HEALING CROHN’S WITH AYURVEDA
Healing from any chronic disease, including cancer, is dependent on gut health as well as other factors.
The digestive processes in the soil have similar processes to those inside the human body. It seems that every adult has a surface the size of a tennis court lining his or her intestines. This large surface is inhabited by bacteria and fungi similar to those found in healthy soil.
This “organ” which is integral to our nutrition but is not genetically human, is metabolically active and changeable. It contains over 300 species, mostly bacteria with a few kinds of fungi.
This gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 75% of our immune system. The “flora” also makes the important vitamins B and K. Dysregulated gut flora has been linked to diseases ranging from autism and depression to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, inflammatory bowel disease and type 1 diabetes.
But the intestine is not only there for digestion: it also produces various substances that carry messages to other parts of the body, and plays an important role in fighting germs and regulating the body’s water balance. There is a particularly high number of nerve cells in the wall of the intestine. For some people, the intestine reflects how they are feeling: for instance, they might get a stomach ache, diarrhea or constipation when they are stressed or upset about something.
The most common symptoms in Crohn’s disease are those related to the inflammatory damage to the digestive tract.
Diarrhea – Waxes and wanes; stool may contain mucus, blood, or pus
Pain in the abdomen – Crampy or steady; in the right lower part of the abdomen or around the belly button; often relieved temporarily by having a bowel movement
Bloating after eating – Less common, usually seen in cases of bowel obstruction
Constipation – Usually seen in cases of bowel obstruction
Pain or bleeding with bowel movement
Infection of the urinary tract or vagina – Suggests a fistula from the intestinal tract
General symptoms occur in some but not all cases.
Other symptoms of Crohn’s disease may be attributable to related medical conditions affecting the skin, joints, mouth, eyes, liver, and bile ducts.
Many people with Crohn’s disease have symptoms for years prior to the diagnosis. The usual onset is between 15 and 30 years of age, but can occur at any age. Because of the ‘patchy’ nature of the gastrointestinal disease and the depth of tissue involvement, initial symptoms can be more subtle than those of ulcerative colitis. People with Crohn’s disease experience chronic recurring periods of flare-ups and remission.
Abdominal pain may be the initial symptom of Crohn’s disease. It is often accompanied by diarrhea, especially in those who have had surgery. The diarrhea may or may not be bloody. The nature of the diarrhea in Crohn’s disease depends on the part of the small intestine or colon involved. Ileitis typically results in large-volume, watery feces. Colitis may result in a smaller volume of feces of higher frequency. Fecal consistency may range from solid to watery. In severe cases, an individual may have more than 20 bowel movements per day and may need to awaken at night to defecate. Visible bleeding in the feces is less common in Crohn’s disease than in ulcerative colitis, but may be seen in the setting of Crohn’s colitis. Bloody bowel movements are typically intermittent, and may be bright or dark red in color. In the setting of severe Crohn’s colitis, bleeding may be copious. Flatulence and bloating may also add to the intestinal discomfort.
Symptoms caused by intestinal stenosis are also common in Crohn’s disease. Abdominal pain is often most severe in areas of the bowel with stenoses. In the setting of severe stenosis, vomiting and nausea may indicate the beginnings of small bowel obstruction. Although the association is greater in the context of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease may also be associated with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a type of inflammation of the bile ducts, but it is more commonly associated with Ulcerative Colitis.
Perianal discomfort may also be prominent in Crohn’s disease. Itchiness or pain around the anus may be suggestive of inflammation, fistulization or abscess around the anal area or anal fissure. Fecal incontinence may accompany perianal Crohn’s disease. At the opposite end of the gastrointestinal tract, the mouth may be affected by non-healing sores (aphthous ulcers). Rarely, the esophagus, and stomach may be involved in Crohn’s disease. These can cause symptoms including difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), upper abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Crohn’s disease, like many other chronic, inflammatory diseases, can cause a variety of systemic symptoms. Among children, growth failure is common. Many children are first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease based on inability to maintain growth. As it may manifest at the time of the growth spurt in puberty, up to 30% of children with Crohn’s disease may have retardation of growth.
