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Help IBD with Lifestyle, Dietary and Supplement Interventions

Armen Hareyan's picture
Natural solutions for IBD

Although the mechanisms for the development of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are multifactorial and quite likely highly specific to the individual, there are a number of things that you can begin to incorporate in your day-to-day life right now that will help reduce inflammation in the gut, better manage symptoms, and even strike at the reasons why IBD showed up in the first place.


Dietary Interventions to Help IBD

Eat warm, cooked foods. Do this especially during a flare but continue eating them until you have had several months of stability. Minimize raw foods and cold foods. Fruits can be baked or turned into a compote, salads can be wilted and turned into warm salads, and raw veggies cooked in soups and stews. Warm, cooked foods are easier to digest and easier on the intestine. The fiber in veggies and fruits, when cooked, is easier to break down and assimilate.

Minimize histamine-containing foods. Histamine is the compound that is released when you have an allergic response. A survey of the members of the National Foundation of Ileitis and Colitis found that up to 70 percent of people who have IBD also reported allergy-related symptoms. So people who have IBD may find it is worthwhile to do a four-week trial elimination of histamine- containing and histamine-liberating foods to see if this reduces symptoms and/or quells flares.

Yogurt, kefir, cultured cottage cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, wine, beer, and hard cheese contain high levels of histamine. Ironically, these fermented foods are often recommended for gut healing! Additionally, cured meats, yeast-containing foods, and mackerel pack a powerful histamine punch. Other foods, including the citrus family (lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, tangelos, etc.) and spinach liberate and raise histamine levels when we eat them, and potentially trigger IBD symptoms.

Consider a trial elimination of yeast-containing foods. A study demonstrated that a high percentage of people with Crohn’s disease have antibodies to Saccharomyces cerevisiae, otherwise known as baker’s or brewer’s yeast. This is a different animal from Saccharomyces boulardii, yeast that is used to actually target and kill pathogenic yeast and bacterial infections and is not correlated with Crohn’s or other types of IBD.

Hang on, you may be thinking—yeast that kills yeast? Yes, that’s right. It’s just like using a cat to hunt mice. Cats and mice are both mammals, but they are very different species. It’s the same with yeast. If you remove foods from your diet that contain baker’s and brewer’s yeast, you are giving your immune system one less thing to contend with.

Use gelatin. Plain, Knox gelatin is a rich source of glutamine and other collagen-building blocks that help build a strong gut lining with good integrity. Gelatin also has a demulcent, slippery quality that is soothing to irritated gut mucosa. Make gelatin with herbal or berry teas instead of water, add it to smoothies or cocoa drinks, or use it in soups and stews to support the health of your gut and reduce inflammation and its symptoms. In fact, Hero Muscles has a comprehensive 3-part guide for making your own supplements.

Lifestyle interventions

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Avoid certain surfactants. These are used in soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, laundry detergent, dish soap, etc. Unfortunately, a wide variety of personal and household items contain dextran sodium sulfate (DSS), which is commonly used to induce colitis in mice and is known to irritate the intestine, and another surfactant, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). If any of the products you use contain DSS or SLS, swap them out for more natural brands that can easily be found, even in mainstream grocery stores. If you have IBD, using products with DSS or SLS is like rubbing your intestines with sandpaper.

Avoid thickeners such as carrageenan, and minimize the use of gums. Carrageenan is a thickening agent and conditioner that manufacturers add to many milk alternatives, helping to improve the body and texture of these products. Although carrageenan is made from algae, a seemingly innocuous compound, it has a shadow side because it can worsen colitis and prevent the lining of the intestine from healing. Other thickeners, such as guar gum and xanthium gum, are found in many gluten-free, processed, and packaged foods and can also cause GI irritation. The use of carrageenan and other thickeners is often the hidden cause of colitis or the hidden reason why symptoms aren’t calming down. Read those labels carefully.

Supplements and Herbs to Help IBD

Consider taking probiotics every day. Even after you complete the Gut Restoration Program, probiotics are a good addition to your diet. One of the main facets of IBD is a significantly altered gut f lora, and research is unsure if it is a trigger of, or a result from, the inflammatory process. To be on the safe side, it is recommended to take probiotics for the long term and certainly if you are on anti- biotic therapy. If you have IBD, you may not tolerate large doses of probiotics very well, so go slowly and look for a product that works for you. For tips on choosing a probiotic, see page 84.

Take a high-quality multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement. This will help address nutritional insufficiencies and fill in the gaps that are not provided by diet alone.

Consider an antioxidant complex. Inflammation is the main driver of IBD and generates damaging free radicals that can injure DNA and cell membranes in a process called oxidative damage. If you can picture a metal bucket rusting outside in the rain, it is a good example of oxidative damage. Antioxidants help reduce this damage. A wide variety of antioxidants and antioxidant blends are available on the market. Look for a product that has 400 IU mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols (vitamin E), 200 micrograms selenium, 500 milligrams vitamin C, and 10,000 IU carotenoids to help stave off inflammation.

Consider the use of zinc. It helps particularly during a flare or bout of diarrhea. Taking 5 milligrams of zinc two to three times daily can help slow the bowel and blunt a flare. Zinc supplementation improves the function of the gut lining, and research shows it is especially efficacious in Crohn’s disease.

Make curcumin a part of your everyday diet. Curcumin is the active part of turmeric, the bright orange spice found in curry and Indian cuisine. If you did a Google search for “curcumin and IBD” you would be overwhelmed by a multitude of studies, products, and blogs that tout the benefits of using turmeric. The praise is well deserved and solidly backed by research. Turmeric blocks all of the inflammatory mediators that drive the inflammatory response in IBD and has been shown to actually prevent the induction of colitis in mice. Turmeric itself is not well absorbed into the blood and remains in the GI tract instead, where it coats the inflamed intestines and acts as a balm. This is why it is a great idea to eat turmeric every day, particularly if you have IBD. It is totally acceptable, however, to take a supplemental capsule (1–2 grams, twice daily) if you can’t or don’t want to eat turmeric quite so often.

Curcumin, the active agent in turmeric, helps to reduce not just the inflammation from IBD but also the damage that the inflammatory process has already wreaked on your body. Curcumin is often sold in supplemental form as a capsule. It is worth noting that there are two main preparations of curcumin supplements, Meriva and BCM-95, which are particularly effective because they are bound to a phospholipid and are thus readily absorbed into the bloodstream and into your body. These supplemental forms excel at dealing with the systemic, body-wide issues that are a consequence of IBD. The bottom line is that taking both a supple- mental form of curcumin and eating the spice turmeric daily will give you all the benefits of this powerful herb.

Reprinted with permission from Natural Solutions for Digestive Health © 2014 by Dr. Jillian Sarno Teta and Jeanette Bessinger, CHHC, Sterling Publishing Co.



Inflammatory responses can only occur if carrageenan crosses the blood membrane barrier of the small intestine and carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact.