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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (or IBD), which includes both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC), is an autoimmune condition that can be life-threatening, debilitating, and painful. Undoubtedly the estimated 1.5 million Americans who suffer from these conditions can attest to that. But what exactly causes IBD and is there a connection to cancer for those who have it?
Digestive Distress: A Hidden Epidemic
A recent study conducted in part by NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City found that 74% of Americans complain of some sort of digestive issue, yet most do not discuss it with their doctor. Even mild digestive distress such as bloating or consistent heartburn can lead to more serious problems down the road. Remember that the small intestine is where 80% of your immune cells live. If your gut health is off in some way, then this situation is more than likely affecting your immune function as well.
The Facts about Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Both those with Crohn’s and those with Ulcerative Colitis are in essence dealing with the same condition. Crohn’s Disease, however, can affect any part of the GI tract, while ulcerative colitis is usually centered around the colon and rectum.
To give you an example of how vital gut health is to overall health, consider the fact that there are trillions of bacteria in your digestive tract which contain about 100 times as many genes then “you” do! All this bacterial DNA not only regulates the digestive system, but also controls immune system function and even produces key vitamins. “Good” bacteria can inhibit inflammatory responses and prevent substances that can produce free radicals. “Bad” bacteria, on the other hand, can wreak havoc on your entire body and directly contribute to disease, including cancer.
In both Crohn’s and UC, the relationship between the gut “biota” and the immune system is severely off-balance. This imbalance leads to a breakdown of the mucosal lining of the gut, as well as general gut inflammation. Sometimes, inflammation can be so severe that it can affect tissues deep within the digestive tract. Those with either condition can suffer from severe abdominal pain, debilitating diarrhea, fatigue, loss of weight, and malnutrition.
The Crohn’s-Cancer Connection
Both Crohn’s and UC raise your risk of certain kinds of cancer − especially colorectal cancer. A report published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology states:
“There is recognized increased risk for colorectal cancer in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, particularly in long-standing and extensive ulcerative colitis. There also appears to be an increased rate of intestinal cancer in Crohn’s disease, including both colon and small bowel sites.”
A key factor in this increased cancer risk is the amount of inflammation that occurs in the gut, especially for those who have had the disease for more than eight years. Sadly, another major cancer risk is directly related to traditional procedures performed on Crohn’s patients.
A typical treatment for Crohn’s Disease consists of removing either all or part of the colon (and sometimes the rectum). When a person undergoes a partial-removal of the colon, “rectal stump” cancer can form. The “rectal stump” is a pocket that is left behind after the colon has been diverted through surgery. Some Crohn’s patients who have had a partial colostomy can also develop Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), which can lead to both colorectal cancer and liver cancer.
A study conducted by University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands found that PSC was the leading cause of colorectal cancer in those who have had partial colostomies for Crohn’s. Crohn’s patients in general are also at a higher risk for lymphoma and carcinoid tumors.
Taking Action: 3 Thing You Can Do NOW to Stop Crohn’s
There are a lot of things that you can do to heal Inflammatory Bowel Disease naturally. Here are 3 SIMPLE THINGS you can start doing NOW to reduce your IBD symptoms and lower your risk of cancer at the same time:
#1: Make a Commitment to Heal Your IBD Naturally: Dietary and lifestyle changes are crucial for getting your IBD condition under control. If at all possible, make the commitment to explore your options for healing your gut naturally before you opt for surgery or medications. Give yourself three months if you can to research, learn, and especially apply new ways of eating, supplementation, and other modalities. The cancer risks of surgery have been outlined in this article (see above). Equivalent risks also exist with common medications for Crohn’s as well, many of which are immunosuppressant drugs with harsh side effects.
#2. Heal Your Gut: This statement may seem like common sense for someone who has a gut-related condition, but it bears repeating.
So, what can you do to begin the process of restoring gut health?
“If someone wants to improve and take care of their health from the inside, then we’ll want to talk about probiotics,” says Rubin Jordan, best-selling author of Patient Heal Thyself. Rubin was on death’s door with Crohn’s in the early 2000s when he turned his heath around through natural eating, supplementation, and probiotics.
A quality probiotic can not only begin to restore gut balance, it can also replenish B12, which many Crohn’s patients are severely deficient in. Also, consider fermented foods such as kombucha and raw fermented sauerkraut. Bone broth, herbs such as slippery elm and curcumin and Omega 3 Fatty Acids (which can help reduce inflammation) can be helpful, as well as prebiotic foods, once your system can handle digesting fiber.
Some chemicals found in processed foods can destroy the gut lining, so take measures to limit or completely avoid all processed foods. Limiting gluten, dairy, and sugar are wise steps to take as well, especially when you are just beginning your healing path. Finally, upping your consumption of fluids will help you avoid dehydration, especially if you suffer from diarrhea.
#3. Destress Your Life! Studies have shown that stress increases inflammation, so finding ways to reduce the stress in your life is key to your healing. Ways you can reduce stress include light exercise such as walking, swimming, or stretching. Other stress-busters include meditation, deep breathing, doing activities you enjoy, being in nature, and modalities such as Emotional Freedom Technique. Yes, you will probably have to reprioritize your life and let go of the activities, people, and circumstances that are causing you stress − pencil in time to nurture yourself and stick with it!
But wouldn’t making the change be worth it if it meant that you could be disease-free?
You CAN Turn Your Inflammatory Bowel Disease Around… Naturally!
The main thing to consider when healing Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis naturally is to choose foods and ways of living that reduce inflammation on all levels. It may take some tweaking to find what is right for you, but don’t give up hope. Get the support you need through your own research and also by reaching out to a qualified naturopath or nutritional professional who can offer guidance along the way. Many people have turned their Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis around through diet and lifestyle changes (thereby reducing their cancer risk)… and you can too!
Have you been able to heal IBD through natural means? Please share in the Comments section below what worked for you.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (or IBD), which includes both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC), is an autoimmune condition that can be life-threatening, debilitating, and painful.
A recent study found 74% of Americans complain of some sort of digestive issue, yet most do not discuss it with their doctor.
The small intestine is where 80% of immune cells live. If gut health is off, it’s more than likely affecting immune function as well.
In both Crohn’s and UC, the relationship between the gut “biota” and the immune system is severely off-balance. Severe abdominal pain, debilitating diarrhea, fatigue, loss of weight, and malnutrition can occur as a result.
Both Crohn’s and UC raise the risk of certain kinds of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. A key factor is inflammation in the gut, especially if you’ve had the disease for more than eight years. Another major cancer risk is related to procedures performed on Crohn’s patients.
Here are 3 things you can start doing now to reduce your IBD symptoms and lower your risk of cancer:
- Make a commitment to heal your IBD naturally through dietary and lifestyle changes
- Heal your gut
- Destress your life!
The main thing to consider when healing Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis naturally is to choose foods and ways of living that reduce inflammation on all levels.