Fever may also be present, though fevers greater than 38.5 ˚C (101.3 ˚F) are uncommon unless there is a complication such as an abscess. Among older individuals, Crohn’s disease may manifest as weight loss, usually related to decreased food intake, since individuals with intestinal symptoms from Crohn’s disease often feel better when they do not eat and might lose their appetite. People with extensive small intestine disease may also have malabsorption of carbohydrates or lipids, which can further exacerbate weight loss.
In addition to systemic and gastrointestinal involvement, Crohn’s disease can affect many other organ systems. Inflammation of the interior portion of the eye, known as Uveitis, can cause eye pain, especially when exposed to light. Inflammation may also involve the white part of the eye (sclera), a condition called Episcleritis. Both Episcleritis and Uveitis can lead to loss of vision if untreated.
Crohn’s disease is associated with a type of rheumatologic disease known as Seronegative Spondyloarthropathy. This group of diseases is characterized by inflammation of one or more joints (Arthritis) or muscle insertions (Enthesitis). The arthritis can affect larger joints, such as the knee or shoulder, or may exclusively involve the small joints of the hands and feet. The arthritis may also involve the spine, leading to Ankylosing Spondylitis if the entire spine is involved or simply Sacroiliitis if only the lower spine is involved. The symptoms of arthritis include painful, warm, swollen, stiff joints and loss of joint mobility or function.
Crohn’s disease may also involve the skin, blood, and endocrine system. One type of skin manifestation, Erythema nodosum, presents as red nodules usually appearing on the shins. Another skin lesion, Pyoderma gangrenosum, is typically a painful ulcerating nodule.
Crohn’s disease also increases the risk of blood clots; painful swelling of the lower legs can be a sign of deep venous thrombosis, while difficulty breathing may be a result of pulmonary embolism. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia, a condition in which the immune system attacks the red blood cells, is also more common in Crohn’s disease and may cause fatigue, pallor, and other symptoms common in anemia. Clubbing, a deformity of the ends of the fingers, may also be a result of Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease may cause Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). Individuals with osteoporosis are at increased risk of bone fractures.
Crohn’s disease can also cause neurological complications (reportedly in up to 15% of patients). The most common of these are seizures, stroke, myopathy, peripheral neuropathy, headache and depression. Crohn’s patients often also have issues with small bowel bacterial overgrowth syndrome, which has similar symptoms.
In the oral cavity crohn’s patients may suffer from Cheilitis granulomatosa and other forms of orofacial Granulomatosis, Pyostomatitis vegetans, recurrent Aphthous stomatitis, geographic tongue and migratory Stomatitis in higher prevalence than the general population.
Crohn’s disease can lead to several mechanical complications within the intestines, including obstruction, fistulae, and abscesses. Obstruction typically occurs from strictures or adhesions that narrow the lumen, blocking the passage of the intestinal contents. Fistulae can develop between two loops of bowel, between the bowel and bladder, between the bowel and vagina, and between the bowel and skin. Abscesses are walled off collections of infection, which can occur in the abdomen or in the perianal area in Crohn’s disease sufferers.
Crohn’s disease also increases the risk of cancer in the area of inflammation. Individuals with Crohn’s disease involving the small bowel are at higher risk for small intestinal cancer. Similarly, people with Crohn’s colitis have a relative risk of 5.6 for developing colon cancer.
Individuals with Crohn’s disease are at risk of malnutrition for many reasons, including decreased food intake and malabsorption. The risk increases following resection of the small bowel. Such individuals may require oral supplements to increase their caloric intake, or in severe cases, total parenteral nutrition (TPN).
Crohn’s disease can cause significant complications, including bowel obstruction, abscesses, free perforation and hemorrhage.
Crohn’s disease can be problematic during pregnancy, and some medications can cause adverse outcomes for the fetus or mother. In some cases, remission can occur during pregnancy. Certain medications can also impact sperm count or may otherwise adversely affect a man’s ability to conceive.
Crohn’s disease seems to be caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetic predisposition. Researchers believe that in Crohn’s disease the immune system attacks bacteria, foods, and other substances that are actually harmless or beneficial. During this process, white blood cells accumulate in the lining of the intestines, producing chronic inflammation, which leads to ulcers, or sores, and injury to the intestines.
