So lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions – via email, Facebook, and text – that require answering. Yet, working full-time (a variety of jobs), studying part-time (never stop learning!), and focusing on entrepreneurial pursuits in-between, it’s difficult to get back to everyone in a timely fashion. This is because when I do anything, I want it to be 100%.
“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”
So what I’ve decided to do is to take those questions and make them weekly focus posts so that other people can benefit from the answers as well.
Today I’m sharing information/guidance on how to heal Crohn’s disease naturally. When I was in Thailand, I met new friends suffering from the same condition, and was also recently sought out to offer guidance to a young teenager who was recently diagnosed. By the end of this article, you should feel comfortable in moving forward (via diet, lifestyle, and maybe even a bit spiritually), so I hope it is beneficial to you and your family.
What is it?
As you’re aware, Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disorder that leads to severe ulceration of the digestive tract. It usually occurs in the last portion of the small intestine (ileium) and the beginning of the large intestine, but can occur in any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. As sufferers of this condition know, Crohn’s disease can be exceedingly unpleasant.
Symptoms can range from intense abdominal pain and chronic diarrhea to fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Other symptoms include nausea, mouth and anal sores, fatigue, and a general sense of malaise. Chronic diarrhea prevents the absorption of vital nutrients, with malnutrition as a result.
Persistent bleeding within the intestines can cause anemia and other nutritional deficiencies.
Important to Know:
In primitive societies that follow diets based on whole, unprocessed food, Crohn’s disease is basically non-existent. In fact, it was practically unheard of in the United States until the middle of this century. When consumption of refined and chemically treated products skyrocketed, food allergies (which tend to afflict societies that rely on unnatural foods, and are also thought to be a major cause of this disorder) increased as well.
Dietary therapy is a crucial component of any treatment plan for Crohn’s disease, and many will testify that although there is no ‘official cure’, adopting good eating habits will go a long way in reducing symptoms and helping the body heal itself.
- Diet high in fatty and refined foods and low in fiber
- Food allergies
- Free radicals
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Intestinal Infection
- Poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking and drinking alcohol
- Increased intestinal permeability (Leaky Gut)
People afflicted by Crohn’s must be especially careful with their diet and be diligent about eating wholesome meals comprised of fresh, organic, whole foods. It is always best to prepare food(s) yourself so you know exactly what is going into your dishes. Many condiments, low-quality oils, and non-listed ingredients can be very aggravating to the GI tract.
Protein deficiency is common in people with Crohn’s, therefore it is important to include a hearty protein source into your diet at least two times per day. Fish/seafood are great options as they are full of healthy essential fatty acids (Omega-3) which help reduce inflammation; I would also recommend sprouting lentils and mung beans and then steaming them, and then adding them to different dishes prepared. They are delicious, full of nutrition and protein, and easy to prepare. A final recommendation would be a high-quality, sprouted (raw and vegan) protein powder that is easy to digest and is full of nutrition. Garden of Life is a great brand that is well-known and trusted.
Healthy fats will be very important in reducing inflammation, as well as lubricating the digestive tract. Avocado, coconut oil (which helps mend ‘leaky gut’, a major factor in allergies/poor protein digestion), some nuts/seeds (soaked/sprouted to remove tannic acid, an enzyme inhibitor), ghee, and similar are great for this condition. Healthy fats are key.
Fermented foods: Most people with Crohn’s have poor balance of beneficial bacteria, therefore it is essential you supplement with probiotics (acidophilus) and/or consume plenty of fermented foods, including kim chi, sauerkraut, kefir (not from a dairy source – I would recommend cutting out dairy for a while, as most people lack the enzyme lactase to digest lactose, resulting in digestive problems), or raw goat milk (made into kefir or yogurt). Coconut yogurt (you can make it yourself) is also very soothing and healing to the body.
Juices are ideal for Crohn’s sufferers, because they require little work from the digestive system and are easily absorbed. Cabbage juice especially is very effective in healing ulcerated areas. Make it a priority to drink a fresh, raw vegetable juice every day.
