Call (503)408-0790

To schedule an appointment

Lee Dennis, ND

Naturopathic Physician

Call (503)408-0790

To schedule an appointment

Location

Namaste Natural Healing Center
12616 SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97233

Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s disease (or Crohn disease), along with ulcerative colitis, is an inflammatory bowel disease. While inflammatory bowel diseases can vary in their presentation, the common theme, as the name implies, is chronic inflammation of the intestines. This inflammation generally leads to symptoms that may include frequent diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain and blood or mucus in the stool. In the case of Crohn’s disease, one of the differences is that the inflammation can affect the entire thickness of the intestine. Because of this, individuals with Crohn’s may form fistulas. A fistula is simply an abnormal connection between parts of the body. In Crohn’s disease, this may be a connection between the intestines themselves, or a connection from a part of the intestine to the outside of the body, usually near the anus. Unlike ulcerative colitis, which is generally limited to the colon (large intestine), crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract, but most commonly affects the beginning portion of the large intestine and the end portion of the small intestine (ileum).

Crohn’s is thought to be an autoimmune condition, meaning that the underlying cause is the immune system attacking the intestines. There are various theories as to why this might occur. Many theories implicate an alteration of bacteria in the GI tract as at least one factor in the development of Crohn’s. This alteration of bacteria is known as dysbiosis. Dysbiosis can occur from a history of antibiotic use, a poor diet and high stress among other factors. Recent evidence has indicated that lower levels of the bacteria Faecalibacterium prausnitzii are found in patients with Crohn’s as compared to healthy individuals. Does this mean replacing this bacteria would cure Crohn’s? It may help perhaps, but that is not currently known, and this bacterium is not commercially available as a supplement. Hopefully we will soon have an answer to this question.

Further evidence supporting dysbiosis as part of the cause of Crohn’s disease comes from studies using fecal microbiota transplants (FMT). This involves extracting the healthy bacteria from a donor’s stool sample and administering it to the patient via an enema or properly encoated capsule. Many patient’s undergoing this therapy have found an improvement in their symptoms and progression of the disease. Unfortunately, at this time the FDA does not currently permit the use of fecal microbiota transplants for inflammatory bowel disease outside the setting of a clinical trial.

Although, we don’t currently have access to FMT or a supplement containing Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, there are plenty of natural treatment options that can be beneficial to those suffering with this disease. As with most illnesses, diet can have a huge impact. Diets that address the possibility of dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth, such as the specific carbohydrate diet, have been helpful to many. Addressing food allergies and environmental toxins can also be helpful for Crohn’s as it is for other autoimmune conditions. Anti-inflammatory and immune modulating herbs as well as homeopathy can also play a huge role in treating this condition.

So, if you have Crohn’s and you thought your only options were steroids or immunosuppressants, think again! Naturopathic medicine has much to offer for Crohn’s disease!




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