Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel condition that can affect any part of the digestive system. While Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are both types of inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s can impact any segment of the digestive system, from the mouth to the anus, whereas colitis is confined to the colon and rectum. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can encompass diarrhea, abdominal pain (typically more pronounced in the right lower quadrant), low-grade fever, weight loss, fatigue, blood or mucus in the stool, mouth sores, joint pain, and inflammatory eye and skin problems.
Crohn’s can be triggered by genetic factors or environmental elements, such as stress and diet. Although there is no definitive cure for Crohn’s disease, there are treatments available to alleviate symptoms and enhance the quality of life for those suffering from this debilitating condition. Pharmaceutical options for Crohn’s disease include steroids, antibiotics, and immunosuppressants; however, these medications can have various side effects. Therefore, I recommend adopting a holistic approach to treating Crohn’s disease and preventing flare-ups. This holistic approach encompasses dietary and lifestyle modifications.
- Diet: Low FODMAP, FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. It’s a group of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. When these substances reach the colon, they can be fermented by bacteria, leading to the production of gas and other byproducts. In individuals with Crohn’s disease, who already have heightened sensitivity and inflammation in the digestive tract, avoiding high-FODMAP foods may help reduce symptoms and improve overall digestive health.
Some individuals with Crohn’s disease may experience gluten sensitivity. Some find that avoiding gluten-containing foods can help alleviate digestive symptoms.
Dairy intolerance is common in the general population, and individuals with Crohn’s disease may be more susceptible to lactose intolerance due to inflammation and damage to the small intestine. Therefore, avoiding or minimizing dairy products can be beneficial for those who are lactose intolerant. Additionally, some people with Crohn’s disease may have a heightened immune response to proteins in dairy, leading to inflammation and discomfort.
- Probiotics: Rotate strains every 3-6 months to promote a diverse array of beneficial gut bacteria. High doses of the strain Coli Nissle 1917 have shown potential in preventing relapses in Crohn’s patients.
Here are some good suggestions for probiotics:
Lactobacillus acidophilus: This is a well-known probiotic that is commonly found in yogurt and other fermented dairy products. It may help maintain the balance of bacteria in the intestines.
Bifidobacterium: This is a group of bacteria that includes various strains, such as B. bifidum and B. longum. Bifidobacteria are often found in the colon and can contribute to a healthy gut environment.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus: This strain has been studied for its potential benefits in supporting digestive health and immune function.
Saccharomyces boulardii: Unlike other probiotics, Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast. It’s known for its ability to help prevent and treat diarrhea, including that associated with antibiotic use.
Lactobacillus plantarum: This strain is known for its resilience in the gastrointestinal tract and its ability to produce beneficial compounds.
- Prebiotic foods: Include apples, berries, bananas, oats, asparagus, dandelion greens, and leeks in your diet.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Take them as a supplement (ensuring it contains at least 1,000mg of DHA/EPA combined) or incorporate omega-3-rich foods like salmon, oysters, sardines, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, hemp seeds, and spinach into your meals.
- Herbal supplements: Turmeric, ginger, “golden milk,” and other anti-inflammatory herbs.
- Acupuncture: Here are some potential benefits associated with acupuncture for Crohn’s disease.
Pain Relief: Acupuncture may help alleviate abdominal pain and discomfort associated with Crohn’s disease. By stimulating certain points on the body, acupuncture may trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
Inflammation Reduction: Some studies suggest that acupuncture may have anti-inflammatory effects. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, acupuncture has been associated with the modulation of inflammatory markers in the body.
Stress Reduction: Stress can exacerbate symptoms of Crohn’s disease, and acupuncture is known for its potential to induce relaxation and reduce stress. Stress management is crucial for individuals with Crohn’s, and acupuncture may contribute to an overall sense of well-being.
Improvement in Quality of Life: Acupuncture may help improve the overall quality of life for individuals with Crohn’s disease by addressing symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and emotional well-being.
- Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: Stress can exacerbate Crohn’s disease. Here’s how to identify and manage stress.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol: Individuals with Crohn’s disease are often advised to exercise caution or avoid alcohol consumption for several reasons:
Gastrointestinal Irritation: Alcohol can be irritating to the digestive tract. In individuals with Crohn’s disease, who already have inflammation and sensitivity in the gastrointestinal tract, alcohol may exacerbate symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and discomfort.
Increased Risk of Flare-Ups: Alcohol consumption has been associated with an increased risk of flare-ups in individuals with Crohn’s disease. Flare-ups involve the recurrence of active symptoms, which can be both physically and emotionally challenging.
Nutrient Absorption: Crohn’s disease can affect the absorption of nutrients in the intestines. Alcohol can further interfere with nutrient absorption, potentially exacerbating nutritional deficiencies that individuals with Crohn’s may already face. Smoking Cessation, Quit Today!
- Healthy Lifestyle: Ensure you get adequate rest, engage in regular exercise, drink plenty of water, and effectively manage stress. You can explore this class on Healthy Staple Foods You Should Always Have on Hand.
- Medical Cannabis: In many states where medical cannabis is legal, Crohn’s disease is a qualifying condition.
It is crucial to take a proactive approach to managing your Crohn’s disease. Don’t wait for your symptoms to flare up before implementing the holistic recommendations mentioned above. Diet, exercise, and stress management can make a significant difference. By being proactive instead of reactive in our health management, we can reduce the need for unnecessary medications and the associated side effects. Learn how to reduce stress through positive self-talk!
Dr. Kaleigh France earned her Doctorate Of Nursing Practice degree from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. Dr. France has extensive knowledge and experience in functional and preventative medicine, hormone therapy for men and women, thyroid issues, weight loss and maintenance, and optimizing metabolic function.
Dr. France is passionate about identifying the root cause of healthcare issues and minimizing the use of unnecessary medication. Before entering healthcare Dr. France trained to be a Chocolatier at The Valrhona Institute in Paris, France, and a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, cooking, skiing, hiking, and spending time with her son, daughter, and husband
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