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Here are 5 Steps That May Help Heal Your Crohns

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While there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, you can put the disease in remission for as long as you avoid whatever triggers it for you. If you are suffering from a flare-up of Crohn’s disease, your doctor may recommend aggressive antibiotic and steroid therapies for you. However, these drugs sometimes worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. This article discusses the 6 important steps you need to take to heal your gut and get lasting relief from Crohn’s disease without resorting to harsh drugs.

1. Change Your Diet

Because Crohn’s disease involves damage to the gastrointestinal tract, the disease is significantly affected by foods.

During a flare-up, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract is raw, exposed and inflamed. It is easily irritated and the foods you normally tolerate can trigger intense abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Therefore, changing your diet is the first step you need to take to put your Crohn’s disease in remission.

Food triggers of Crohn’s disease differ from one individual to another. Therefore, you should keep a food diary to determine the foods most likely to irritate your gut and cause flare-ups.

However, some foods are common triggers for most people with Crohn’s disease. Generally, foods to eliminate from your diet include all grains and added sugar. You also need to cut down your intake of highly fibrous nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

In addition, avoid fried foods and cured meats as well as caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Because most people with Crohn’s disease are also lactose intolerant, you may also need to eliminate milk and dairy products from your diet.

There are healthful substitutes for each of the foods you eliminate from your Crohn’s disease diet.

For example, in place of milk, take almond milk. It is also rich in vitamins D and E but has none of the cholesterol and fat content of regular milk. It also packs lower calories although it contains no calcium.

Substituting Foods in Crohn’s Disease
  • Almond milk for milk and dairy products
  • Oatmeal and soluble fibers for the insoluble fibers in nuts and seeds
  • White meat for cured and fried meats
  • White rice and white bread for grains and grain products
  • Vegetable soup for raw vegetables
  • Tropical fruits for fibrous fruits
  • Smooth nut butters for nuts

Most of these food changes can be achieved by adopting certain, healthful diets such as the paleo diet.

Although it represents an abrupt change in diet, most Crohn’s disease patients who adopt the paleo diet have reported that their symptoms improved dramatically.

Besides changing the foods that make up your diet, you should also modify your eating habits.

When Crohn’s disease is active, it is advised that patients eat smaller portions and more frequently. Therefore, you should divide your daily food intake into at least 5 meals rather than 3 meals.

However, when the damage to the gastrointestinal mucosa is extensive, an elemental liquid diet may be recommended.

A liquid diet has its advantages for people with active Crohn’s disease. It is easier on the gut; it is easily digested and it can help heal "leaky gut syndrome”. Liquid diets are highly recommended when there is extensive intestinal inflammation and bleeding or blockage and narrowing of the gastrointestinal tract.

2. Heal Your Gut with Natural Supplements

The root causes of Crohn’s disease are the colonization of the gut by pathogenic microbes and the inflammatory reaction triggered by the damage caused by these pathogens. Therefore, killing off the microbes invading the gut is the next step in putting Crohn’s disease in remission.

Doctors usually recommend antibiotics to help clear off these invasive pathogens but multiple studies have confirmed that long-term antibiotics therapy can worsen Crohn’s disease.

Broad-spectrum antibiotics can destroy what is left of your normal, healthy gut flora as they try to wipe out pathogens. However, by “nuking” the bacterial population of the gut, they allow opportunistic (bad) microbes to attack the gastrointestinal mucosa.

Besides antibiotics, other drugs that can destroy the gut flora include steroids such as prednisone; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen; antacids; and birth control pills.

There are natural remedies that can help stop the damage to the mucosa and the inflammation in your gut.

Herbs and other natural supplements are quite effective for preventing harmful bacteria from eating up your gut mucosa and for allowing the gut the protection and time to heal itself.

Listed below are the natural supplements to help heal your gut.

