that you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Your bowel movements may be tested for germs and the presence of blood. Your doctor will probably look inside your intestines with a sigmoidoscope or a colonoscope. In these procedures, the doctor uses a narrow flexible tube to look directly inside your intestines. Special x-rays may be helpful in diagnosing this illness.

How is inflammatory bowel disease treated?

The best thing you can do is take good care of yourself. It’s important to eat a healthy diet and get enough rest. It’s also important that you take control of your health and learn about your situation. You must be able to manage the stress in your life. When you become overly upset by things that happen at home or at work, your digestive capacity is weakened and your intestinal problems can get worse.

There are different schools of thought on dealing with IBD conditions; the medical community, and the natural health communities. Following is an overview of each, please review each and decide which is best for you.

The medical protocol – You will most likely be treated by a team of doctors. This team may include your family physician, a gastroenterologist (a specialist in stomach and intestinal disorders) and, possibly, a surgeon. Depending on your symptoms, your doctors may ask you to cut down on the amount of fiber or dairy products in your diet.

The goal of treatment is to get rid of the inflammation by taking anti-inflammatory medicines. Some of these medicines are sulfasalazine (brand name: Azulfidine), olsalazine (brand name: Dipentum) and mesalamine (brand names: Asacol, Pentasa, Rowasa). An antibiotic, such as metronidazole (brand name: Flagyl), is thought to be helpful for killing germs in the intestines, especially if you have Crohn’s disease. Your doctor may also suggest taking a corticosteroid, such as prednisone.

If you have severe symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever or vomiting, your doctor may want you to go to the hospital to be treated with special fluids and medicines that must be given intravenously (in your veins). If you have severe inflammatory bowel disease, they may want you to take powerful medicines called immunosuppressants.

If the doctors feel your condition becomes so severe that it can’t be helped by medicines, they will recommend removal of part or your entire colon surgically. Crohn’s disease usually isn’t helped with surgery, however many times they will recommend it in severe cases.

Because Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis symptoms keep coming back and their symptoms cannot be predicted ahead of time, patients with these illnesses can become depressed. If you talk with your family doctor about this, most likely he will prescribe an antidepressant medicine, in an attempt to help you feel better.

The natural health protocol

Most people, including the medical community, do not fully understand the digestive process. Not much time is focused on the importance of properly chewing your food, and even less to the quality of the food selected for consumption. This is unfortunate, as both are critical to good health and long life, especially for IBD conditions.

Your digestive tract is a 25-foot to 35-foot long hose that is an engineering marvel. It takes foods – a whole apple for example – chops it up, breaks it down, separates the good from the bad, extracts nutrients, and delivers them to the body.

If a component of the digestive system malfunctions, it may result in a minor, localized problem or a serious, “whole body” problem. It is important, then, to know how digestion works and what can go wrong.

Many in the natural health field agree that there is no single cause of IBD, and that poor dietary choices, food allergies, medication, stress, hormone changes, low fiber intake, infection, parasites, lactose intolerance, laxatives, a cellulase deficiency, and antibiotic abuse could all be involved. In fact, the consensus is that just about anything that disturbs our intestinal bacterial balance—the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria—could also have a hand in causing IBD.

Improved dietary choices will help improve the condition, including a high-fiber diet from fresh fruits and vegetables, supplementing with digestive enzymes and probiotics and drinking plenty of water is also important.

For more information and guidance to overcome IBD naturally, contact me.