What is ulcerative colitis? An integrated treatment approach

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a general term that covers a number of conditions that involve inflammation of the bowel. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In this week’s blog we will discuss ulcerative colitis, and you can find out more about Crohn’s disease in last week’s blog.

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the large bowel (colon and rectum). Unlike Crohn’s disease, it only affects the inner layer of the bowel wall.

Cause of ulcerative colitis

Like many of the conditions we see at The Health Lodge, the cause of ulcerative colitis remains unknown. Ulcerative colitis is considered an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues. However, some researchers suggest it arises from an abnormal immune response of the bowel mucosa to gut flora in genetically susceptible individuals.

While the exact cause of ulcerative colitis it not yet understood, researchers do agree that a number of factors, including genetics, environmental factors, infectious agents (bacteria/virus), and immunological factors may all play a role in the development of the disease, and that the interaction of these factors may lead to the development of ulcerative colitis in susceptible individuals.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis

The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include abdominal cramping and pain, diarrhoea (which is often bloody), and rectal bleeding. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, and anaemia due to blood loss. Some people may also experience symptoms or manifestations outside the digestive tract, including swollen joints, inflamed eyes, skin lumps or rashes, liver disorders, and osteoporosis.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the individual, and the disease process often follows a pattern of flare-ups (when the disease is in its active stage and the bowel is inflamed) and remissions (where there is minimal inflammation and mild or no symptoms).

 Treatment for ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis can be an incredibly debilitating disease to live with, and can have a high impact on your quality of life. It is essential that you receive adequate care so you can function happily in day-to-day life.  Treatment of ulcerative colitis is aimed at controlling symptoms, preventing flare-ups, improving quality of life, and minimising complications. There is a range of treatment options available to you, and we recommend an integrated “team approach” to your health management.

  • Medical care: Depending on your symptoms and the severity of condition, your GP may recommend anti-diarrhoeal medications, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, or immunosuppressive agents.
  • Acupuncture: Several studies have found that acupuncture may be of benefit to people with ulcerative colitis.
  • Dietetics: A dietitian may be able to help identify problem foods, and to design a diet tailored to your needs to prevent nutritional deficiencies and weight loss.
  • Psychotherapy: Stress may trigger or worsen symptoms of ulcerative colitis. A psychologist may assist you in identifying areas in your life that cause you stress, and help you develop stress management techniques. Psychotherapy may also help you understand manage the emotional impact of your condition.

 

Naturopathic approach to ulcerative colitis

This section will discuss some of the naturopathic approaches to management of ulcerative colitis. We advise you to consult your health carers before considering commencing any of these therapies.

Diet

There is no single diet for ulcerative colitis. Each individual will react to foods differently, and your diet needs to be tailored to your individual needs. Some dietary changes commonly beneficial to people with ulcerative colitis include:

  • Low fibre diet - a low fibre diet may help to ease diarrhoea and reduce abdominal cramping during flare-ups.
  • Identifying and avoiding problem foods- Certain foods may increase cramping and abdominal pain. It is important that you identify any foods that cause such problems and try to avoid them. Common problem foods include fruit and fruit juice, cabbage, beans, broccoli, spicy food, and chocolate.
  • Drinking plenty of water- Try to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, especially during times of frequent diarrhoea. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages as these stimulate your intestines and can make diarrhea worse. Soft drinks and other carbonated drinks frequently produce gas.
  • Avoiding dairy – Some people with ulcerative colitis are lactose intolerant, and avoiding diary products may be helpful in these individuals.

Lifestyle

Stress reduction: As we’ve already mentioned, stress can trigger or exacerbate symptoms. Techniques such as exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage may help to reduce stress levels.

Correcting nutritional deficiencies

People suffering from ulcerative colitis are at risk of a number of nutrient deficiencies as a result of chronic diarrhoea, blood loss, the use of certain medications, and chronic inflammation. Your naturopath, with your other health care providers, will identify those nutrients you may be deficient in, and may adjust your diet or suggest supplements to correct them.

