The Facts about Inflammatory Bowel Disease
So what is Inflammatory Bowel Disease? – About 61,000 Australians are diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD (1) There are 2 forms, Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s Disease (CD). While UC mainly affects the rectum and colon, Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract (from mouth to anus). One of the main differences between the 2 conditions is the type of inflammation present in the gut – UC only affects the inner lining of the gut, while in CD the inflammation can spread through the whole wall of the gut. (2) The severity of this inflammation varies greatly, and so the symptoms of IBD are very individual. Most people with IBD go through periods of remission and periods of acute flares and fever is a common sign during the active stage of the disease.
Gastrointestinal symptoms with varying severity include: (2)(3)
- abdominal cramping and pain, often worse after eating
- watery diarrhoea which may be bloody or contain mucous with varying frequency
- the urgency to pass bowels but without passing stool
- loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting
Other signs and symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease include:
- weight loss
- anaemia associated with blood loss
- mouth ulcers in Crohn’s
IBD Treatment Options, Conventional and Complementary Medicine
The medications used to manage IBD (including corticosteroids, immunomodulators, antibiotics and aminosalicylates) tend to cause side effects, with some of them being quite severe (4) While these medications can greatly assist with active stage of the disease, the use of herbal therapy in IBD is increasing worldwide (4) The therapeutic benefits of Herbal therapies include immune regulation, antioxidant activity and antiplatelet activity (4). Complementary medicine may assist with the side effects, for example, probiotic therapy alongside antibiotics.
How Can a Naturopath help with IBD?
Can a Naturopath help with IBD? – A tailored treatment, appropriate for the individual may include:
- Diet advice, including an action plan for acute phases of the disease and preventative strategies to maintain phases of remission
- Herbal medicine to alleviate gut symptoms and reduce inflammation
- Nutritional medicine to address nutrient deficiencies such as anaemia
- Therapeutic agents targeted at healing and maintaining the integrity of the gut mucosa
- Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) can provide helpful information
A diagnosis is essential
IBD can affect a wide range of people. It is important to see your doctor if you believe you may be experiencing symptoms associated with this condition. Our Naturopaths are likely to refer you to your GP if they suspect you have IBD due to the seriousness of the condition. Natural medicine has much to offer people who experience chronic health conditions such as IBD, to help reduce the symptoms and prevent worsening of the condition while making sure your health is managed safely and effectively alongside conventional care.