Can Naturopathic Medicine help with IBD?
Before answering this question, I want to talk about what Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is and how it can present itself. IBD is a chronic inflammation of the digestive system. There are two main types of IBD: Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. Ulcerative colitis affects the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum whereas Crohn’s Disease can affect any segment of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus and it affects all layers of bowel walls. Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease usually presents with severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, blood in stool and weight loss. IBD also increases the risk of colon cancer.
The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease remains unknown but several factors may play a role. Heredity seems to play a role in that IBD is more common in people who have family members with the disease. IBD may result when there is an abnormal immune system response to bacteria, viruses, or food particles, which triggers an inflammatory reaction in the digestive system.
Conventionally, anti-inflammatory drugs are the first step in IBD treatment as these drugs decrease inflammation of the digestive tract. In some cases, immune suppressants can also be prescribed that prevent the immune system from attacking the bowel and causing inflammation. Also, antibiotics are used to kill bacteria that may trigger or aggravate IBD symptoms.
Naturopaths may work with patients to recommend diet changes that could involve cutting out refined carbohydrates from the diet, adding protein, identifying any allergens or food intolerances that aggravates IBD. Replenishing depleted vitamins and minerals due to malabsorption, diarrhea, and GI blood loss is recommended. Natural anti-inflammatories such as fish oil, boswellia, curcumin may also be a supplement regime to decrease inflammation, heal and rebalance the colon with good bacteria.