Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Natural Remedies for Crohn's


If you have been reading for a while, you know that I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease about a year ago (May of 2013).  I had been sick for a couple of years with extreme fatigue and increasing digestive difficulties, but my regular doctor couldn't find anything wrong, so I assumed there WAS nothing additional wrong, besides me just being a low-energy sort of person.  I had cut watermelon, beans, beef, pork, pineapple, bell peppers, and some other foods out of my diet, because I knew they made me feel sick.

After an episode of bleeding in January of 2013, I got a colonoscopy (for the first time - and it wasn't as bad as I expected!)  When the biopsy results came back, I was very surprised to receive a diagnosis of Crohn's Disease!  I didn't know anything about it, so I got right to my new job of researching and figuring out how we would handle this new challenge, now that it had a name.


My doctor recommended the prescription medications

Lialda, an anti-inflammatory (which happens to be well-known to cause kidney and liver damage)

and

Uceris, a steroid and immune system depressant (also known to cause serious and unpleasant side-effects - plus, it wasn't yet available in a generic form for me, and I would've had to pay $300/month for this medication!)


(Extra bonus information for the health geeks: my disease progression is more similar to Ulcerative Colitis, so these drugs are more commonly prescribed to patients with UC rather than Crohn's.) 


After reading up on these options, I decided against them.  I realized, though, that doing nothing wasn't an option, either, because I kept getting sicker.


At first I was completely overwhelmed because there is a lot of advice out there, and it's not consistent.  Some "experts" recommend eating a bland diet of white foods (white bread, white rice, white potatoes), while others recommend eating as much whole fruit and vegetables as possible.

There isn't consensus on the medication and supplement front, either, at least from people who actually HAVE Crohn's.


There are scientific studies, though . . . so that's what I decided to focus on.


The first helpful study I read (and the one I keep going back to because I believe it's the most important) was THIS ONE about BOSWELLIA.



Boswellia is an herb (same herb as frankincense!) that is a powerful anti-inflammatory.  Since Crohn's is an inflammatory bowel disease, this seems like a good treatment!

The study above concluded that 1200 mg of Boswellia 3x/day (with meals) is AS EFFECTIVE as mesalamine (the drug Lialda, prescribed for me by my doctor) WITHOUT the side effects.


Why would anyone take mesalamine when there is a better option?!
Only because they don't know that there is a better option.


Boswellia has also been shown in scientific studies to be helpful with other sorts of inflammatory challenges:


Asthma

Study 1 (scroll down to the asthma subheading)

Osteoarthritis


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Study (scroll down to the Boswellia subheading)

Joint Pain

I have personal experience on this one . . . because Crohn's is a systemic (body-wide) disease, I had joint pain in a variety of different places when I was sick.  My hips, my ankles, my big toes, and my pointer finger joints were especially affected.

Ulcerative Colitis and General Colitis


Skin Problems (Irritation & Damage)

I also have personal experience on this.  When my Crohn's Disease was active, I also had extremely irritable skin.  It frequently got itchy rashes and was blotchy and inflamed more often than it should have been in response to products that didn't bother it in years past.

Chronic Inflammatory Diseases in General



Cancer

Honestly, there are SO MANY scientific studies about Boswellia being a powerful anti-cancer treatment that I can't list them all!  I will put ten links here and you can browse through them at your leisure.  Once you click on one of them, you will be taken to the National Institute of Health's website, where there are abstracts of all the studies that are being done related to health.  Each of my links will take you to a different abstract, but there will be related links along the right-hand sidebar you can click on to read more on similar topics.  



Ad nauseum . . . check it out for yourself - it's pretty amazing!




Six months ago, I started taking 500 mg/day of Boswellia.  I didn't notice a difference, and in fact, my inflammation got worse between my first colonoscopy (May 2013) and my second (in April 2014).


After the second colonoscopy, I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong, since Boswellia was shown to be as effective as mesalamine (Lialda) . . . so I re-read the study, which led me to the fact that I wasn't taking a therapeutic dose.  So about two months ago I started taking 1200 mg 3x/day, as stipulated in the main Crohn's-Boswellia study.


I noticed a difference almost overnight.  

* My joints don't hurt anymore.

 * My skin is less irritated.

* My digestive symptoms have calmed down (though I still stay away from my trigger foods: watermelon, pineapple, oatmeal, anything containing gluten, quinoa, beans, stringy meat, and some others)

* My dental hygienist said she can see a difference in the state of my gums.

* My mood is better - I'm no longer depressed and I don't have crazy mood swings like before

* My energy level slowly rose until I feel almost unstoppable!  I can't remember feeling this healthy - I think it's been about 15 years (before my health problems began).  Through all that time, I thought I was healthy because I wasn't identifiably sick, but I didn't have this whole body and spirit and mind HEALTH that I have now.  I am very thankful!


Because there are studies on things BESIDES Boswellia with Crohn's, though, I also take a couple of other supplements.  Most of them don't have science behind them (yet!), but I believe they serve a vital function in the body and I wish to supplement them.


Turmeric DOES have science behind it.
This study and a bunch of others convinced me to try Curcumin/Turmeric


Another commentary

It's also great for oral health!


As a final hope-giver for those of you who are sick, here's a link to a study on nutraceuticals (medicinal food products) and an exclusion diet that put a good proportion of the participants into remission!


I hope that's helpful to the many of you who are curious about what I'm doing and the science behind it.


I also am working hard to eat limited highly processed foods, especially those with added sugar or genetically modified ingredients, and I'm eating lots of fruits and vegetables.  I don't think those things were/are the driving force behind my return to health, though - I think it's the decrease in systemic inflammation caused by Boswellia.

May you also be blessed with good health!

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