Characterized by inflammation in the digestive tract, Crohn’s disease is a painful condition that can affect any area of the digestive tract, from the mouth all the way to the anus. Most frequently, though, Crohn’s disease affects the ileum–the lower part of the small intestine.
The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown but men and women are equally likely to develop this condition and Crohn’s tends to “run” in some families. Crohn’s disease is most frequently diagnosed in young adults but can strike anyone of any age. For reasons not fully understood, African Americans are among the least likely to develop Crohn’s while people of Jewish heritage seem to be at increased risk.
Crohn’s Disease & Nutrition
One of the greatest challenges a Crohn’s patient faces is malnutrition. The damage caused by Crohn’s disease can make it very difficult to absorb enough nutrients. This is especially true for children and in extreme cases, patients are put on special “elemental” liquid diets that are easy to digest.
For Crohn’s patients who can eat a reasonably normal diet, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America recommends five or six small meals throughout the day, instead of three large meals. The CCFA also reminds its readers that dehydration can be of special concern, especially if diarrhea is frequent. They recommend that Crohn’s patients carefully monitor their fluid intake.
Though there’s no scientific evidence that diet plays a significant role in Crohn’s disease, some patients find that certain foods make their symptoms worse. Dairy products, nuts, seeds, corn and foods cooked in (or with) fat are foods that Crohn’s patients sometimes find troublesome. Fiber is another nutrient that may aggravate Crohn’s symptoms. While a high-fiber diet may help prevent Crohn’s disease in a healthy person, fiber-rich foods may actually cause flare-ups once the disorder is present.
Natural Herbal Remedies for Crohn’s Disease
While it’s unlikely that any herbal remedy for Crohn’s disease will work as quickly or as well as the prescription medications your doctor prescribes, a few herbs may be helpful for some people. One of the most recent herbs studied for inflammatory bowel disorders like Crohns’ disease is echinacea. Echinacea alters the balance of your body’s intestinal “flora”. Whether echinacea’s effect will ultimately aid Crohn’s sufferers remains to be seen but the initial findings are encouraging.
Other herbs studied for inflammatory bowel disease include slippery elm, fenugreek, devil’s claw, Mexican yam, tormentil and the Chinese medicine known as wei tong ning. A 2002 study found all six of these herbal remedies to have antioxidant effects and the results of this study were compelling enough to make the study’s authors call for formal evaluation of these herbs for bowel conditions like Crohn’s.
Adding Natural Herbal Remedies To Your Crohn’s Regimen
If you would like more information about these or other natural herbal remedies for Crohn’s disease, consult a qualified medical professional. Only your doctor can diagnose Crohn’s disease and tell you if any of these herbal remedies are appropriate for you.
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. (2007). Retrieved June 10, 2007 from http://www.ccfa.org/info/diet?LMI=3.2
Hill, L., et al. (2006). Echinacea purpurea supplementation stimulates select groups of human gastrointestinal tract microbiota.