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Natural Awakenings Charleston SC

Quenching Gut Inflammation Naturally

Jul 21, 2019 09:16AM

Nearly a decade ago, digestive disorders accounted for approximately 13.5 million hospitalizations and 236,000 deaths annually. Today, it is estimated that this has risen to 60 to 70 million Americans.

 Inflammatory diseases of the digestive system include both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The prevalence of Crohn's disease is approximately 360,000 Americans with 141,000 hospitalizations, 1.8 million prescriptions and a mortality rate of 622 deaths annually. The prevalence of ulcerative colitis is approximately 620,000 Americans with 82,000 hospitalizations, 2.1 million prescriptions and a mortality rate of 311 deaths annually.

 It is thought that the prevalence of all digestive disorders is on the rise, and although a patient may have not be specifically diagnosed with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, inflammation can be playing a key factor in their overall digestive health.

 There is not simply one recognized cause of inflammatory bowel disease, but rather a number of combined factors that increase the risk of developing either Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. A number of possible environmental risk factors have been investigated, including smoking, appendectomy, psychological stress and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and oral contraceptives.

 Dietary risk factors include high intakes of total fat, omega-6 fatty acids, refined sugars and meat, while high vegetable and fruit intake decreased the risk for inflammatory bowel disease. One study looked at a link between increased consumption of saccharin and sucralose in the increased development of inflammatory bowel disease in people due to artificial sweeteners’ ability to inhibit non-pathogenic gastrointestinal bacteria.

 The traditional approach achieves decreased inflammation through medications, but there are many foods and natural therapies that can be used. Here are some approaches to consider:

 •  Remove all inflammatory foods from the diet—sugar, wheat, corn, cow dairy, nightshade family vegetables, alcohol and caffeine. 

•  Remove all chemical additives from the diet—high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors/dyes and monosodium glutamate. 

•  Avoid all processed and refined foods. 

•  Increase consumption of anti-inflammatory foods—salmon, walnuts, olive oil, avocados and dark green vegetables (if the patient can tolerate those foods). 

•  Drink at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of water each day to facilitate the bowel's ability to detoxify substances. 

•  Find an outlet to keep stress levels in check, as increased stress can exacerbate symptom— exercise, yoga, meditation, watching a comedy movie, reading a good book or soaking in a hot bath. 

•  Smoking increases the risk of developing Crohn's disease and can exacerbate symptoms, so it is best to quit the habit. 

Use supplements made from whole food ingredients to ensure receiving all of the nutrition that would be available from eating the foods that are in the source, as opposed to receiving a high dose of just one nutrient. Here are some remedies that can easily be utilized.

 •  Green tea—Green tea has been shown to moderately enhance the growth of some bifidobacteria and selectively inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio cholerae, Campylobacter jejuni and Helicobacter pylori. Experimental in vivo studies have indicated that tea catechins improve intestinal flora and reduce intestinal inflammation. The preferable method of consumption is three or four cups of green tea daily, or a green tea supplement can be used.

•  Fish oil—Marine and some plant oils, such as flaxseed oil, fall into the category of omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential and need to be consumed in the diet. Some recent research has found that replacing omega-6 fatty acids with omega-3 fatty acids in the diet reduced inflammatory markers and helped support immune modulation in patients with both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. A daily fish oil supplement can be taken, or consume cold-water fish such as such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, tuna and sardines two to three times per week.

 •  Probiotics—Probiotics are live, non-pathogenic microorganisms administered to improve microbial balance in the gastrointestinal tract. They consist of Saccharomyces boulardii yeast or lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium spp. Probiotics confer their beneficial effects through several mechanisms, including reduced intestinal pH, decreased colonization and invasion by pathogenic organisms, decreased inflammatory markers and modification of the host immune response. Some research has shown probiotics effectiveness for increased remission rates and decreased disease symptoms in both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Foods that contain naturally occurring probiotics include fermented vegetables, kimchi, komboucha, soy sauce, miso, sauerkraut and kefir. Practitioners can suggest daily broad-spectrum probiotics for their patients, along with eating increased amounts of the fermented foods with naturally occurring non-pathogenic bacteria.

 •  Turmeric—Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family that has been used for a variety of health ailments in India and China since 700 A.D. The key constituent in turmeric that provides its anti-inflammatory effect is curcumin. Because turmeric is more bioavailable in the digestive tract, it has been proposed that it is most useful for restoring function in bowel disorders. Turmeric can be added to vegetables, homemade salad dressings, or brown rice dishes. However, in order to achieve a therapeutic dose, turmeric supplementation may be prudent.

 Because there is a good opportunity to help alleviate symptoms by small changes in the diet, it is imperative to learn which foods to consume in greater quantities and which foods should be eliminated completely. Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Whenever a person’s body chemistry is altered, it can never fully function. Nnutritional, whole food supplementation and simple dietary modifications are integral in order to decrease gut inflammation and achieve digestive health.

 Stephanie Zgraggen, DC, MS, CNS, CCN, is a licensed chiropractor, certified clinical nutritionist and owner of Lime and Lotus, LLC, in Charleston. She utilizes saliva testing, herbs and whole food supplements to correct female hormones imbalances and balance digestive health in her patients. For more information, visit


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