Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s reaction when viruses or bacteria sneak in the back door, getting by our regular defenses. However, sometimes our body is so intent on healing that it doesn’t recognize “self” and this is when problems start to happen.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, has many names and faces and can range in nature from a simple condition to a life-altering ailment. Talking to your doctor about your symptoms is the first step to getting an all-important diagnosis.
The next step is to equip yourself with the nutritional information you’ll need, in addition to learning about the easy lifestyle changes you can make. If you’re going to take prescription medication, your body will need extra support in the form of the right foods and supplements. Taking these steps will give you the boost of motivation you need to forge ahead enthusiastically, with a more confident, “I can do this” outlook.
With the assistance of a team of medical professionals, you can make the journey from diagnosis to living with your condition much more comfortable and a great success. Read on to find out more about the nutritional requirements and the proper supplements for people living with IBD.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, literally means “inflammation of the bowel”. The term IBD is the all-encompassing term that actually refers to a group of diseases, some of which are more commonly known, such as Crohn’s disease (CD), ulcerative colitis (UC), and colitis. This group of diseases is classified as auto-immune diseases (the failure of the body to recognize parts of the body as self) and affects the tissues of the large and small intestine. The cause of IBD is unknown.
The primary problem in IBD is inflammation, as the name suggests. Inflammation is a process that occurs in order to fight off foreign invaders in the body, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. In response to such organisms, the body’s immune system begins to produce a variety of cells and chemicals intended to stop the invasion. These immune cells and chemicals, however, also have direct effects on the body’s tissues, resulting in heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. No one knows what starts the cycle of inflammation in IBD, but the result is an inflamed intestine.
A SHORT ANATOMY LESSON
Before we can delve into the definitions of these diseases, it would be wise to take a moment and review the anatomy of the body where these diseases occur.
You may have heard the digestive tract referred to as the gastrointestinal tract (GI) or, the more formal name, the alimentary canal. In any case, it is a continuous, coiled, hollow, muscular tube that winds through the body and is open at both ends. It begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. The parts we are concerned with in this article are the large and small intestine.
The small intestine is comprised of 3 parts, the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum (pronounced ill-ee-um). The ileum is the last part of the small intestine before entering the large intestine.
The large intestine, or colon, is comprised of 3 main parts, the ascending, transverse and descending colon with the sigmoid colon being the last turn in the large intestine before delivering it’s contents to the rectum.
Please refer back to this diagram if you require clarification while reading thisarticle.
A Short Definition – What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease, also known as ileitis or enteritis, is defined as an inflammatory bowel disease. It is a chronic disorder that causes inflammation in a few parts, many parts, or all of the digestive tract. All layers of the intestine may be involved, and normal healthy bowel can be found between sections of diseased bowel.
Crohn’s affects both the small and large intestines. However, most commonly, Crohn’s affects the lower part of the small intestine, called the ileum. The inflammation extends deep into the lining of the affected area, causes pain, and activates the intestines to empty frequently, resulting in diarrhea.
Crohn’s can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms closely match those of other inflammatory bowel diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis.
Crohn’s affects men and women of all ages equally and seems to run in families. The majority of people diagnosed with Crohn’s are between 20 and 30 years of age.
A Short Definition – What is Colitis?
Colitis is “inflammation of the colon, either an episodic and functional condition (irritable bowel syndrome) or, a more serious, chronic and progressive bowel disease (e.g., Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis). Irritable bowel attacks, often precipitated by stress, are characterized by colicky pain and constipation or diarrhea; they are treated by stress avoidance and a bland diet. Chronic diseases lead to ulceration of intestinal tissue, bleeding, severe diarrhea, and other complications.”1
A Short Definition – What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a form of colitis, specifically affecting the large intestine. It includes characteristic ulcers, or open sores, in the colon which result in blood in the stools. UC is an intermittent disease, with periods of exaggerated symptoms, and periods that are relatively symptom-free. Medical intervention is required before the disease will go into remission.
In ulcerative colitis, the inflammation affects the lining of the rectum and large intestine. It is thought that the inflammation begins in the last segment of large intestine, which empties into the rectum. This inflammation may spread through the entire large intestine, but only rarely affects the very last section of the small intestine (ileum). The rest of the small intestine remains normal.
BEST LIFESTYLE PRACTICES
Depending on the severity and the symptoms you have, your medical professional has a full range of prescription medications that he or she might prescribe for you. These medications can be in part analgesic, in part antidiarrheal, in part antibiotic, in part anti-inflammatory (as in the case of sulfasalazine), or they can be steroidal in nature (as in the case of prednisone). There is a whole host of other choices your doctor can make as well.
Proactively, along with taking these prescriptions, you can choose empowering lifestyle changes that will give you the strength and confidence to move forward.
How To Support Your Body While Taking Prescription Medications
One common choice a medical professional has for treating ulcerative colitis is sulfasalazine. Unfortunately, this prescription medication can deplete folic acid in the body, leading to anemia. When sulfasalazine is not effective, the patient can be moved on to prednisone. Prednisone can be taxing on the liver so you’ll want to support your liver while taking this medication. Any type of antibiotic can cause depletion of probiotics in your intestines so you may wish to consider supplementing with a probiotic capsule or drink.
Folic Acid Replenishment
Signs of folic acid (also known as folate) deficiency include a sore, red tongue, fatigue, graying hair, insomnia, labored breathing, memory problems, and/or weakness.
Excellent nutritional sources of folic acid include asparagus, barley, *beef, bran, brewer’s yeast, *brown rice, cheese, chicken, *dates, green leafy vegetables, lamb, *legumes, *lentils, liver, milk, mushrooms, oranges, *split peas, pork, root vegetables, salmon, tuna, *wheat germ, *whole grains and *whole wheat.
