Crohn’s disease is an inﬂammatory disorder that leads to severe ulceration of the diges- tive tract. This disease generally occurs in the last portion of the small intestine (ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine, but it can occur in any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Crohn’s disease can affect the small intestine alone (35 percent), the large intestine alone (20 percent), or both—the last portion of the small intestine and the large intestine (45 percent). There may be just one ulceration or several, and they may skip areas of the digestive tract. When these ulcerations heal, they can leave behind scar tissue that narrows a portion of the gastrointestinal passageway.
As its sufferers know, symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be exceedingly unpleas- ant. The most common symptoms include intense abdominal pain and chronic diar- rhea, fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Other common symptoms include nausea, mouth and anal sores, fatigue, and a general sense of malaise. Crohn’s can also lead to other disorders. The chronic diarrhea prevents the absorption of vital nutrients, with malnutrition as a frequent result. Persistent bleeding within the intestines can cause anemia, which only compounds the existing fatigue and the nutritional deﬁciencies. People with Crohn’s may also develop ﬁstulas, abnormal tunnels that connect one part of the intestine to the other, or even to other organs. Sometimes the scar tissue is so thick, it partially or completely obstructs the bowels, a dangerous condition that is always a medical emergency.
The onset of Crohn’s disease usually takes place during adolescence or young adult- hood, with most cases occurring before age thirty-five, although it can affect the elderly, too. In some cases, the disease strikes once and never returns. For most people, however, Crohn’s is a chronic condition that may ﬂare up every few months or every few years. The condition must always be taken very seriously—indeed, the symptoms make it hard to ignore—and sufferers must be under the care of a good doctor, preferably a gastroenterologist with experience in treating the disease. If Crohn’s is left untreated, the bowels may eventually stop functioning altogether. Yet natural medicine has a lot to offer for people with this disease, and many ﬁnd that they can keep the disease under control with a comprehensive natural approach, as described in this chapter.
As with many other intestinal disorders, no one is entirely sure what causes Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is rare in “primitive” societies that follow diets based on whole, unprocessed food. In fact, the disorder was practically
Warning Signs of Bowel
An obstructed bowel is a medical emergency. Crohn’s sufferers are espe- cially vulnerable to this disorder, because the scar tissue from ulcerated areas can partially or completely block the intestine. The classic indicators of bowel obstruction are vomiting and abdominal pain and distention. If you experience these symptoms, get med- ical help at once.
unheard of in the United States until the middle of this century, when consumption of reﬁned and chemically treated products skyrocketed. Food allergies—which tend to afﬂict societies that rely on unnatural foods—are also thought to play a signiﬁcant factor in this disorder, as are free radicals, which, again, are best counteracted with good nutrition. Dietary therapy is a crucial component of any treatment plan for Crohn’s disease. Good eat- ing habits will prevent many of the secondary disorders, like malnutrition and anemia, which Crohn’s can cause; better yet, it will address the underlying problem. Although no one can ofﬁ- cially claim a cure for this disease, many sufferers will testify that dietary changes have successfully eliminated their symp- toms. Unfortunately, many doctors are unaware of the role that diet plays in this disorder.
It is critical that digestive function also be improved with this condition. Increased intestinal permeability is an issue that needs to be addressed. As well, ﬂora imbalance (dysbiosis) and undiagnosed intestinal infection from parasites, harmful bacteria, or yeast need to be tested and treated. Lifestyle is very important as well. Smokers are more likely to have Crohn’s disease, and stress can be a powerful factor in the devel- opment of, as well as the recovery from, this disease.
For severe, acute ﬂare-ups, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or other med- ications. The goal, though, is address the underlying causes with natural therapy so that you can heal the digestive tract and decrease the susceptibility to future attacks. Even if more aggressive measures are needed, the treatments described here can still reduce your suffering signiﬁcantly.
• Abdominal pain
• Chronic diarrhea
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
• Mouth and anal sores
• Low-grade fever
• Diet high in fatty and reﬁned foods and low in ﬁber
• Food allergies
• Free radicals
• Nutritional deﬁciencies
• Increased intestinal permeability
• Intestinal infection
• Poor lifestyle choices, such as
smoking and drinking alcohol
The following tests help assess possible reasons for Crohn’s disease:
Stool analysis—ﬂora balance, possible infection, degree of inﬂammation
Food allergy test—blood or electrodermal
Vitamin and mineral analysis—blood or urine for nutritional deﬁciencies
Stress hormones—DHEA, cortisol
Good nutrition is important for everyone, but people with Crohn’s must be especially diligent about eating wholesome meals. It’s best to buy fresh ingredients (organic, if possible) and prepare them yourself.
