INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE
AND THE LATEST RESEARCH
The most recent information from the CDC (Epidemiology of the IBD) says that, "Ulcerative colitis is slightly more common in males, while Crohn’s disease is more frequent in women. Diet, oral contraceptives, perinatal and childhood infections, or atypical mycobacterial infections have been suggested, but not proven, to play a role in developing IBD." If they were being completely honest, they would have --- in similar fashion to the quote at the top of the page --- had ANTIBIOTICS on this list as well. You'll understand why shortly.
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (Facts About Inflammatory Bowel Disease) says that, "Research studies continue to show a rise in the number of people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Approximately 1.6 million Americans currently have IBD, a growth of about 200,000 since the last time CCFA reported this figure in 2011. As many as 70,000 new cases of IBD are diagnosed in the United States each year, and there may be as many as 80,000 children in the United States with IBD". Furthermore, if the May, 2011 issue of Gastroenterology (Epidemiology and Natural History of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases) is to be believed, the incidence of IBD has increased about 15 fold over the course of the last fifty years.
On top of all this, the authors of this study rain on the parade when they tell sufferers that, "Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are incurable." OK. Maybe they are right. But I would contend that even in the absence of a "CURE" these and similar problems can be managed and made tolerable. The purpose of this post is to show you how this might be accomplished.
For one, SMOKING is a a huge factor in IBD. This month's issue of Environmental Microbiology (Chronic Cigarette Smoke Exposure Induces Microbial and Inflammatory Shifts and Mucin Changes in the Murine Gut) says that, "Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) are complex multifactorial diseases characterized by an inappropriate host response to an altered commensal microbiome and dysfunctional mucus barrier. Cigarette smoking is the best known environmental risk factor in IBD... We infer that the modulating role of chronic smoke exposure as a latently present risk factor in the gut may be driven by the altered epithelial mucus profiles and changes in microbiome composition and immune factors." In English, this means that cigarette smoke is not only destroying your lungs, it's destroying your intestines as well. This is critical because this is where 80% of your entire Immune System is found (HERE).
It is also critical to understand that despite the fact that you will hear over and over again that IBD is "genetic," we shouldn't necessarily be alarmed, nor should we start blaming Grandma. The concept of "genetics" is radically outdated when compared to what we are learning about something called EPIGENETICS. And the simple fact that these problems are intimately related to the modernization of our society, tells us that IBD is likely linked to crappy diets --- something seen in this post's opening quote (also see the study from Autoimmunity Reviews called The Geoepidemiology of Autoimmune Intestinal Diseases). It's all about Inflammation and figuring out what might be driving it.
Once you understand the concept of INFLAMMATION, everything begins to make sense --- especially in light of it's causal relationship to AUTOIMMUNITY (Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis are both Autoimmune). (Side Note: Even though IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME is also an "Inflammatory" Autoimmune Disease, it is not 'officially' categorized as one of the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. However, many of the same principals that apply to IBS will apply to IBD.)
There are numerous things that can drive Inflammatory responses in the body (LEAKY GUT SYNDROME, OVER-CLEANLINESS, BLACK MOLD, YEAST / FUNGUS, H. PYLORI (not enough stomach acid), or other CHRONIC INFECTIONS, PARASITES, MERCURY POISONING, FOOD SENSITIVITIES, OVER-CONSUMPTION OF SUGAR, DYSBIOSIS, and a host of others). And because of its INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP to Autoimmune Diseases (HERE is a short list of Auto Immune Diseases), we know that GLUTEN is one of the major players in Inflammatory processes of the intestines ---- even in the absence of full-blown Celiac Disease (HERE). But all of this information is worthless if what the medical community says --- you'll never be able to get off your medicine, you're likely to wind up with CANCER, and it's doubtful that you're going to live as long as your peers ---- is really true. Which brings us to the part of the post that everyone is most interested in.....