Healing Leaky Gut:
The #1 recommendation to heal leaky gut is to adopt a whole foods, low-glycemic, plant-based diet and supplement with bone broth (from free range, organic, grass-fed animals) to heal the lining of the gut. As an ethical vegetarian, I am aware of the importance this tip plays in helping others heal, therefore recommend it nonetheless.
70% of the population is estimated to have some degree of leaky gut, and poor protein digestion (caused by an under-active stomach, something else you may want to look into) causes partially digested particles of proteins and fats to leak through the gut wall and into the bloodstream, where they are perceived as ‘foreigners’. This causes an immune reaction, leading to allergies, leading to inflammation, causing a number of symptoms (depending upon one’s genetic predisposition). So you can see, healing the gut is a crucial step in healing. Coconut oil also helps heal the lining of the gut, so include liberal amounts in your food preparation.
PS – You can also use coconut oil for your skin, hair, tanning lotion, etc…!
I recommend consuming plenty of brothy soups (using bone broth recommended above) during flare-ups and throughout, as they are very easy on the digestive tract and can speed recovery. Include some protein and cooked vegetables (cooked will be less abrasive than raw during the healing period – ancient Chinese wisdom) will also be beneficial to ensure you stay nourished throughout.
Hydration: Drink at least one glass of clean quality water every two waking hours. You’ll replenish the water lost to diarrhea, and you’ll also help your bowels regulate themselves.
What to Avoid:
Now you know the types of foods to include in your diet, here are the foods that must be cut out. If you fully heal your GI tract you may be able to consume them now and again in the future with little to no symptoms, but they are not optimal for human consumption anyway, so should be reduced regardless:
Refined carbohydrates: Consumption of refined carbohydrates is strongly associated with Crohn’s disease. Eliminate white flour, white rice, and both white and brown sugars from your diet. Almost all packaged products are made with at least one of these ingredients, so read labels carefully. A gluten-free diet or a carbohydrate=-restricted diet can be very effective for this disease.
Low-quality saturated fats and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat (oils) will irritate your gastrointestinal tract and make diarrhea even worse. Avoid red meat, as well as any fried or greasy foods.
Most people with Crohn’s have food allergies. When they remove the allergens from their diets, the disease often completely disappears. To determine if a food or foods is causing your problem, take a food allergy test or try an elimination diet. Dairy and wheat are the most common triggers for people with this disorder.
Be careful with high-fiber foods such as wheat bran, as it is too harsh for some people. Slowly increase fiber-rich foods int he diet.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and spicy foods. Although these products don’t cause Crohn’s, they irritate the gastrointestinal system and can make your symptoms worse.
Limit fruit juices, which commonly irritate the digestive tract of people with this condition.
The following are meant as recommendations only; I am not a medical doctor and do not claim to be. If you desire to learn more, seek out a qualified Naturopathic doctor or holistic-minded allopathic physician to delve into what supplements may be right for you.
Aloe Vera, DGL Licorice, Fish Oil, Homeopathy, Enzymes, Glutamine, Probiotics
Extra (General) Recommendations:
Peppermint tea is an excellent tonic or sufferers, as it reduces nausea, relieves abdominal pain, and has a claiming effect.
Other beneficial aids include: Chamomile tea, slippery elm, cat’s claw, oregano, a high-potency multivitamin, an antioxidant formula, and a sublingual form of vitamin B12 and folic acid to improve energy levels.
Spirulina/Chlorella are also recommended to boost overall body health and promote digestive capabilities.
- ANY Stress Reduction Techniques (Yoga, Meditation, Walking, etc…) Stress is a huge contributor to this condition, so care should be taken to reduce response in the body.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me (Amanda) here. If you’re also passionate about taking you healing to the next level and want to work with a qualified holistic nutritionist, please contact me here (Update: 7/9/2015 – At present I am booked until September/October, but please still reach out).