Protein deﬁciency is common in people with Crohn’s. Incorporate quality protein
study that reviewed the
A diets of people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis found that the risk of Crohn’s disease was
highest in people who had a high sugar intake. The same study also reported that the consumption of fast foods twice a week tripled the risk of this disease.
sources into your diet, such as organic chicken, legumes, turkey, and ﬁsh, for two meals a day. Soy is also an option unless you are sensitive to it.
Homemade soups and broths are excellent. These meals are liqueﬁed and easy to digest. Use a variety of fresh vegetables and quality protein sources, as described pre- viously. This is particularly helpful during the time of a ﬂare-up.
Juices are ideal for Crohn’s sufferers, because they require little work from the digestive system and their nutrients are easily absorbed. Drink vegetable juices every day. Cabbage juice is particularly effective in healing ulcerated areas.
Eat a cultured product like keﬁr or, if you’re not allergic to dairy, live unsweetened yogurt every day. A deﬁciency of friendly intestinal bacteria is common in Crohn’s patients.
Make proper hydration a priority. Drink at least one glass of clean water every two waking hours. You’ll replenish the water lost to diarrhea, and you’ll also help your bowels regulate themselves.
Food to Avoid
Consumption of reﬁned carbohydrates is strongly associated with Crohn’s disease. Eliminate white ﬂour, white rice, and both white and brown sugars from your diet. Almost all packaged products are made with at least one of these ingredients, so read labels carefully.
Foods that are high in saturated, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated fat will irritate your gastrointestinal tract and make diarrhea even worse. Avoid red meat, as well as any fried or greasy foods.
Many people with Crohn’s disease have undetected food allergies; when they remove the allergens from their diets, the disease often completely disappears. To determine if a food or foods is causing your problem, read the Food Allergies section and follow the elimination diet that accompanies it. Dairy and wheat are common trig- gers for people with this disorder.
Be careful with high-ﬁber foods such as wheat bran, as it is too harsh for some peo- ple with this disease. Slowly increase ﬁber-rich foods in the diet.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and spicy foods. Although these prod- ucts don’t cause Crohn’s disease, they irritate the gastrointestinal system and can make your symptoms worse.
Limit the use of fruit juices, which commonly irritate the digestive tract of people with this condition.
If you have Crohn’s, chances are that your body has been exposed to toxic quantities of reﬁned carbohydrates, fats, and possibly food allergens. Give your system a rest by going on a three-day juice fast. Drink a wide variety of juices, broths, and herbal teas, and try to include cabbage juice as well.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Crohn’s Disease
Super Prescription #1 Aloe vera
Take 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup three times daily or as directed on the container. Aloe soothes and heals the lining of the digestive tract.
Super Prescription #2 DGL licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Chew 1 to 2 capsules or take 300 mg of a powdered form twenty minutes before each meal.
Super Prescription #3 Fish oil
Take a total daily dosage of an enteric-coated ﬁsh oil product containing at least
480 mg of EPA and 360 mg of DHA, spread out over three times a day. Fish oil reduces inﬂammation.
Super Prescription #4 Homeopathy
Use a combination digestive upset or cramping formula for the acute relief of symp- toms, as directed on the container. Otherwise, see the description in the Homeopa- thy section for the most indicated remedy.
Super Prescription #5 Enzymes
Take 1 to 2 capsules with each meal. They aid in the digestion of food and are essential for all the metabolic activity in the body.
Super Prescription #6 Glutamine
Take 1,000 to 3,000 mg three times daily on an empty stomach. This amino acid is involved in the healthy turnover of cells that line the digestive tract.
Super Prescription #7 Probiotic
Take a product containing at least 4 billion active organisms daily. It supplies friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and biﬁdus. A product contain- ing Saccharomyces boulardii probiotic has proved to be helpful for diarrhea asso- ciated with this condition.
Peppermint tea is an excellent tonic for Crohn’s sufferers. It reduces nausea, relieves abdominal pain, and has a calming effect. Use with caution if you have reﬂux problems.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) will help reduce intestinal inﬂammation. This herb can be taken as a tincture at 4 to 6 cc three times a day.
Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) is a traditional remedy for bowel disorders. It’s high in mucilage, a substance that helps calm the intestines and reduce inﬂammation. Take
400 to 500 mg three or four times daily, or use 3 to 5 cc three times daily.
Cat’s claw (Una de bato) has anti-inﬂammatory and antimicrobial effects. Take 500 mg three times daily.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) oil can be taken for an infection that accompanies Crohn’s disease. Take 500 mg of the capsule form three times daily or as directed on the container.
