Colitis and Naturopathic Medicine
Digestive related disorders are one of the most common reasons patients seek help from a licensed Naturopathic Doctor (ND). Some of these conditions have more serious sequelae than others and need to be diagnosed accurately. Have you been noticing blood in your stool? Severe cramping/gas/bloating? Frequent episodes of diarrhea? Prone to colds/flus from whatever ‘bug’ is going around? Have general feelings of malaise, or unwell?You may be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, namely Ulcerative Colitis.
Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), the cause of which, is largely unknown. UC affects the superficial lining of the colon and rarely causes bowel obstruction (blockage) or perforation (rupture). However, symptoms of Colitis can be severe and arrive both quickly or gradually. Common UC symptoms are; severe bloody diarrhea, blood in the stool, fever, weight loss, abdominal pain, joint aches or arthritis, skin rashes and eye irritation. People with UC are also at risk of nutrient malabsorption issues. Less frequently, UC can lead to a severe liver disorder known as Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis that can lead to serious illness such as cirrhosis and even liver cancer.
Colitis is a serious illness and needs to be diagnosed accurately. A proper workup includes thorough imaging, serum, and possibly stool diagnostics. A colonoscopy may be recommended to help in revealing areas of inflammatory lesions, bleeding, or ulcers on the colon wall. Tissue samples (biopsies) may be taken from the colon wall for examination under a microscope in order to make a definitive diagnosis of UC. Blood tests are an important part of any workup, and can provide important information in part with signs and symptoms. Elevations in White Blood Cell counts, C-reactive protein and ESR are often seen in UC patients. Further tests such as fecal lactoferrin (Lf), calprotectin (Cal), polymorphonuclear neutrophil elastase (PMN-e) offer further non-invasive tools for diagnosing UC. Always work with a primary care provider such as an ND or MD to properly diagnose.
When dealing with Inflammatory Bowel Disease including UC, controlling inflammatory processes are critical. Diet is one of the most important factors in managing UC. Research has shown less relapses for those consuming lower amounts of red meat, refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and some spices. Further researchers claim to observe a link between food sensitivities triggering an inflammatory response. Stress also plays a critical role in controlling UC flareups. Chronic levels of stress release inflammatory molecules (cytokines) that can aggravate and create inflamed tissue. Nutritional supplementation can be helpful in reducing inflammation and enabling tissue repair, especially in conjunction with dietary and stress management. Supplements shown to be of value when applied at therapeutic doses are: Omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA & DHA), Probiotics (S. Boulardi and L. Acidophilous strains), Bromelain, Folic Acid, and Boswellia. Always consult with a licensed ND or health care professional trained in nutritional medicine.
It is important to note that while many UC patients experience similar symptoms – it is imperative to address biochemical and lifestyle individuality for an optimal treatment plan. NDs are heavily trained in finding the root cause of illness and treating the individual. By providing an integrative approach between NDs, MDs, and other qualified healthcare practitioners, those with UC can manage not only the symptoms, but gain a further understanding in some of the possible triggers for Ulcerative Colitis. To Find an ND near you – please refer to www.cand.ca
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