*These sources will have to be eaten sparingly, or not at all, as they can activate the inflammatory process. Consultation with a qualified dietary professional is recommended, as each individual case will be different.
Eating an Iron-Rich Diet to Stave off Anemia
Elements of an iron-rich diet include clams, oysters, mussels, beef liver, beef (in minimal quantities), shrimp, sardines, turkey, enriched breakfast cereals, cooked beans and lentils (in minimal quantities), pumpkin seeds, blackstrap molasses, baked potato with skin, enriched pasta, and canned asparagus. As a diet rich in antioxidants is also important, it is worth noting that liver is also a very high source of vitamin A. (Note: pregnant women should not eat liver as high amounts of vitamin A can be harmful to the baby.)
Iron-absorption enhancers include fish, poultry, oranges, orange juice, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapefruit (don’t eat grapefruit or its juice in conjunction with taking medication), broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomato, tomato juice, potato, green & red peppers, white wine.
Iron-absorption inhibitors include red wine, coffee, tea, spinach, chard, beet greens, rhubarb, sweet potato, whole grains, bran and soy products.
Supportive Liver Practices
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and lightly cooked vegetables, especially dark green, leafy vegetables and orange, yellow, purple, and red colored fruits and vegetables – they contain living enzymes, fibre, vitamin C, natural antibiotic substance and anti-cancer phytonutrients.
Eat foods rich in glutathione or that help to produce glutathione such as asparagus, watermelon, and broccoli (good sources of glutathione) plus papayas and avocados, which help the body to produce glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that is produced in the liver. It detoxifies harmful compounds so that they can be excreted through the bile. Glutathione is also found in the intestinal tract.
Bitter foods like dandelion greens, mustard greens, bitter melon, romaine lettuce and broccoli rabe can help cleanse the liver. Herbs like dill, caraway seeds, garlic, onions, turmeric and cayenne are easy to use in cooking and can help protect the liver. Green tea has immune-boosting properties and contains less caffeine than coffee. Drink lots of water to helps the kidneys get rid of toxins that the liver has broken down. Omega-3 fats are very helpful and are found in cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and halibut. Other sources are ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts. Nuts, seeds, and avocados are good sources of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats that are less harmful to the liver than saturated fats.
Nutritional Support – Balance is the Key
People with IBD need a well-balanced diet to ensure good health, vigor, healing and to ward off malnutrition and dehydration. Along the way, vigilance will help you recognize if certain foods are “triggers” for your symptoms and you can avoid these, or substitute for them, in the future.
The following outlines the details of an eating plan intended to reduce inappropriate inflammation in the body.
Fresh Foods – While canned and frozen foods have their place, try to include as much fresh food in your day as you can. Fresh foods are appealing, put a bounce back in your step, and offer a change from processed and highly sugared “fast foods”. In your diet of fresh foods, make sure that a large majority of them are fruits and vegetables. Foods such as avocados, salmon and almond butter all have anti-inflammatory properties. Try and drink 8 glasses of liquid per day or more.
TIP: Foods that counteract diarrhea
- Just Think B.R.A.T.T. – Bananas, Rice (white), Apple juice, Toast and Tea (herbal)
- Mashed potatoes
- Clear, fresh juices (these won’t contain processed sugar)
- Nutmeg – has the ability to slow down the movement of material through the intestines
- Herbal teas will help prevent dehydration and malnutrition
- Enriched waters such as Vitamin Water
Saturated Fats – Reduce your intake of saturated fat from foods such as butter, cream, and other full-fat dairy products. Eat skinless chicken and leaner cuts of meat.
TIP: Foods made with wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar can reactivate the inflammatory process.
Oils – Try to consistently choose olive oil over other types of oils.
TIP: Eat five or six smaller meals throughout the day to place less stress on your intestines.
Proteins – Try and eat less animal protein as this adds extra work for your liver. You can still get your daily intake of protein from foods sources such as fish, reduced-fat dairy products (yogurt), almonds, oranges, eggs, milk, tofu, soy milk (in small amounts), rice, and chick peas. Try a search of “vegetarian sources of protein” for more suggestions.
Nutter’s Can Suggest…
Folic Acid – Prairie Naturals Folic Acid 1mg
Folic acid is crucial for proper brain function and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. It aids in the production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material, and is especially important when cells and tissues are growing rapidly, such as in infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy. Folic acid also works closely with vitamin B12 to regulate the formation of red blood cells and to help iron function properly in the body. Folic Acid is a B vitamin used to help the body generate new cells. Widely recognized for its role in reducing the risk of birth defects, folic acid is now considered an integral part of the recommended nutrition program for all women of child-bearing years. Prairie Naturals Folic Acid provides 1mg of Folic Acid per tablet.
Multivitamin – SISU Supreme Multi with Iron
To function at an optimal level, our bodies need a full range of vitamins and minerals. This need is even greater today, as stress and pollution deplete nutrients from our bodies. Unfortunately, the foods we eat don’t always supply these nutrients. For a start, in today’s fast-paced world it is hard to find the time to eat a balanced diet every day. But even if we could, most foods are now lower in nutrition, due to pollution and processing. Because of this, people who want to maintain the best possible health are well advised to ensure that they are giving their bodies adequate nutrition – and the easiest way to achieve this is to take a superior quality multivitamin, such as SISU’s Supreme Multivitamin. The vegetarian capsules are smooth and easy to swallow, as well as fast dissolving, so they are easy to digest.
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner, registered with Natural Health Practitioners Canada, who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 9 years experience in her area of expertise, naturopathic medicine, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch ® Practitioner and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
1. Barron’s Medical Guides, Dictionary of Medical Terms, Fourth Edition.
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of Canada website
National Dgesive iseases Information Clearinghouse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Government.