Supplements for Crohn’s Disease
  • Slippery Elm and Marshmallow – form protective gels over the mucosa to help soothe the gut, remove irritants, seal up ulcers and reduce inflammation. These benefits help relieve Crohn’s disease symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and intestinal bleeding.
  • Psyllium and Flaxseed – these are plant sources of soluble fibers. Unlike insoluble fiber, soluble fiber is gentle on the intestinal mucosa. When these fibers absorb water in the gut, they can help stop diarrhea. However, they should be taken with lots of water to avoid constipation and they should not be used in high doses to avoid diarrhea getting worse.
  • Green Tea and Ginkgo – recommended because of their potent antioxidant properties. These herbs can help protect the gut mucosal from toxins and free radical damage. Therefore, they can reduce inflammation and ulceration in the gut.
  • Valerian – soothes the smooth muscles of the gut. Therefore, it can relieve diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • Peppermint – also has a soothing effect on the gut. However, beyond its ability to reduce irritation and inflammation in the intestines, peppermint also has antifungal and antibacterial effects. Its ability to kill off pathogenic microbes in the gut can help reduce infection in the gut.
  • Goldenseal – has anti-inflammatory, astringent, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. It is an excellent herb for ridding the intestine of irritants, toxins and harmful microbes.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – whether obtained from fatty fish or fish oil supplements, omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to be effective in the treatment of chronic diseases characterized by inflammation. Therefore, the anti-inflammatory properties of these fatty acids can significantly reduce intestinal inflammation in Crohn’s disease.

3. Restore Your Gut Flora

When the gut is healthy, it is normally populated by over 100 trillion microbial cells. These microbes belong to about 400 species and most of them are bacteria.

The microbes populating the healthy gut are beneficial. They glean energy from undigested carbohydrates, promote the metabolism of foods and xenobiotics as well as contribute to the synthesis of certain vitamins in the gut.

Therefore, these beneficial microbes have a symbiotic relationship with the body.

They also prevent pathogenic microbes from colonizing the gut. By doing this, they keep the gut healthy and maintain the separation of the gut content from the bloodstream.

When the normal gut flora is destroyed, Crohn’s disease may set in as a result of colonization of the gut by pathogens. Therefore, this healthy gut flora must be re-established even while you are getting rid of the harmful microbes in your gut.

The best means of restoring your gut flora is by introducing “good” bacteria into the gastrointestinal tract. This can be done with probiotics.

Studies show that probiotics are quite effective at re-establishing lost gut flora. In fact, probiotics are often recommended for people with Crohn’s disease to help relieve their symptoms.

Probiotics can

  • stop diarrhea especially diarrhea triggered by long-term, broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy
  • improve lactose tolerance (most people with Crohn’s disease are also lactose intolerant)
  • reduce inflammation in the gut
  • improve immune “attack” response to the bacterial destruction of the gut
  • lower the risk of colon cancer (Crohn’s disease patients have high risks of this cancer)
  • synthesize vitamins B9, B12, and K in the gut

Restoring your healthy gut flora is very important and it can help put the disease in remission or prevent relapse.

4. Resolve Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies are quite common in Crohn’s disease. Low levels of certain vitamins and minerals can easily worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease or even trigger flare-ups.

In some cases, the signs of nutritional deficiencies appear earlier than the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Causes of Nutritional Deficiency in Crohn’s Disease
  • Diet poor in certain nutrients
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malabsorption of nutrients due to reduced absorption of fats
  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Surgical removal of parts of the intestines
  • Drugs used in the treatment of the disease
  • Increased need and uptake of certain nutrients in Crohn’s disease

The major nutritional deficiencies in Crohn’s disease are discussed below

Vitamin A Deficiency

Caused mostly by fat malabsorption, vitamin A deficiency can affect any of the physiological processes and biochemical reactions dependent on the vitamin. For example, vitamin A deficiency can lead to loss of vision.

Preliminary studies also show that vitamin A has an anti-inflammatory effect that can be beneficial to people with Crohn’s disease.

Care should be taken with vitamin A supplementation because the vitamin is toxic at high doses.

Folate Deficiency

Folic acid or vitamin B9 is one of the two B vitamins that are essential in Crohn’s disease.

