I recall a couple of years ago, when a mother brought her 10-year-old daughter to me for a naturopathic/holistic healthcare consultation for help with a recently diagnosed Crohn’s disease condition. She was beautiful but looked sad. Her stomach hurt every day, no matter what they tried… different foods, different medications, healthy lifestyle tips, etc. She had been taken to ER twice because the abdominal pain was so excruciating. She was full of anxiety. She had missed over half of the school days that year which further exasperated the anxiety as she got more and more behind. Her mom was amazing and willing to do anything to help…
What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a chronic form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that most commonly affects the end of the small intestine.1 Researchers are unclear about what exactly causes this condition but there are some common risk factors. There is a higher incidence of IBD (including Crohn’s Disease) in more developed nations like the US (go figure). Diagnosis typically happens between the ages of 15-35 years old. There are some environmental factors including smoking, certain medications (oral contraceptives and antibiotics) and various infections such as E. coli that increase risk for Crohn’s.2 Diet can also play a role as there is evidence to support that a low fiber diet may even cause Crohn’s disease as well.3 As a holistic doctor, I can also tell you from clinical experience that there is nearly always a strong emotional component to this condition.
Signs/Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease has multiple symptoms that can dramatically alter the lifestyle of those who suffer from it. The physical symptoms can be difficult to manage when first diagnosed until the client has a better understanding of some of the things that they can do to dramatically improve.
In adults, the most common symptoms include:1
- Loose, watery stools
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Bloody stools
- Feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
Other symptoms can include:1
- Feeling tired
- Painful inflamed joints
- Inflamed eyes
- Mouth sores
- Rashes or ulcers
- Sores around the anus
Signs/Symptoms in Children:
In children it can be a bit tougher to recognize at first as they often present different symptoms than adults, such as poor growth and delayed puberty.4 This is often missed or dismissed as just being a bit smaller or behind for their age. Impaired bone growth in children can have serious long-term consequences as their bones will be more at risk of fractures as they age.4 They are also more likely to have anorexia, weight loss and anemia.5
The good news is that despite what mainstream health care claims, you do NOT have to suffer! Your body was created to be self-healing. It literally wants to heal you and is always seeking to do so!
It is important to note that the goal of any good, holistically-minded recommendations is not just to decrease pain (thereby dealing with the symptom only), as a naturopath, I also want to improve the quality of life and overall vitality of the patient. Here are 4 steps that you can take that will prove helpful if you are challenged with Crohn’s Disease.
- Reduce meat and replace with a plant-based diet.6 The intake of meat has been shown to increase Crohn’s disease symptoms.7 This is because of several factors including 1) the fact that cooking meat at high heat can make it carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and cause further inflammation in the digestive tract and 2) the fact that the fat from meat sources can also increase inflammation.8
- Eat more fiber in order to improve your gut microbiome.9 This has shown to dramatically improve remission from Crohn’s disease. This is because dietary fiber, which is the non-digestible part of plant foods, becomes food for the healthy bacteria in your gut. That bacteria helps to reduce inflammation and thereby significantly reduces pain.
- Do things that reduce stress as that has a healing effect on the body, particularly in Crohn’s disease.10 Stress, as you perceive it, can play a major role in the gastrointestinal immunity as well as the inflammatory response. The effects of stress can alter gut motility, fluid secretion (yielding the water stools), adversely effect the microbiome (again, increasing inflammation) and can cause flares or relapses in Crohn’s disease. You can reduce stress by getting plenty of sleep, exercising and improving nutrition, but also through doing things you love— laugh, play, journaling, time in nature or whatever resonates.
- Along those lines, deal with emotional stresses as thoroughly as possible. This could be through various therapies including counseling or the methods that I use with clients (emotional repolarization, cell-resonant statements or the emotion code).
Back to our 10-year-old girl… We started her on a high starch, plant-based diet, cleared some physical interference fields (from past injuries), did a session of emotional repolarization and added just a couple of cell resonant supplements. Children are always fun to work with (assuming the parents are on board) because they respond so fast to positive changes. Within a few days, her mom reported some improvement. Over the next 30 days, her stomach pain was nearly gone, her bowel movements were more comfortable, and her anxiety had dramatically decreased. She had only missed 2 days of school that month (compared with 11 the previous month). Perhaps more importantly, she was HAPPY again! Happy like every 10-year-old should be… enjoying friends, school, playing outside… without worry about severe pain or hospital visits. Everyone I see is unique in their situation, however with the application of naturopathic principles and holistic healthcare practices there is always hope and help and we continue to celebrate from this story.
I LOVE being part of these types of transformations! It could be you or your loved one next. Never give up! It’s time to invoke your self-healing powers! If you can’t figure it out on your own, please get help! I have clients travel in from all over the country to my clinic here in Western Michigan. The evidence based way of practice is powerful and gets results! I would LOVE to be able to help you reach a level of wellness that you didn’t even know was possible!
1. Cheifetz A. JAMA patient page. Crohn disease. JAMA. 2014. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.7962
2. Carbonnel F, Jantchou P, Monnet E, Cosnes J. Environmental risk factors in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis: an update. Gastroentérologie Clin Biol. 2009. doi:10.1016/s0399-8320(09)73150-1
3. Castro F, De Souza HSP. Dietary composition and effects in inflammatory bowel disease. Nutrients. 2019. doi:10.3390/nu11061398
4. Lev-Tzion R, Turner D. Is pediatric IBD treatment different than in adults? Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol. 2012.
5. Menachem Y, Weizman Z, Locker C, Odes S. Clinical Characteristics of Crohn’s Disease in Children and Adults. Harefuah. 1998;134(3):173-175.
6. Sandefur K, Kahleova H, Desmond AN, Elfrink E, Barnard ND. Crohn’s disease remission with a plant-based diet: A case report. Nutrients. 2019. doi:10.3390/nu11061385
7. Jantchou P, Morois S, Clavel-Chapelon F, Boutron-Ruault MC, Carbonnel F. Animal protein intake and risk of inflammatory bowel disease: The E3N prospective study. Am J Gastroenterol. 2010. doi:10.1038/ajg.2010.192
8. Ge J, Han TJ, Liu J, et al. Meat intake and risk of inflammatory bowel disease: A meta-analysis. Turkish J Gastroenterol. 2015. doi:10.5152/tjg.2015.0106
9. Chiba M, Tsuji T, Nakane K, Komatsu M. High amount of dietary fiber not harmful but favorable for Crohn disease. Perm J. 2015. doi:10.7812/TPP/14-124
10. Mawdsley JE, Rampton DS. Psychological stress in IBD: New insights into pathogenic and therapeutic implications. Gut. 2005. doi:10.1136/gut.2005.064261