Finding Natural Relief From GI Inflammation

Millions of Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and millions more suffer from celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Even more common are milder irritations, gastrointestinal distress and what has been termed “Leaky Gut Syndrome” by the natural health world.  While some of these ailments may have hereditary roots, all can be improved and supported through nutritional and lifestyle changes.

Risk factors for intestinal inflammation include smoking, use of oral contraceptives and pain-relieving NSAIDs, over-consumption of animal and milk proteins, and under-consumption of Omega-3s.  In addition, use of antibiotics can disrupt the balance of intestinal bacteria and promote the growth of certain bacteria that have been associated with IBD.  And, of course, stress is a factor as well.  The root cause of all, however, is inflammation.    

There are several ways to support the body in achieving its own natural health and balance, either as a measure to prevent these ailments or to support the body so that symptoms can be minimized.  Here are some tips to support the intestines and reduce inflammation:

Eat a Low Glycemic and/or Paleo Diet - Mostly vegetables, with wild or free range meats, fruits, minimal whole grains and little or no dairy.  Eliminate processed foods and sugars.  

Eat a High Fiber Diet - Eating raw fruits and veggies may irritate the digestive system during a flare up, so supplementing with a quality fiber blend can be beneficial.

Supplement with Digestive Enzymes - Digestive enzymes can help break down foods so that they can be more easily processed throughout the digestive system.

Use Natural Anti-inflammatories - Such as aloe vera juice, slippery elm, Andrographis, Boswellia, mangosteen, turmeric, willow bark extract, and rosehips.

Manage Stress - Use meditation or deep breathing, take walks, or just relax with friends.  Nervine herbs can also help; for example, chamomile, passion flower, fennel, feverfew, hops and marshmallow.  Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.

Use Probiotics - The friendly bacteria populating the gut are necessary for digestive system health.  There are over 1,000 species of friendly bacteria in the intestines, and supplementing with probiotics can help keep a healthy balance.   

Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may help fight inflammation and reduce the need for corticosteroids.

Rachel Anzalone

Rachel Anzalone is a Naturopath and Herbalist at Holistic Lakewood.

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Volume 8, Issue 16, Posted 10:20 PM, 08.07.2012