Crohn’s Disease – A Naturopath’s Approach

  • Tara Andresen

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Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastric muscosa that typically affects the terminal ileum and the colon, but can affect any part of the digestive tract.  Symptoms often include pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fatigue, weight loss, constipation, fever, perianal fissues and loss of appetite.  There are a number of effective naturopathic treatments that can significantly improve the severity of symptoms and length of remission.

While Crohn’s is not caused by specific foods, dietary interventions can be useful to improve symptom control, reduce inflammation, correct nutritional deficiencies, prevent anemia, prevent osteoporosis and improve general health.  Typically, a naturopath will recommend specific types of increase fibre to improve the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA production decreases inflammation and helps to regenerate colonic tissue.   In addition to fibre sources, omega-3 fatty acids are often also prescribed by a Naturopath to further decrease colon inflammation in Crohn’s patients.

Other diet changes include removing foods that may worsen symptoms. These foods can include anything with lactose or fructose since Crohn’s patients often have trouble absorbing these nutrients.  The removal of other foods is unique to each person but often there are some food sensitivities that need to be addressed.

In addition to diet changes, a Naturopathic will also make supplement recommendations.   A Crohn’s sufferer will often have reduced absorption of essential nutrients, which further worsens their health.  Commonly, iron, zinc, calcium, folate and vitamin B12 are depleted.  These nutrient deficiencies can lead to fatigue, muscle aches, further digestive problems, anaemia, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression.

Apart from addressing essential nutrient deficiencies, a naturopathic treatment plan will often include herbal medicine support.  Herbs can be used to reduce inflammation, protect the mucous membranes of the intestine, modulate the immune system, reduce oxidation and reduce blood and diarrhea.  These herbs include Curcuma Longa, Artemisia Absinthium, Boswellia Serrata and Ulmus Fulva. You should always consult your Naturopath before taking these herbs to avoid any interactions with other medications and to be sure that you are taking an adequate dose to see improvement in symptoms.

To find out more about how a Naturopath treats Crohn’s Disease, book your appointment with Dr. Andresen at one of her Toronto Naturopathic Clinics.