A high-potency multivitamin will supply a base of nutrients to guard against deﬁ- ciencies that are common with this condition.
An antioxidant formula will reduce free radicals, which are often higher in peo- ple with Crohn’s disease. Take as directed on the container.
Take a sublingual form of vitamin B12 and folic acid, to improve energy levels. Chlorella, spirulina, or a greens formula will provide chlorophyll and other nutri-
ents that promote digestive health. Use with caution, and slowly increase the dose to make sure they are not irritating.
Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) has a powerful anti-inﬂammatory beneﬁt. Take
1,200 to 1,500 mg of standardized extract containing 60 to 65 percent boswellic acids two to three times daily.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After
percent after one year, while those taking a placebo had a 59 per- cent recurrence rate.
you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consul- tation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Arsenicum Album is for burning pains in the abdomen that are made better in a warm environment or with warm drinks. The person feels anxious and restless.
Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is the remedy for sudden abdominal pains and a fever that has a throbbing or burning pain. The symptoms are worse with motion.
Colocynthis is for sharp, colicky pains in the abdomen that feel better with pressure. Ignatia (Ignatia amara) is for spasms of the digestive tract that come on after
Magnesia Phosphorica is for cramping abdominal pain that is better with warm applications and worse from pressure.
Nux Vomica (Strychnos nux vomica) is for cramping pain. The person is irritable and chilly.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) can be taken if rich, fatty foods give you diarrhea and if your symptoms are worse at night.
Sulphur can be taken if you are awakened by diarrhea that’s urgent and explosive. Burning pain is often present, which feels better with cold drinks. The person may crave spicy foods and alcohol.
• Work Stomach 36 to increase your body’s ability to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream.
• Improve the strength of your colon by working Large Intestine 11.
• If you suffer from painful abdominal cramps, use Spleen 16.
• Conception Vessel 6 will ease diarrhea and gas.
To ease pain in the stomach and the intestines, try an abdominal self-massage. Lie down in a comfortable place, bend your knees, and use the ﬂat of your hand to press against the skin of the abdomen gently but ﬁrmly. This technique also encourages good digestion. If you like, you can use the antispasmodic oils suggested in the Aromather- apy section.
For stress relief, it’s hard to beat a full-body massage. You or your partner can also practice some effective home-care techniques for stress reduction, like a neck or a foot rub.
See pages 686–687 for information about reﬂexology areas and how to work them.
To regulate peristalsis, work the colon.
Work the liver area to encourage detoxiﬁcation. For stress relief, stimulate the solar plexus.
Constitutional hydrotherapy is excellent for improving circulation and enhancing the healing of the digestive tract. It can be used for acute bouts of Crohn’s disease and for long-term prevention.
Chamomile and lavender are antispasmodic oils that relax abdominal cramps. Dilute some in a carrier oil and use in a massage, or add a few drops to a warm bath. Each oil is also a pleasant stress reducer.
Ginger will soothe an upset stomach. You can use it in a bath, a massage, or a warm compress. If you like, you can combine ginger with chamomile or lavender for a highly potent effect.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Anxiety and tension play a signiﬁcant role in every bowel disorder, and Crohn’s is no exception. Since the disease itself usually causes further stress, it’s important to make time every day to relax. Note that any stress-reduction technique is likely to help.
Bach Flower Remedies
If none of the following suggestions apply to you, consult the chart on pages 648–650 to ﬁnd the remedy best suited to your individual needs. Once you have chosen a rem- edy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
If you are prone to panic attacks or high levels of anxiety, keep a bottle of Rescue Remedy on hand. It will help calm you down in an emergency and keep the emotional problem from affecting your intestines. Rescue Remedy is also useful when you have an acute attack of the disease itself, as it can stave off the tension that’s often produced by extreme physical distress.
Vine is for people whose strong drives and ambition lead to intolerance of others. If you have suffered much and are bitter and resentful as a result, Willow will help
you regain an appreciation for life.
White Chestnut helps to quiet minds that are plagued by constant, repetitive worries. Mimulus will help people who are plagued by very speciﬁc fears.
For a more generalized anxiety, caused by fears you can’t name, take Aspen.
• If you smoke, it is important that you break the habit. And everyone with
Crohn’s disease must avoid smoky rooms.
• Since intestinal bleeding is a real danger in Crohn’s disease, always check your stools for signs of blood, especially if it looks like tar. If you see any, call your doctor at once.
• Exercise promotes bowel health and also helps bring stress under control. Take a thirty-minute walk every day, or ﬁnd some other aerobic activity you enjoy enough to perform regularly.