In my previous articles I discussed some factors that contribute to the immune hypersensitivity behind chronic illnesses in general. In this article my focus is on ulcerative colitis. This disease is considered incurable with the prescription medications that mainstream doctors use. But I can offer you natural approaches that are the best available today and that offer a sensible approach to healing.
Defining Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are intestinal inflammatory diseases that cause abdominal pain, often bloody diarrhea and, eventually, malnutrition. Ulcerative colitis involves the large intestine, while Crohn’s disease can involve any portion of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. Both can become life-threatening (e.g., colon cancer) if left untreated for many years. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was 12 years of age, and that is the condition I will focus on.
Standard medical treatments for colitis include sulfasalazine, mesalamine and usually a short course of corticosteroids (i.e., prednisone) to get disease symptoms under control. Immune modulating biological drugs such as Azathioprine, Cyclosporine and Infliximab come with more serious side effects and risks but are only used for more difficult cases in order to avoid surgery. The total procto-colectomy (creating a rectal pouch made from small intestinal tissue) is the procedure I underwent at age 33. Nowadays, surgeons can perform this procedure through a laparoscope. Although I have great health currently, I still suffer from nighttime stool incontinence quite often.
I’ve since learned that there is much more I could have done (and definitely would have) to avoid surgery, but at that time I only knew about conventional medicine treatments. So I’ll share what I’ve learned that anyone can do with some serious effort and little expense.
Treatment To Reverse Colitis Naturally: The Whole Story
I recommend that you first get ulcerative colitis properly diagnosed and under adequate control (even if prednisone is required) to the greatest extent possible. You’ll feel better more quickly and also you won’t be blamed by the medical establishment, friends or family for neglecting effective treatment. Then, it’s time to take a real look at yourself (if you are the one suffering from colitis) and your lifestyle that has contributed to the condition.
What Can Be Hiding Inside
The first step in healing is to get real with how much stress affects you. Did you know that the majority of the body’s serotonin receptors (that stimulate feel-good emotions) are in the intestines?
I’m sure you recognize that you can have a gut feeling about something and can get a gut ache or indigestion when you feel emotional upset. In this same vein, anxiety, worry, depression, despair, resentment, hatred, anger and even loneliness all definitely worsen colitis symptoms. However, most colitis patients feel embarrassed and are too proud to admit to and deal with unresolved emotional pain. Since doctors make the worst patients, you know now that I did the same thing. You can call it pride or stubbornness, but it is a typical human way of repressing these issues.
When a patient says, “I’m fine; I don’t have emotional issues,” it’s nearly always a cover-up, even he feels he is being truthful. That’s why I recommend learning how to be completely open to the feedback of others (which can hurt when we are prideful) and how to authentically share feelings.
For example, this kind of emotional honesty can be learned at experiential training courses such as one I know well called Impact Training (located online here). When you are truly meek and lowly of heart, you will be able to start healing the emotional aspect of colitis.
Consider the pathophysiology of how inflammation begins in the gut. Intestinal health must be optimal before other therapies (listed below) can be effective in reversing colitis. These are gut-related factors that must be corrected:
- Unhealthy intestinal flora: Overgrowth of unhealthy bacterial strains and yeast cause inflammation.
- Foods that disrupt normal intestinal flora: Refined sugar feeds yeast; bread contains yeast and promotes yeast; digestive enzyme deficiency or low stomach acid leaves undigested foods in the colon that becomes food for unhealthy gut bacteria and yeast.
- Foods can be allergenic to the intestinal lining: Wheat protein (gluten), dairy (cow) protein, chemical food dyes and preservatives.
- Foods can irritate intestinal lining: Excessive alcohol and caffeine; spicy hot foods.
- Foods low in fiber are problematic: Fiber ferments to produce the short chain fatty acids acetate, propionate and butyrate that help heal the intestinal mucosa.
- Foods can inflame all all body cells: Refined sugar, carbonated soft drinks, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils, and foods that are allergens.
- Lack of abundant micronutrients in the bloodstream: You need sufficient omega 3 fatty acids, organic vitamins, organic minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and plant-derived chemicals.
A Diet For Colitis
Eating the correct diet consists of more than the balanced meals in printed medical advice. The patient with unresolved ulcerative colitis must learn the principles of nutrient-dense whole foods. Colitis patients already have decreased absorption due to inflammation. Therefore, they need optimal nutrition that can be absorbed easily and that does not irritate (by physical contact) or inflame (immunologically) the tissue any more than it already is.
As an example, a smoothie containing fresh apples, strawberries, spinach, rice milk, flax oil and ice is nutrient-dense and healing to irritated mucosa. Many additional foods can be added to such a smoothie for flavor (i.e., liquid stevia) or calories (i.e., almonds, avocado, raw eggs). A smoothie is also an easy way to introduce nutrient supplements.
I remember my first time drinking a generic brand of aloe vera juice. It tasted terrible! At that time, I knew almost nothing about nutrient-dense and whole food nutrition.
I will further discuss the colitis diet, nutrient supplements and other new natural therapies for colitis in my next article.
To healing and feeling good for life,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
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