About 1 in 3 Crohn’s disease patient suffers from folate deficiency. Certain drugs (sulfasalazine and methotrexate) used in the treatment of Crohn’s disease can cause folate deficiency. In addition, the removal of sections of the small intestine can also reduce the absorption of the vitamin and cause folate deficiency.

In Crohn’s disease, the body has an increased need for vitamin B9 to help maintain the functions of immune cells.

Besides promoting immune function, vitamin B9 (along with vitamin B12) is also needed to prevent the accumulation of homocysteine, a toxic compound, in the body. When homocysteine accumulates in the gut mucosal, it can increase the oxidative damage to the lining of the gut and worsen Crohn’s disease.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Studies show that vitamin B12 deficiency is even more common in Crohn’s disease than folate deficiency.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is mostly caused by damage to (and surgical removal of) the terminal ileum because the vitamin is absorbed from the end of the ileum. Because this site is commonly damaged in Crohn’s disease, oral vitamin B12 supplements may not reverse vitamin B12 deficiency.

In place of oral supplements, vitamin B12 injection (a once-monthly shot) is recommended.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is important in Crohn’s disease because of its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.

In fact, vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of Crohn’s disease. In addition, this deficiency can cause the demineralization of the bone and, therefore, raise the risks of bone fracture and osteoarthritis among people living with Crohn’s disease.

Studies show that vitamin D supplementation can help relieve the symptoms and complications of Crohn’s disease.

Where oral supplementation fails, vitamin D deficiency can be reversed by exposure to ultraviolet (UVB) rays whether from direct sunlight or on tanning beds.

Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K is also important to bone mass. Therefore, vitamin K deficiency increases the risk of bone diseases in Crohn’s disease.

Vitamin K deficiency is caused by poor nutrition; by damage to the ileum; by drugs such as sulfasalazine; and by antibiotics.

Vitamin K can be replenished with foods rich in the vitamin or by supplements.

Mineral Deficiencies

The 3 most important mineral deficiencies in Crohn’s disease are zinc deficiency, magnesium deficiency, and iron deficiency.

Zinc deficiency in Crohn’s disease is caused by diarrhea as well as vitamin A and D deficiencies. This deficiency is more common in children with Crohn’s disease than in adults.

The most important benefit of zinc in Crohn’s disease is its ability to help maintain intestinal barrier function. Therefore, it strengthens the lining of the gut and prevents “leaky gut syndrome”

Magnesium deficiency is also caused by diarrhea as well as by the removal of parts of the small intestine.

This deficiency can lead to bone loss as well as irritability, mental confusion, muscle spasms, and convulsion. Therefore, magnesium is needed to help maintain muscular coordination, cognitive function, and nerve impulse conduction.

Iron deficiency is caused by intestinal bleeding. Because most of the iron stored in the body is found in the hemoglobin of red blood cells, bleeding from damaged intestinal lining can lead to iron deficiency anemia.

Oral iron supplements are not generally recommended because the undigested ferrous remnant can cause inflammation in the gut.

Depending on the severity of iron deficiency (and blood loss) in Crohn’s disease, iron injections, erythropoietic therapy or blood transfusion may be recommended.

5. Rebuild Your Damaged Gut

The last step to healing your Crohn’s disease is to rebuild your mucosal lining and restore its structural integrity. To do this you need N-acetyl glucosamine.

N-acetyl glucosamine is one of the natural compounds that make up the structure of the intestinal mucosa.

Therefore, it can help speed up the healing of damaged intestinal lining in Crohn’s disease because it is the main substrate needed for repairing the mucosa.

While some experts believe glucosamine supplement is better than N-acetyl glucosamine because it is better absorbed, the latter is actually the better supplement in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. This is because the enzyme needed to convert glucosamine to N-acetyl glucosamine is impaired in people with Crohn’s disease.

While taking N-acetyl glucosamine to repair your intestinal lining, you should also endeavor to avoid all known triggers of the disease.





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