Decrease gut inflammation naturally
Currently, it is estimated that 60 to 70 million Americans are affected by all digestive diseases combined.1 Nearly a decade ago digestive disorders accounted for approximately 13.5 million hospitalizations, and 236,000 deaths annually.2
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.3
It is estimated 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 his/her overall digestive health.4
Currently there is not 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 for the development of inflammatory bowel disease have been investigated, including smoking, appendectomy, psychological stress, and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-biotics, and oral contraceptives.4 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 even 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.5
The best natural approach to gastrointestinal inflammation is to control the inflammation in the digestive system! The traditional approach achieves decreased inflammation through medications, but there are many foods and additional therapies that can be utilized to provide this approach from a natural perspective that will go hand in hand with traditional treatments. The following is the list of approaches to consider:
- Remove all inflammatory foods from the diet – sugar, wheat, corn, cow dairy, night shade vegetables, alcohol, caffeine
- Remove all chemical additives from your diet – high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors/dyes, mono sodium glutamate
- Avoid all processed and refined foods
- Increase consumption of anti-inflammatory foods – salmon, walnuts, olive oil, avocados, dark green vegetables (if the patient can tolerate those foods)
- Drink plenty of water each day to facilitate the bowel’s ability to detoxify substances – at least 8 8oz glasses per day
- Find an outlet to keep your stress levels in check as increased stress can exacerbate symptoms – exercise, yoga, meditation, watching a comedy movie, reading a good book, soaking in a hot bath
- Smoking – Smoking increases the risk of developing Crohn’s disease and can exacerbate symptoms, so it is best to quit the habit
- Reset your digestive tract with a whole food focused detox program. My online 28 Day Autoimmune Reset Detox Program is designed not only for autoimmune challenges but also all inflammatory conditions.
A variety of foods and herbs exist in nature that provide anti-inflammatory effects on the digestive system and human body. In recommending supplements, I prefer to use supplements made from whole food ingredients to ensure that you receive all of the nutrition that would be available from eating the foods that are in the product as opposed to receiving a high dose of just one nutrient. The following remedies are ones that can easily be utilized.
- Green tea – Green tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing. Green tea originated in China over 4000 years ago, but is currently consumed around the globe. 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.6 Experimental in vivo studies have indicated that tea catechins improve intestinal flora and reduce intestinal inflammation. The preferable method of consumption is 3-4 cups of green tea daily or a green tea supplement can be used.
- Fish oil – Marine and some plant oils, namely 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 help support immune modulation in patients with both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.9 A daily fish oil supplement can be taken or you can 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 various 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.7 Foods that contain naturally occurring probiotics include fermented vegetables, kimchi, komboucha, soy sauce, miso, sauerkraut, and kefir. Take a daily broad spectrum probiotic and eat 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 curcurmin. Since turmeric is more bioavailable in the digestive tract, it has been proposed that it is most useful for restoring function in bowel disorders.8 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. Elimination of dietary issues, nutritional whole food supplementation and simple dietary modifications are integral in order to decrease gut inflammation and achieve digestive health.
Dr. Stephanie Zgraggen, DC, MS, CNS, CCN is a licensed chiropractor, certified clinical nutritionist, and owner of Lime and Lotus, LLC in Charleston, South Carolina. She utilizes saliva testing, herbs, and whole food supplements to correct female hormones imbalances and balance digestive health in her patients.
Download her free guide: Dr. Stephanie’s Naughty List – The Top Five Foods that Wreck Your Hormone Health here.
- National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Opportunities and Challenges in Digestive Diseases Research: Recommendations of the National Commission on Digestive Diseases. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; 2009. NIH Publication 08–6514.
- Everhart JE, ed. The Burden of Digestive Diseases in the United States. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2008. NIH Publication 09–6433.
- Molodecky NA, et al. Increasing incidence and prevalence of the inflammatory bowel diseases with time, based on systematic review. Gastroenterology. 2012 Jan;142(1):46-54.
- Cabré, E., Domènech, E. Impact of environmental and dietary factors on the course of inflammatory bowel disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 August 7; 18(29): 3814–3822.
- Qin, X. Etiology of inflammatory bowel disease: A unified hypothesis. World J Gastroenterol 2012 April 21; 18(15): 1708-1722.
- Stoicov, C., Saffari, R., Houghton, J. Green tea inhibits Helicobacter growth in vivo and in vitro. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2009 May; 33(5): 473–478.
- Rajendran, N., Kumar, D. Role of diet in the management of inflammatory bowel disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2010 March 28; 16(12): 1442–1448.
- Rajasekaran, S. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in gastrointestinal diseases. World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2011 February 15; 2(1): 1–14.