I know, that’s a very long title for a recipe: Carrot Ginger Immune and Digestive Support Vegan Soup Recipe. But I wanted to say a bit about why I chose to make and share this one. My poor husband has had a fair amount of dental work done recently. Most people don’t particularly enjoy having someone drill in their head, but for him, it’s particularly anxiety-provoking, as I’m sure many of you can relate. All that stress was taking a toll on both his immune and his digestive systems–as stress does. Plus, he wasn’t able to chew very well.
Now, I’m not much of a cook, I’ll easily admit. So, anything I do make needs to be pretty easy and quick. I’m mostly not much of a cook not because I can’t cook well, but because I’m impatient when it comes to getting food ready. When I want food…cue Queen’s song…I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.
As you probably know, carrots are good for you. Rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C, they are immune system supportive. They support the digestive system with a rich source of fibre. Combine that with anti-inflammatory, digestive supporting ginger, and you’ve got a powerhouse of health.
So, here it is, the no-chewing-required, immune-boosting, digestion-supporting, vegan-friendly, make-it-easy recipe.
Vegan Soup Recipe
Carrot Ginger Immune Boosting Digestive Supporting Healthy Vegan Soup Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons minced ginger (I did closer to 4-5 Tbsp and it was super gingery, but delish!)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander (I used cumin because I thought I was out of coriander)
- 4-5 cups diced carrots
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup coconut milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat
- Add onions
- Saute until onions are translucent (about 4 minutes)
- Add ginger
- Saute for another 4 minutes (until softened and fragrant)
- Add coriander (or cumin)
- Add carrots
- Add vegetable broth
- Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are completely softened (about 30 minutes)
- Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes
- Blend soup until smooth, using either an emulsion blender in the pot or put into a blender in batches (my Vitamix did it all in one go)
- Return soup to pot
- Stir in coconut milk
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Even better the 2nd day, if you have leftovers!
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
Ate too much at Thanksgiving? Already digging into the Halloween candy? Not to suggest that you continue to overeat or eat junk, but don’t you wish there was something you could do to help improve your digestion? There is. Acupressure for better digestion is easy to learn and simple to do.
This is the first of a series of blogs I’m going to do on acupressure for simple health issues.
What is Acupressure?
First of all, let’s cover the basics about acupressure. It’s pressing on specific points on the body, stimulating the tissue underneath to treat health conditions or symptoms. You can use your fingertips, thumbs, or even something like a capped pen or Qtip. Choose something that is not going to pierce your skin. If you want that, then you’re looking for acupuncture and you’ll need to see a qualified professional like me!
Pressing on the points will elicit a sensation of a bit of tenderness or maybe even mild tingling or aching. If it’s painful or sharp, you’re pressing too hard–go easy on yourself! If you feel nothing, either you don’t quite have the correct point, you’re not pressing hard enough, or that point is not currently useful for you.
Press each point for 10-30 seconds, usually on both sides of the body, but one at a time.
Acupressure for Better Digestion
Stomach 36 (ST36)
If you’ve seen me in clinic, you’ve probably experienced this point, as it’s good for a wide range of health conditions. As you can see from the English name above, it’s the 36th point along the acupuncture Stomach channel. That’s a decent indicator that it’s a great acupressure point for improving digestion. Research has also found a connection between this point and digestive health. 1,2,3,4
ST36 is 4 fingerwidths below the bottom of your kneecap (patella), just to the outside (lateral side) of your shin bone (tibia).
Spleen 6 (SP6)
Another multi-use point, this one is also relatively easy to find, as it’s likely to feel tender when you press it. Actually, all the points should feel tender when you press them.
This point is 4 finger widths up from the tip of your medial ankle bone (malleolus), behind your shin bone (tibia).
Large Intestine 4 (LI4)
Often known for its ability to help relieve headaches, tooth pain, or other pain conditions of the head and face, it’s also helpful to treat pain in many places of the body. Additionally, as a point along the large intestine channel, you can use it for acupressure for better digestion, treating digestive pain and cramping, diarrhea, and constipation.
There are several ways to locate this point. One way is to squeeze your thumb close to the rest of your hand, and then locate the highest point in the muscle between the thumb and index finger. Press firmly and feel around until you find the spot that is tender.
