- Ulcerative Colitis: involves open sores, ulcers and inflammation of the large intestine. Almost always causes bloody, watery stools. Beginning with the anus, ulcerative colitis can involve the whole of the large intestine.
- Crohn’s Disease: usually confined to one or more segments of the small intestine; can also affect the ascending part of the large intestine. Characterized by painful periods of inflammation. These episodes go into remission, but they leave scars at the inflammation site.
- Colitis: involves mostly the upper part of the large intestine and does not cause ulcerations. When it affects the ascending colon near the ileum, it’s called Crohn’s colitis.
What are the Symptoms?
- Diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and rectal bleeding
- Gas and bloating that has been present for at least six months
- Switching between diarrhea and constipation; never having a normal bowel movement
- Early warning signs include sores on the mouth, lip ulcers, inflamed eyes, or spontaneous ulcers or red spots on the stomach
What are the Causes?
Most problems with the gut occur between the beginning of the small intestine and the end of the large intestine. Injury can come from a bacterial infection, viruses, or other parasites. Autoimmune health-issues and physical injury can also cause issues. In addition, the digestive system is intricately tied to the emotional body. Those who internalize their feelings are particularly prone to the disease. Stress has a direct effect on the intestine. The response of the digestive system to injury or emotion is to become inflamed.
According to Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine, physiology and psychiatry at the UCLA, “the majority of patients with anxiety and depression will also have alterations of their GI function.” What’s interesting is that 95% of serotonin is housed in the gut, where the majority of communication occurs within the digestive tract; 90% of this information will be translated to the brain. The messages can be positive, but they can also be unpleasant. Many of us have experienced the feeling in our gut right before public speaking or other traumatic emotional circumstances. This disrupts digestion and creates a feeling of anxiety, uneasiness and sometimes panic.
You will often hear patients that have diagnosed with IBS that it must be “stress” or some other psychosomatic cause. This is because that tests show that the GI tracts look essentially normal. But it turns out that like depression, IBS is at least in part a function of changes in the serotonin system. In this case, there is too much serotonin rather than too little. In a healthy person, after serotonin is released into the gut and initiates an intestinal reflex, it is taken out of the bowel by a serotonin transporter, or SERT, found in the cells that line the gut wall. People with IBS do not have enough SERT, so they wind up with too much serotonin floating around causing diarrhea. You will see a similar response with chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin which cause serotonin to be released in the gut, leading to nausea and vomiting. Excess serotonin that then overwhelms the receptors in the gut will also shut them down and cause constipation.
IBS can be placed in a category with other inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The inflammation, which in a healthy response causes the body to combat attack, turns on healthy tissue – in this case the intestinal tract. A serious viral illness such as mononucleosis in childhood or early adulthood can be a factor, as well as heredity and emotional upheaval.
The Genetic/Glutamate/Vagus Nerve Connection to IBS and Potentially other Digestive Disorders
After doing multiple genetic programs, I have found that people who have digestive issues have gene mutations in FUT2 and GAD1 that affect prebiotic production and glutamate levels. See the glutamate diagram here, and consider genetic testing through Nutrition Genome.
The most successful approach for Ulcerative Colitis is a modified Paleo diet. This means taking out all wheat and other glutinous grains, sugar, beans, vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola, safflower) and diary (small amounts of grass-fed butter and goat cheese are the exception). These are the primary causes of inflammation.
There is a great account from a 22-year-old girl that posted pictures of her UC going into remission from following a modified Paleo diet. She actually uses the approach we use for a variety of digestive disorders for here. Another example is found here:
The modifications will be customized to your individual tolerance. Here are the guidelines:
Protein: Wild salmon, wild cod, turkey, chicken, and lamb. Beef can cause issues.
Fat: Coconut milk, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, almond milk, avocados, sugar-free sunflower seed butter, goat cheese, ghee and grass-fed butter.
Carbohydrates: Cooked or peeled fruits (ripe raw bananas or melons may not cause flares) and well cooked vegetables including sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini and kale. White rice, rice pasta, gluten free bread and Chestnut Crispbread (Whole Foods, Le Pain Des Fleurs and are more like crackers)may be tolerated in small amounts. It is important that grains remain a small part of your diet. If you notice any irritation from the grains mentioned, remove them.
*Avoid broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, hot spices, soy and peanuts.
Drinks: Water, Coconut water, Electrolyte Energy Formula or Vega Electrolyte sticks. It is important to keep your electrolytes up to avoid dehydration and increase energy levels. It is important to avoid high sugar drinks like Gatorade. Green tea, black tea or Yerba Mate may be better substitutions for coffee. Coffee can be hard on the stomach, increase the stress response and cause dehydration.
IBS can make a person crave junk food. Junk food is often rich in fat and easily digested carbohydrates, and devoid of fiber. Junk food seldom causes flare-ups, but unfortunately, contains less than 20 percent of the daily required nutrients. Organic foods, with their vastly superior vitamin/mineral content, are highly advised.
The bowel is a tube-like organ, and when it is inflamed the opening gets smaller. When an inflamed bowel is used for digestion it hurts. Nutrients are moved through the digestive system by a wave-like motion of its muscles, called peristalsis. The motion to the inflamed intestine is comparable to walking on an inflamed knee or ankle. The intestine is also sensitive to chemicals, spices, and coarse bits of food such as nuts.
Recommended foods include:
- Fish: high in protein and EPA; prepare any way except fried
- Fowl: select the breast, avoid the dark meat, do not eat the skin, and cook any way except fried
- Lean meat: broil or roast; consume small portion — no more than 4 oz.
- Tinkyada rice pasta; not gluten, no spicy sauces
- Peeled organic fruit
- Steamed vegetables: avoid brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower
- Coconut and goat milk products
- Well-cooked beans
Foods that commonly cause flare-ups:
- Spicy foods
- Cow Dairy
- Raw vegetables
- Stringy meats
- Nuts and seeds
- Fatty meats
- Dry fruit and certain raw fruits
- Diet beverages
- Food additives
- Processed meats
- Beets/beet juice
Crohn’s Disease Sample Meal Plan
2-3 poached eggs
1 cup goat yogurt with sliced apples and 1 tsp. chia seeds
Homemade chicken vegetable soup
1 baked sweet potato with grass-fed butter
Steamed green beans
The Supplement Program for IBS, Colitis, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
IBS results in malabsorption. Nutrients from food are not efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream. Children with IBS often have developmental problems due to the malabsorption associated with the disease. If the mineral zinc is consistently short due to poor absorption, physical development of some organs, such as genitals, will be delayed and possibly incomplete for life.
1. Juicer J8006
Juicing allows an easy way to absorb vitamins and minerals. This is the juicer we all own at Swanson Health Center, and the reason is that it is designed for juicing greens. We do not recommend doing high sugar juicing, and instead recommend focusing on romaine, collard greens, celery, cucumber, carrots, ginger, lemon and green apples.
To build up intestinal flora often lacking with these health-issues
The combination of vitamin C, zinc and magnesium increase the production of GABA, preventing high glutamate levels and therefore inflammation. Each one of these in particular are designed for less than optimal digestion.