Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is often believed to be an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and/or ulceration of the digestive tract. Genetics, race, diet and the immune system can all play a role in IBD, but the exact cause is still unknown.
There are two major types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease affects deeper layers of the intestinal wall, often forming ulcers in the lowest part of the small intestine and the large intestine, while ulcerative colitis affects the inner lining of the large intestine, usually the left side of the colon and the rectum.
Crohn’s disease begins slowly with abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss and anemia. Sometimes there may also be episodes of bloody diarrhea. An acute condition of the disease can cause fever and severe abdominal pain with intestinal obstruction. In comparison to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis has symptoms of constipation or the urge to defecate with little stools or passage of blood or mucus in the stools. These symptoms may last a few to several months before lower abdominal pain develops with diarrhea. Like Crohn’s disease, the patient can also develop symptoms of fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, and fever. Long-term dependence on powerful Western drugs to treat IBD can leave the patient with debilitating side effects and surgical removal of the colon can make bowel movement even more difficult. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can offer less invasive methods to control IBD.
TCM Approaches to Managing IBD
In TCM, the goal to helping IBD is to balance the immune system and harmonize the intestinal energy. Acupuncture, Qi-gong and Chinese herbs can help strengthen the immune system by balancing the flow of energy within the abdomen. Moreover, TCM can help relieve the stress that can exacerbate the flare-ups of IBD. Some IBD research done in China has found that herbs like gingko biloba, licorice, aloe vera, cinnamon and angelica appear to have anti-inflammatory and soothing effects on the intestinal walls. Furthermore, from our experience in working with IBD patients at the Tao of Wellness, we found that customizing Chinese herbs for patients could better help relieve spasm, ulceration, and inflammation since the symptoms of IBD vary according to the extent and duration of the disease.
If you already have IBD, be cautious of following factors that can cause flare-ups:
- Medications like antibiotics
- Hormonal changes
- Stressful lifestyles
We also recommend the following for our IBD patients:
- Eat a diet high in protein and vitamins, but low in fat and fiber
- Take vitamin supplements, especially the B vitamins
- Keep hydrated with warm drinks, soups, fresh vegetable and fruit juices
- Eat small portions of well-cooked food throughout the day
- Avoid sweets like cakes, candies and ice cream
- Avoid alcohol, coffee and cold drinks