alternative and complementary medicine Crohn's Disease: A Healing Program
Crohn's Disease:
A Healing Program
From   Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D.

Crohn's Disease: A Healing Program

I am frequently asked by patients with Crohn's disease, how to begin a healing program. Here are my suggestions:
  1. Dietary: Eliminate wheat and dairy until you can be tested for intolerance or allergies to these substances. Eliminate acidic foods (red meats, sugars, sweets, fried foods). Begin alkaline juicing regularly with one day of fasting per week. Buy a juicer and create lots of juice for yourself consisting of cucumbers, spinach, carrots, celery, and similar green or root vegetables.

    Assume you have Candida (until the tests can be run) and reduce your intake of simple sugars (soda, large amounts of sweet fruits, yeast-containing preparations). If your symptoms are more severe, consider a week-long alkaline juice fast.

    What can you eat? Easily digested proteins like fish or tofu. Corn, beans, and squash (the staple diet of the original inhabitants of Western Pennsylvania). Cooked vegetables. Avoid salads and raw vegetables until your symptoms have abated or your digestion is improved.

    Consider being tested for intestinal permeability. The more "leaky" your gut is, the more likely any food can cause you problems. Successful treatment will decrease your intestinal permeability, allowing you to tolerate more foods.

  2. Most people's diets are low in essential fatty acids, despite being too high in trans-, saturated, and hydrogenated fatty acids. You need to increase your intake of essential fatty acids, while reducing your intake of land animal fat, fried fat, fried oils, and hydrogenated oils. Read labels. Don't eat hydrogenated oils.

    Fatty acids can be measured on the membranes of red blood cells by laboratories like Great Plains and Great Smokies. These are worthwhile, but until those results are known, I suggest you add 1 tablespoon daily of evening primrose oil, 1 tablespoon daily of borage seed oil, and one tablespoon daily of salmon oil. If you take capsules, take 15 cc (which equals one tablespoon). You can also put these oils on salads, but make sure they are cold pressed. If your diarrhea worsens, then reduce the amount of these oils and gradually increase to the one tablespoon per day dosage.

  3. You need to be tested for gluten sensitivity, which is common in Crohn's. You need to have the following tests: IgG antigliadin antibodies, IgA antigliadin antibodies, anti-endomysium antibodies, anti-reticulum antibodies, and immunoelectrophoresis (to test your levels of IgA). The above studies are sometimes referred to as a celiac panel (minus the immunoelectrophoresis).

    I usually also order anti-casein antibodies. If these antibodies are positive, it means you are having an auto-immune reaction (attacking your own intestines), which is being triggered by gluten or dairy (casein). If this is the case, you must assiduously avoid these substances (see our autism site for links to how to eat gluten and casein free). We can help you obtain these tests if you don't have a sympathetic doctor to order them.

  4. I rely on the ELISA/ACT test to look for delayed hypersensitivity reactions to foods so that you can eliminate those foods from your diet. You might be surprised at what sets off the symptoms. ELISA stands for enhanced lymphocyte immunostimulation assay, and is the best way to test for cellular immune reactions (which are primarily what one sees in Crohn's disease). The test results come with a suggested rotation/elimination diet and supplement program, which is very good, and can substitute for a physician or naturopath's consultation if none are readily available to you.

  5. Additional tests that I like to run include:

    1. The Comprehensive Digestive and Stool Analysis with Parasitology (CDSAP) of Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory. This test looks at the quality of your digestion, tests for Candida and pathological stool bacteria, looks for parasites, and gives clues about the source of some digestive problems. Sensitivities are provided for Candida and pathological bacterias to herbs and pharmaceuticals.

    2. Red Blood Cell membrane element analysis. This test looks for toxic metals in the red blood cell and also needed trace minerals and can further guide a supplement program or point the way to needed detoxification procedures (I usually start with N-acetyl-cysteine or NAC and work my way toward more aggressive treatments if indicated).

    3. Blood and urine amino acid analyses, are helpful in determining amino acid deficiencies that sometimes correct symptoms.

    4. Intestinal permeability assays have already been mentioned.

    5. Red Blood Cell Fatty acid analyses have already been mentioned.

    6. Oxidative Stress analysis can help guide the reduction of free radicals produced by the Crohn's inflammation.

  6. Herbs can help. Slippery elm can calm and coat the intestine. Aloe vera juice is often quite helpful. White willow bark can reduce inflammation. Echinacea and Goldenseal can help to re-set the immune system.

  7. Other vitamin supplementation is important. If the Crohn's has any level of severity, I like to start with twice weekly intravenous vitamins, so that we are not challenging the gut to absorb when it is inflamed. We use vitamin C, vitamin A, a mineral complex, a B-complex with additional added folic acid, vitamin B12, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine. I like to give 25-50 gm of vitamin C to reduce inflammation. Coenzyme Q-10 and NADH ("Enada") are also helpful if you have low energy levels.

  8. Hypnosis and visualization has been very helpful in treating Crohn's disease. I suggest working intensely on the mind-body aspect of your illness. You can contact the Academy of Guided Imagery in Mill Valley, California, to find the name of a therapist.

  9. Body work is very helpful, and I am especially enthusiastic about visceral osteopathy, a technique recovering from disuse, and being popularized by French osteopaths. Here in the United States, the Upledger Institute in Florida offers classes and can provide the names of practitioners. Other body therapies that appeal to me for Crohn's disease include lymphatic system drainage (LSD, also French, and made popular by Dr. Chikely), any deep tissue system, shiatsu, acupuncture.

  10. Chiropractic friends tell me that Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET) can be quite helpful, and these practitioners can be found through their web site.

  11. Biofeedback to learn how to recognize and regulate the emotions that influence Crohn's disease activity has also been shown helpful.
We can provide on-line consultation to patients with Crohn's Disease to make recommendations and evaluate treatment programs. Contact us for more details and for fees.

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