Digestive conditions are prominent in today’s society. Canada has one of the highest incidence and prevalence rates of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in the world. According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, “more than 20 million Canadians suffer from digestive disorders every year!” In addition, Crohn’s & Colitis Canada states that, “1 in every 150 Canadians is living with Crohn’s or colitis – a rate that ranks in the highest worldwide. Most alarming, is that the number of new cases of Crohn’s disease in Canadian children has almost doubled since 1995”. Those affected and their loved ones have been faced with financial, relational and personal burdens. Here we explore the differences between various digestive conditions and natural treatment options to consider in accordance with recommendations made by your health care practitioner.
Types & Causes
- A.DIVERTICULOSIS (When Inflamed = Diverticulitis)
What Happens? Bulging pouches form in weak points of lining on left side in colon. Generally occurs due to constipation (low bulk creates pressure). These pouches become inflamed & infected when a piece of dry, hard stool stays stuck. Pressure, bacteria and free radicals accumulate and may lead to bleeding, perforation, blood vessel rupture and/or abscess formation.
Features: Usually Asymptomatic (Unless Inflamed.) Characterized by feeling a continuous need to eliminate.
- B.IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS: AKA “Spastic Colon”)
What Happens? Normal rhythmic muscular contractions of the digestive system become irregular and uncoordinated. Large intestine spasms and either prevents passage of waste (constipation) or moves it along too quickly (diarrhea).
Features: Characterized by alternating bouts of diarrhea/constipation (along with gas/bloating).
- C.INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASES (IBD: Types: Crohn’s & Colitis)
What Happens? Auto-Immune Response - Immune system is unable to regulate inflammation so it wrecks tissue. Linked to leaky gut (permeable intestinal membrane). Affected tissues go through cycles of inflammation, damage and healing (Remission and Flare Ups periods). May produce inflammation in other parts of the body.
Features: Usually affects patches of tissues in the ileum (last section of small intestine), on right side. Causes all layers of wall to thicken, narrowing channel.
- ii.Ulcerative Colitis
Features: Affects first layer of tissue in rectum and lower left portion of colon in a continuous fashion, causing ulcers. Bloody stool is a characteristic sign.
Constipation/Diarrhea, Pain/Spasms, Fever/Chills, Headache, Bloating/Gas, Nausea/Vomiting/Loss of Appetite, Fatigue, Anxiety/Depression, Abnormal Stool (Blood/Mucous), Trouble Defecating
Underlying factors that may lead to digestive issues and conditions include: Imbalance of Gut Bacteria (dysbiosis)/Antibiotic Use, Infections/Overgrowth, Toxins/Chemical Exposure, Low Fibre/Omega’s in Diet, Dehydration, Smoking, Diet High in Refined/Processed Foods, Inadequate Chewing, Low Stomach Acid/Enzyme Production, Food Allergies/Sensitivities (gluten, preservatives, sugar, coffee, dairy & artificial ingredients), Stress/Depression
- Remove Triggers: Avoid toxins/chemicals, poor diet & common allergens.
- Regulate Elimination: Increase FIBRE intake (aim for 35/g per day) to increase bulk and soften stool. Also, increase water intake. Diarrhea - Choose high soluble fibre. Constipation – Look for a balanced blend of insoluble and soluble fibre, as well as natural laxative/stool softeners such as Magnesium Hydroxide/Citrate and mild, non-habit forming herbs (i.e. triphala, rhubarb). Note: certain forms of insoluble fibre may need to be avoided for some conditions as they may further irritate intestinal membranes.
- Strengthen Intestinal Lining: Look for REPAIR NUTRIENTS (L-glutamine, N-Acetyl glucosamine (C-NAG), Zinc L-Carnosine, and Vitamin D) as well as soothing ingredients (slippery elm, marshmallow, cranesbill, aloe vera, and mastic gum) and antioxidants (gamma oryzanol) to protect.
- Re-Inoculate Gut Flora: Look for PROBIOTICS in supplements & foods. Choose a product with a high Bifido count. Note: Fibre is a prebiotic that feeds good bacteria!
- Fight Inflammation & Support Immunity: OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS (i.e. fish oils) help control inflammation as well as lubricate the intestinal tract. Curcumin is also a fantastic natural anti-inflammatory and nutrients such as Vitamin C, Beta Glucans & Plant Sterols help support the immune system.
- Assist Digestion: Consider DIGESTIVE ENZYMES (with HCL, if stomach is underactive) to help break down food and/or Bitter Herbs (dandelion, yarrow plantain, wormwood, gentian) to help stimulate digestion/gastric juices. Eating Tips: Do not drink with meals, eat slowly & chew thoroughly. Cooking Methods: pre-soak and grind nuts, seeds and grains. Steam veggies.
- Correct Deficiencies: Certain nutrients may be deficient due to malabsorption. Be aware of Zinc, Iron, Calcium and Magnesium levels.
- Symptom Relief: Soothing ingredients include ginger, peppermint, chamomile and fennel.
- Lifestyle Factors: Manage stress. Regular moderate exercise. Manage blood sugar levels.
Ask a certified natural product advisor to help you determine which ingredients are right for you and for high quality product recommendations.
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.