Researchers have found that high levels of a protein produced by the immune system, called tumor necrosis factor (TNF), are present in people with Crohn’s disease. However, researchers do not know whether increased levels of TNF and abnormal functioning of the immune system are causes or results of Crohn’s disease. Research shows that the inflammation seen in the GI tract of people with Crohn’s disease involves several factors: the genes the person has inherited, the person’s immune system, and the environment.
The increased incidence of Crohn’s in the industrialized world indicates an environmental component. Crohn’s is associated with an increased ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Smoking increases the risk of the return of active disease (flares). The introduction of hormonal contraception in the United States in the 1960s is associated with a dramatic increase in incidence, and one hypothesis is that these drugs work on the digestive system in ways similar to smoking. Emotional stress is likely to exacerbate Crohn’s.
The diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is suspected in patients with fever, abdominal pain and tenderness, diarrhea with or without bleeding, and anal diseases. Crohn’s disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are nonspecific.
Diet: Do not eat any nuts or hard grains. Eat soft foods. Avoid spicy foods, multi-grain breads, coffee, sour foods and white sugar.
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FIRST TREATMENT: DIET AND
Shatavari: 4 parts: Demulcent with strong anti-microbial properties
2 parts: Turmeric: anti-microbial + anti-inflammatory (do NOT take the drug curcumin instead) Drink your turmeric as Golden Milk
2 parts: Licorice: Demulcent
1 part: cinnamon: dipanas
This formula should be taken throughout the fasting period in the amounts of 1/4tsp two to three times a day and can continue to be taken for one to two months.
As disturbances to the gut begin to clear the patient will benefit from a formula to heal ulceration throughout the mahavaha srota. Note: all formulas containing comfrey should be used for only a limited period of time due to its’ harmful effect on the liver. For long term use, slippery elm can be supplemented for comfrey. The following formula can be used in mending ulceration and bleeding from colon, to intestine and muscular layer:
SECOND TREATMENT (this will vary according to the constitution of the client).
Chief Herb: 4 parts: aloe vera: vulnerary/hemostat
Supporting Herb: 2 parts: Comfrey: vulnerary/hemostat
Assisting Herb: 2 parts: ashwagandha: Muscular tonic
Carrier Herb: 1 part: peppermint: Dipanas
This formula can be in medicated ghee in the amount of 1/4 tsp 2 or 3 times a day.
Suggested oils to reduce vata include: castor oil, sesame oil and almond oil. Nervine sedatives and tonics such as Ashwaganda and shankhapushpi should be added to the chosen oil. These oils sound be used for full abyanga. Abyanga targets both secondary symptoms affecting the skin and the manovaha srota. When appetite has increased, light, easily digestible meals, such as vegetable soup with well cooked rice with medicated ghee are recommended.
Crohn’s disease indicates a sensitivity towards stress and anxiety, so Ayurvedic treatments targeting vata and pitta in the digestive tract are suggested for treatment. Certain psychological tendencies experienced by patients perpetuate the autoimmune condition. These psychological tendencies were expressed in Ayurveda in Astanga Hrydayam and Caraka Samhita. It was said that when disease of this sort is caused when grief (sojoka and bhayaja atisara) is not expressed so that it progresses into Grahani (cancer). This is seen both in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, hence why Ayurveda conjoins them in both pathology and treatment.
Ayurveda places a lot of emphasis of the care of the digestive system. Ayurvedic concepts particularly focus on the significance of healthy digestive system with regard to the overall balanced functioning and healthiness of the human body and mind. Healthy digestion ensures that the nutrients taken in through food are able to produce healthy tissues (Saptha Dhathus). When digestion is weak, the tissues of your body – including muscle, blood, bone and nerves – become weak and susceptible to disease.
As per Ayurveda, contributing causes of cancer are poor appetite and poor digestion, irregular, improper or incompatible diet habits and junk food. Non-following of the healthy diet habits (Pathya) in certain digestive disorders, especially the conditions of post diarrhea and irritable bowels, are also one of the important causes of this disease. People who have celiac syndrome or are gluten intolerant are especially vulnerable to this.
Usually results are very good with Ayurvedic line of treatment. Early cases tend to respond quickly than chronic. If patient can stick to all the guidelines as advised for 4 to 6 months great improvement will be seen. It is best to see your Ayurvedic physician for the treatment of this disease.