The Collaborative Approach to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, is completely different from its mild-mannered cousin IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBD is a disease process, as opposed to a functional issue. The term captures both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which involve a chronic, and often severe, inflammation of the digestive tract.

Symptoms of IBD usually involve severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss.

Causes of IBD are not fully known, but it is thought to be due to a malfunction of the immune system where the inflammatory response does not shut off. 

There are some common risk factors for IBD, like genetics, family history, smoking, and the use of NSAIDs. Interestingly, if you live in an industrialized country, are Caucasian, and live in more northern climates, you are more likely to develop IBD. It may be that some environmental factors, including diet, lifestyle or even vitamin D deficiency, play a role.

IBD can be debilitating and sometimes leads to life-threatening complications like: 

  • Colon cancer
  • Skin, eye, and joint inflammation
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Malnutrition
  • Ulcers
  • Fistulas
  • Anal fissure
  • Toxic megacolon
  • Perforated colon
  • Severe dehydration

A Combined Conventional and Complementary Approach

Unlike IBS, where a naturopathic approach alone can often have excellent results, IBD presents a different challenge. Because symptoms can be severe, and lead to serious health problems, it can be important with IBD to use conventional medications to manage symptoms and keep things from getting worse.

The trouble is that conventional medications come with their own issues. Many meds have side-effects that range from sleep issues with corticosteroid use to certain cancers with the more serious immuno-suppressive drugs.  

As a result, CAM use (complementary and alternative medicine) in patients with IBD is high, ranging between 21% and 60%

Sick and Tired of IBD

Even with “controlled disease”, patients with IBD often feel sick and tired because they simply aren’t getting enough nutrients. Why?

  • The intestines are inflamed and/or damaged and are not absorbing nutrients effectively.  
  • Chronic diarrhea and pain cause changes in taste and anxiety about eating, so patients just don’t want to eat
  • Some drugs for the treatment of IBD, like the anti-inflammatories, make it harder to absorb nutrients
  • The intestines are sometimes so inflamed that they are bleeding, resulting in blood loss over time, which can lower iron levels and lead to anemia

What Can You Do?

The multiple nutrient deficiencies in patients with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis is well documented. There is less research on the roll of repletion of these nutrients in the IBD literature, although we have seen anecdotal evidence of increased energy, decreased symptoms and longer remissions in our IBD patients who receive regular IV infusions of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.  

There is also a growing body of evidence for the use of some complementary therapies, including probiotics, curcumin and fish oils. All of these substances help to modulate immune function and decrease inflammation.  

To learn more about naturopathic approaches, including IV therapy, for IBD, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book online.