Identifying food allergies

While there is much contention as whether food allergies play a role in ulcerative colitis, some researchers suggest that food allergies may trigger ulcerative colitis and exacerbate symptoms. If food allergies are present, it is important to identify the problem food, remove it from the diet, and adjust the diet to prevent possible nutrient deficiencies caused by elimination of that food.

Your integrative team of health care specialists

We believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in managing all the aspects of ulcerative colitis. Depending on your needs, your multidisciplinary team may include general practitioners, gastroenterologists, naturopaths, dieticians, osteopaths, massage therapists, acupuncturists, counsellors, and psychologists. This comprehensive and holistic approach is designed to support your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

What is Crohn's Disease - An integrated treatment approach

In the next two blogs we will be discussing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is a general term that covers a number of conditions that involve inflammation of the bowel. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In this week’s blog we will discuss Crohn’s disease, and you can find out more about ulcerative colitis in next week’s blog.

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a chronic (on going) condition characterised by inflammation of all the layers of the bowel wall.  While the most common parts of the digestive tract that are affected are the large intestine (colon) and the last section of small intestine (ileum), Crohn’s disease may affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus.  

Causes of Crohn’s disease

Like many of the conditions we see at The Health Lodge, the cause of Crohn’s disease remains unknown. Crohn’s disease is considered an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy tissues. However, some researchers suggest it arises from an immune deficiency state, where the immune system is unable to control bacterial growth in the bowel, leading to chronic infection and inflammation.

While the cause of Crohn’s disease remains a contentious issue, researchers do agree that a number of factors, including genetics, environmental factors, infectious agents (bacteria/virus), and immunological factors may all play a role in the development of the disease, and that the interaction of these factors may lead to the development of Crohn’s disease in susceptible individuals. 

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease

The main symptoms of Crohn’s disease are abdominal cramps and pain; frequent, watery diarrhoea; and weight loss. Other symptoms include fatigue, fever, and loss of appetite. Some people may also experience symptoms or manifestations outside the digestive tract, including swollen joints, inflamed eyes, skin lumps or rashes, jaundice (yellowing of skin), and osteoporosis.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the individual, and the disease process often follows a pattern of flare-ups (when the disease is in its active stage and the bowel is inflamed) and remissions (where there is minimal inflammation and mild or no symptoms). 

Crohn’s disease treatment

Crohn’s disease can be an incredibly debilitating disease to live with, and can have a high impact on your quality of life. It is essential that you receive adequate care so you can function happily in day-to-day life.  Treatment of Crohn’s disease is aimed at controlling symptoms, preventing flare-ups, improving quality of life, and minimising complications. There is a range of treatment options available to you, and we recommend an integrated “team approach” to your health management.

  • Medical care: Depending on your symptoms and the severity of condition, your GP may recommend anti-diarrhoeal medications, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, or immunosuppressive agents.
  • Dietetics: A dietitian may be able to help identify problem foods, and to design a diet tailored to your needs to prevent nutritional deficiencies and weight loss.
  • Psychotherapy: Stress may trigger or worsen symptoms. A psychologist may assist you in identifying areas in your life that cause you stress, and help you develop stress management techniques.
  • Acupuncture: In a study of 51 patients with Crohn’s disease, acupuncture was found to improve disease activity markers, and to improve general wellbeing.

Naturopathic approach to management of Crohn’s disease

This section will discuss some of the naturopathic considerations in managing Crohn’s disease. We advise you to consult your health carer provider before considering commencing any of these therapies.