SOLVING INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE
- GLUTEN: I would contend that the very first thing you need to do is to not only get off Gluten (see the earlier links) but at least for awhile, try getting off ALL GRAINS. After talking about Headaches and Joint Pain --- two problems heavily associated with Gluten Sensitivity; a study in last month's issue of the Italian journal Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica (Celiac Disease, Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and Inflammatory Bowel Disease) concluded that there was evidence pointing to an, "association between Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)." The month previous, the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases published a study called Evaluating the Bidirectional Relationship Between Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity that concluded that, "SR-NCGS [SELF REPORTED NON-CELIAC GLUTEN SENSITIVITY] is not only exclusive to IBS but also associated with IBD, where its presence may be reflecting severe or stricturing disease." The July, 2014 issue of the same journal published a study stating that, "In this large group of patients with IBD, a substantial number had attempted a GFD (Gluten Free Diet), of whom the majority had some form of improvement in gastrointestinal symptoms. Testing a GFD in clinical practice in patients with significant intestinal symptoms, which are not solely explained by the degree of intestinal inflammation, has the potential to be a safe and highly efficient therapeutic approach." And then there's the recent issue of Gut Microbes (Gut Microbes and Adverse Food Reactions: Focus on Gluten Related Disorders) that dealt with the relationship between Gluten and, "alterations in small intestinal microbial composition." Make sure you understand this short quote in relationship to the first sentence in this post if you want to truly grasp it's importance. If you decide to go Gluten Free, just remember that there is a right way and a wrong way. HERE is the way I recommend you do it.
- OVERALL DIETARY CHANGE: Let me first say that I get it; some of you with IBD have a very limited number of things you can eat without having real problems. Whether we are talking WEIGHT LOSS or dealing with Chronic Inflammatory Degenerative or Autoimmune Diseases, I am a huge fan of THE PALEO DIET due to the fact nothing I have seen does a better job at CONTROLLING BLOOD SUGAR, and cutting the most potentially reactive foods from the diet. However, with IBD, there is no cookie-cutter approach. Basically, you are going to have to do a ton of online research (HERE and HERE are two examples of many) then play around with your diet and figure out what works for you. The internet is a wealth of information, but make sure to take everything with a grain of SALT. Much of this has to do with the fact that many sources (particularly some of the sources from academia) have lots of good information (and some not so good), but do not tout a Gluten Free Diet as beneficial for IBD.
- DEAL WITH THE ANEMIA: As you might imagine, due to the propensity for bloody diarrhea, ANEMIA is super common in people dealing with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Failing to deal with it is a deal-breaker as far as you truly getting better is concerned.
- GUT HEALTH: I left a link to Gut Health earlier in the paper. Read it and get familiar. The aspect of Gut Health that by far intrigues me most are something known as FECAL MICROBIOTA TRANSPLANTS. Although this treatment is still in its infancy, the December, 2014 issue of The Journal of Crohn's and Colitis (Fecal Microbiota Transplantation as Therapy for Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis) declared it to be, "a safe, but variably efficacious treatment for IBD." It is important to understand that while PROBIOTICS will undoubtedly be beneficial, you have to be careful with them so as not to cause a Dysbiosis (HERE). It can also be difficult to find the proper PREBIOTIC when you have IBD.
- OTHERS: When I say 'others', I really mean others. There are people touting the use of everything from LOW LEVEL LASER THERAPY, OXYGEN, Edible Clay, DIGESTIVE ENZYMES, STOMACH ACIDIFIERS, anti-inflammatory FISH OILS, and many others, along with an array of herbs and NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS so long it will make your head swim. My suggestion is to check everything out and not to buy into hype. HERE is my list of general suggestions for most problems. Again, with IBD, not all of these will pertain.
The secret to conquering any health problem is stick-to-itiveness. You have to make the changes and give your body a chance to respond. Work with it for three months and see what happens. I'll bet the farm you see a positive change.