Help IBD with Lifestyle, Dietary and Supplement Interventions

May 7 2014 - 6:18pm
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.


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