 

Diet

There is no single diet for Crohn’s disease. Each individual will react to foods differently, and your diet needs to be tailored to your individual needs. Some dietary changes commonly beneficial to people with Crohn’s disease include:

  • Low fibre diet - a low fibre diet may help to ease diarrhoea and reduce abdominal cramping during flare-ups.
  • Low fat diet – Many people with Crohn’s disease experience diarrhoea that contains undigested fats. These people may benefit from a low fat diet; however care should be taken to prevent weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.
  • Identifying and avoiding problem foods- Certain foods may increase cramping, bloating, and abdominal pain. It is important that you identify any foods that cause such problems and try to avoid them. Common problem foods include fruit and fruit juice, cabbage, beans, broccoli, spicy food, and chocolate.
  • Eating small frequent meals- Small meals are easier to digest and so you may feel better eating five or six small meals per day.
  • Drinking plenty of water- Try to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, especially during times of frequent diarrhoea. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages as these stimulate your intestines and can make diarrhea worse. Soft drinks and other carbonated drinks frequently produce gas.
  • Avoiding dairy – Some people with Crohn’s disease are lactose intolerant, and avoiding diary products may be helpful in these individuals.

Lifestyle

Stress reduction: As we’ve already mentioned, stress can trigger or exacerbate symptoms. Techniques such as exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage may help to reduce stress levels.

A word on smoking: If you have Crohn’s disease, smoking can lead to a worsening of your condition. Smoking increases your likelihood of having flare-ups, needing medication and requiring repeat surgeries. Quitting smoking can improve the health of your digestive tract, as well as your general wellbeing.

Correcting nutritional deficiencies

People suffering from Crohn’s disease are at risk of a number of nutrient deficiencies. If the last part of the small intestine is inflamed, you will have difficulties absorbing B12 from your diet and B12 injections may be needed. If the entire small intestine is inflamed there will be difficulties absorbing all nutrients. Your naturopath, with your other health care providers, will identify those nutrients you may be deficient in, and may adjust your diet or suggest supplements to correct them. 

Identifying food allergies

While there is much contention as whether food allergies play a role in Crohn’s disease, some researchers suggest that food allergies may trigger Crohn’s disease and exacerbate symptoms. If food allergies are present, it is important to identify the problem food, remove it from the diet, and adjust the diet to prevent possible nutrient deficiencies caused by elimination of that food.

Your integrative team of health care specialists

We believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in managing all the aspects of Crohn’s disease. Depending on your needs, your multidisciplinary team may include general practitioners, gastroenterologists, naturopaths, dieticians, osteopaths, massage therapists, acupuncturists, counsellors, and psychologists. This comprehensive and holistic approach is designed to support your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

 

 

 

Hyperthyroidism - An integrated treatment approach

To understand what hyperthyroidism is, it is important to first understand what the thyroid is, and the role of the thyroid in the body. The thyroid is a small gland located at the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid is responsible for releasing two thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. These thyroid hormones act much like the accelerator on your car- they determine how fast or slow your body’s metabolism runs.  

Thyroid hormones are able to stimulate almost every cell in the body, and control your body’s metabolic rate. This means that thyroid hormones affect the speed at which cells use oxygen and make proteins, and can affect things like heart rate, body temperature, growth, breathing rate, digestion, energy consumption, weight, fertility, and skin health. Clearly, the thyroid is an incredibly important gland!

So what happens when the thyroid is overactive?

When the thyroid is overactive, it produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. This speeds up the body’s metabolic rate, and vital functions including heart rate and breathing. This condition is called hyperthyroidism.   

Causes of hyperthyroidism

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease where they body’s normal method of regulating thyroid activity is disrupted. In Graves’ disease, the body produces abnormal thyroid-stimulating proteins called immunoglobulins, which are able to bind to normal receptor sites on the thyroid gland and stimulate its activity, resulting in excessive production and release of thyroid hormones. 

Symptoms and signs of hyperthyroidism

For many, the main symptom of hyperthyroidism may be unexplained weight loss. Other signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, heart palpitations or abnormal heart rhythms, excessive sweating, loss of bone density, increased bowel movements, poor sleep, anxiety, nervousness, and trembling hands. 

