Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Natural Treatment Options

Today we’re going to be talking about inflammatory bowel disease including some natural treatment approaches and root causes theories on the drivers of inflammatory bowel disease that aren’t often discussed. 

If you are struggling with inflammatory bowel disease and you’re looking for some natural treatment approaches then please get in touch with us here at Byron Herbalist and we will see if we can help you out. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Overview

First off inflammatory bowel disease is generally made up of either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. There are also a few other subtypes of inflammatory bowel disease but these two make up the bulk of inflammatory bowel disease patients.

Common symptoms include 

  • Abdominal pain 
  • Mucus and blood in the stool
  • Multiple bowel movements each day 
  • Malnutrition caused by the inflammation in the bowel and the multiple bowel movements

Often times when people present in the clinic they know they have inflammatory bowel disease. Their symptoms are so severe they’ve been to the doctor and have had a diagnosis. Many times they are looking for alternative treatment options.

Natural Treatments For IBD flares

The first question is are you in an active form of inflammatory bowel disease? IBD patients oscillate between flares of IBD and all the symptoms associated with it and then remission where they won’t be experiencing such significant symptoms. Something will trigger the inflammatory response and they will experience a flare of their symptoms. First off we need to know if you are in an active form of inflammatory bowel disease. 

If you are the number one priority, the only priority, is bringing you into remission.

Two potent anti-inflammatory herbal medicines that have good clinical evidence and good research supporting their use include turmeric and boswelia. If we aren’t quite getting the success that we are hoping for with these two herbs than a third herb, wormwood, also has some research supporting its use. We can incorporate it into the formula and really help to bring the patient into remission.

Root Cause Drivers of IBD

Once the IBD patient is in remission then the next step that we need to determine is what is driving that inflammatory response. Looking at the literature we can see that both genetics and environmental triggers are responsible. IBD is very much recognised as an autoimmune disease these days.

The gut microbiota may also be playing a strong role in driving the inflammatory response in many IBD patients. 

Tools to assess IBD patients

As a general work up I like to assess the colonic microbiota of any patient with inflammatory bowel disease.

Many times the results from these DNA based microbiota stool tests show an overabundance of pro-inflammatory bacteria and a decreased abundance of beneficial anti-inflammatory bacteria. With these results the approach would be to modulate the gut and flip that presentation. 

Often times we will see overgrowth of pro-inflammatory bacteria in the proteobacteria phylum. Overgrowths of bacteria from the Enterobacteriaceae family could be a significant driver in many IBD patients. 

Bacteria in this family include, among others

  • E. coli 
  • Citrobacter
  • Klebsiella
  • Proteus. 

A second family of bacteria within the same phylum that isn’t often discussed in the context of inflammatory bowel disease is a group of bacteria that produce hydrogen sulfide. 

Two common bacterial overgrowths that we might see in inflammatory bowel disease would be Bilophila as well as Desulfovibrio. These two bacteria produce a toxic gas called hydrogen sulfide which has been shown to pull apart the mucous membrane bonds that line the gut. This exposes the cells that line the gut to the resident microbiota and results in a pro inflammatory response and an overstimulated immune system, hallmarks of inflammatory bowel disease.

IBD Treatments – Assess and Treat the Microbiota 

There is no one size fits all in inflammatory bowel disease. 

One person’s trigger may not be another’s. We have to take into account the genetics that predispose someone to inflammatory bowel disease as well as the environmental triggers.

Today we have discussed bacterial overgrowths in the large bowel as one possible environmental trigger that may be driving your inflammatory bowel disease.

Each individual IBD patients microbiota needs to be assessed and then treated in a tailored, individual way, based on the results. Often the goal is to reduce the pro-inflammatory bacteria and increase the anti-inflammatory bacteria. Balancing and modulating the inflammatory response is key. The end goal of this process is to eliminate, or significantly reduce the triggers that push a patient into an active flare of IBD.

Different tools to modulate the gut microbiota include diet, prebiotics and probiotics. We can use very targeted herbal medicines (antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and tonic herbs) to treat the results of the test and the patient’s presenting symptoms.

If you have any questions or comments or even experience treating your inflammatory bowel disease then leave them in the comments section below

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