Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disorder that causes an inflammation of the digestive tract. Crohn’s typically manifests as a swelling in the lower intestine, though it can also affect other parts of the digestive tract including the esophagus, stomach and colon. The cause of Crohn’s disease remains unclear, but recent research suggests that it may be linked to immune system dysfunction. There also appears to be a hereditary component, with more than 20% of those suffering from Crohn’s disease having one or more blood relatives with the condition. The most common symptoms of Crohn’s are abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stool, reduced appetite and weight loss. Crohn’s disease can also lead to chronic fatigue, ulcers and anemia.
Conventional treatments for Crohn’s disease rely on anti-inflammatory medications, steroids and immune system suppressing drugs to control symptoms. In extreme cases surgery may be used to remove sections of the affected intestine. These treatments are invasive, and potentially harmful to the total health of the patient. Many people with Crohn’s disease are finding that natural therapies offer a greater relief from their symptoms, while avoiding unwanted side effects and life altering surgeries.
Probiotics and Crohn’s Disease
Recent research has shown the probiotics can be a powerful tool in the battle against Crohn’s disease. Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” that are similar to the beneficial bacteria in the healthy human intestinal tract. The ingestion of probiotics helps to restore the healthy balance of bacteria in the intestine and the gut, resulting in fewer flare-ups for Crohn’s sufferers. Recent studies have also shown that probiotics not only increase healthy bacteria, they reduce inflammation and help the intestinal tract begin to heal itself from the long term effects of Crohn’s disease.
Diet and Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s symptoms can be triggered by a number of different factors, not least of which is diet. Patients suffering with Crohn’s are often advised to keep a food journal, making note of what they eat and when they experience symptoms of the disorder. In this way patients can pinpoint what foods and eating habits correlate with the recurring flare-up of Crohn’s symptoms, and begin to eliminate those food choices from their diet. Trigger foods will likely differ amongst patients, which is why clinicians suggest a personal food journal be used to determine what foods adversely affect which patients. Be aware of big food offenders like dairy products, eggs, gluten which excludes most grains.
While there is not a specific diet determined to be beneficial to individuals with Crohn’s disease, there are some nutritional choices that make sense for people suffering with this chronic condition. Crohn’s is thought to be linked to a dysfunction within the body’s immune system, so a diet designed to boost the total health of the immune system is recommended. Emphasis should be placed on organically grown fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. Meat and meat byproducts should be avoided, as should alcohol, refined sugars and other overly processed foods. Flax and hemps seeds should be added to the diet, as these are rich in the Omega-3 fatty acids which are so vital to a healthy immune system.
Stress and Crohn’s Disease
Patients suffering with Crohn’s disease understand the pain and anxiety that accompany the condition. Unfortunately, stress and anxiety are major triggers for the chronic symptoms associated with the disease and patients need to learn to manage their stress levels to avoid flare-ups. Exercise is always a recommended method for stress reduction. In addition to the obvious health benefits, regular exercise improves overall mental health, reduces anxiety and instills a feeling of control in the patient. Even a regular of routine of light exercise like rebounding for the lymphatic system, along with daily walks, can do wonders.
Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises and meditation on the Word of God, should be done daily to help manage the chronic pain associated with Crohn’s disease, as well as to reduce daily stress levels. A holistic clinician can be consulted for breathing exercises that can be used to control and eliminate stress and anxiety. Regular meditation on the scriptures, and participation in a prayer group, can also help Crohn’s patients reduce their stress and achieve an overall sense of wellbeing.
Natural therapies for patients with Crohn’s disease offer an alternative to the potentially toxic and sometimes invasive treatments of conventional medicine. With a combination of diet, nutrition, exercise and meditation Crohn’s patients can minimize their symptoms, and begin to return their body to total health.