Treatment options for hyperthyroidism

There is a range of treatment options available to you, and we recommend an integrated “team approach” to your health management. It is important to note that in thyroid conditions it is possible to alternate between hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Regular monitoring of signs, symptoms, and blood tests by your healthcare team is recommended to prevent large swings in thyroid function. Therapies that you may find beneficial include:

  • Medical management: Your GP or endocrinologist may recommend thyroid-suppressing drugs to normalise thyroid hormone levels. Depending on the severity of your condition, your GP may suggest using radioactive iodine to destroy part or all of the thyroid gland, or surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland.
  • Dietetics: A dietitian may construct a meal play that ensures nutrient requirements are met, to prevent weight loss, muscle wasting, and nutrient deficiencies.
  • Psychotherapy: Stress may contribute to thyroid dysfunction, and may worsen symptoms. A psychologist may assist you in identifying areas in your life that cause you stress, and help you develop stress management techniques.

Naturopathic approach to hyperthyroidism

This section will discuss some of the naturopathic approaches to management of hyperthyroidism.  The information in this section is of a general nature only, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultations with you health care provider. We advise you to consult your health carers before considering commencing any of these therapies.

Diet

Compensating for a faster metabolism

Due to the increased metabolic rate, people with hyperthyroidism have an increased need of certain nutrients. To compensate for a faster metabolism, and manage or prevent weight loss, increased intake of calories and protein may be required.

Choosing nutrient dense foods

Due to the increased nutrient requirements, it is important to eat plenty of nutrient dense foods.  Fruits and vegetables are especially important as a rich source of antioxidants, as well as whole grains for their high B vitamin content. 

Calcium and vitamin D

Loss of bone density is common in hyperthyroidism, and people with hyperthyroidism are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. It is important that your diet contains adequate calcium and vitamin D to promote healthy bones. Sources of calcium include dairy products and fish with edible bones. Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Supplementation with calcium and vitamin D may be required, but this should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

Lifestyle

Stress seems to play an important role in disrupted thyroid function. Stress management or reduction techniques such as exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage may help to reduce stress levels.

Exercise is important in maintaining muscle mass and cardiovascular health. Weight bearing exercises are recommended as they promote healthy bone mineral density. Be mindful of the intensity and amount of the exercise, as exercise may contribute to weight loss.

Specific nutrients

L-carnitine

Some animal and human studies suggest that L-carnitine counteracts some of the effects of hyperthyroidism by inhibiting the activity of circulating thyroid hormones. Sub-optimal levels of L-carnitine could contribute to or worsen some symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Your integrative team of health care specialists

We believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in managing all the aspects of hyperthyroidism. Depending on your individual needs, your multidisciplinary team may include general practitioners, endocrinologists, naturopaths, dietitians, osteopaths, acupuncturists, counsellors and psychologists. This comprehensive and holistic approach is designed to support your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

Naturopathic treatment for hayfever

Hay fever is one of those conditions that people just learn to live with.  The constant sneezing, itchy eyes and runny nose can be extremely debilitating.  Unlike other allergies, it is a condition that is generally caused by our environment and often no matter how diligent we are with keeping the home dust and mould free we cant control the seasons.

The good news is that there are a couple of very simple hay fever remedies that can help.  Cod liver oil and Fenugreek are two great hay fever remedies that help the mucus membrane to be a little less reactive.

Echinacea and Vitamin D are main immune mediators that help to settle the bodies hypersensitivity to its environment.

Quercetin is by far the most effective nutrient as it works on both settling the immune systems over-activity while mediating the causing factors.

Hay fever relief is often possible with herbs and nutrients.  It may take a little while to figure out what combination best suits the individuals presentation, but I rarely see cases of hay fever that don’t respond favourably.

Occasionally dietary changes are also necessary and looking at digestion can be an important part of finding what works best. The two tests I would recommend when looking at treating hay fever are: a finger prick IgG test looking at foods that might be triggering an immune response; and an IgE blood serum test, a standard blood test that you can request from your GP. This will show the degree of  effect the environment is having on your  hay fever.

For hay fever relief each case needs to be assessed individually and for this I would highly recommend seeing a naturopath. Natural hay fever remedies are highly effective when the right combination of treatment is applied.

Written by Reine DuBois