Pericardium 6 (PC6)
This is one of the most widely researched and accepted points for use with both acupuncture and acupressure for better digestion, particularly for treating and preventing nausea, whether from pregnancy morning sickness, chemotherapy or other medication side effects, motion sickness, or illness. 1,2,3,4
You can either buy motion sickness bands, like those pictured below, or use your thumb or finger to apply pressure on this point.
Find this point on the inside of your forearm, 3 finger widths up from the crease of your wrist, between the two tendons that pop up when you flex your wrist or make a fist.
Beyond Acupressure for Better Digestion
This is simple advice for simple, acute (short-term) digestive issues. If you have chronic or serious digestive health problems, you don’t need to keep suffering! Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including acupuncture, Chinese herbs, supplements, and food cures can be your solution. Ask me your digestive health questions.
Watch my video below or read the text under that for tips about a few ways to eat (and enjoy) fermented foods.
* Note that putting yogurt in muffins will cook out the good bacteria, but there are many other ways to sneak it into your food (e.g. smoothie).
I’ve tried a number of fermented foods that I’ve wanted to spit right back out (ayran and poi, for example). And some I’ve not been able to get past the smell of (natto and stinky tofu). But don’t be offended if those are your favourite foods. My grandmother grew up eating natto, so she loves it. I think it looks like chunky mucus and smells like rotten garbage. Nothing I’d want to eat. But, the first time people try beer or alcohol, they also tend to think it doesn’t taste good. Our tastes change with exposure.
A friend once proved that to me when I told him I would not eat Marmite (New Zealand’s version of Vegemite, a food paste made from leftover yeast extract). He quietly snuck it into sandwiches he made for me. He started with tiny, miniscule amounts so I wouldn’t notice. Then gradually increased the amount bit by bit. Eventually, he opened up my sandwich as I was partway through eating it to show me that I had been happily eating something that I had once thought of as vile.
My mother used to sneak yogurt into my dad’s food because he doesn’t like yogurt. Not knowing it was there, he didn’t mind it. Though he still says he doesn’t like yogurt. Sometimes it’s also mind over matter.
Nevertheless, there are a huge number of fermented foods, all with different flavours, so I’m sure there are some that you will enjoy from the start.
Did you know that even coffee and chocolate are made from a combination of fermentation processes?
(By the way, this is a sidebar in my TCM healthy nutrition book I’m writing.)
Summary of how to like fermented foods
- Include just a little, so you can barely taste it (or not taste it at all). Easier to do if you are the cook and the fermented foods-hater doesn’t know they are eating it.
- Mix it in other foods that will hide the flavour.
- Yogurt or kefir in a smoothie. Check out this delicious lassi recipe!
- A bit of sauerkraut on a burger. Try it on a bean burger recipe.
- Chop up fermented veggies really small and add them to a salad.
- Find a chutney you’ll like–there are so many options, from fruity and sweet to savoury or spicy.
- Just because you don’t like one kind of fermented food doesn’t mean you’ll hate them all. Explore your grocery shelves and online ideas and recipes.
- Remember that tastes change. And sometimes we actually learn to like something we didn’t like once upon a time. I’ve discovered this about Brussels sprouts, fish, tomatoes, and olives (provided those olives are in Greece when I eat them).
- Try this easy sauerkraut recipe.
What are your favourite fermented foods and fermented food recipes?
So why would you make your own sauerkraut recipe when you can simply buy it in a store? Well, because like anything homemade it often tastes better (unless you screw up the recipe, which I have been known to do). And because this way you know you have a true fermented product, not a sterile, no good bacteria (probiotics) vinegary cabbage. The basic recipe is simple, but I’m sure you could modify it to play with the flavours.
A few years ago I was in Germany for some biopuncture training. We noticed that we didn’t have a lot of vegetable options when we’d eat out, but sauerkraut was almost always included. I’m sure it helped us to digest the meat (don’t eat sausages anymore, so might be harder to travel through Germany now), bread, and beer. Though I was glad to get back to fresh veggies at home, it was delicious and I love this sauerkraut recipe below!
Have you ever made sauerkraut and do you have any tips?
Sauerkraut recipe basics
The minimum amount of time to make a sauerkraut is 3 days, but taste it to see if it's long enough. Longer time helps develop the flavour more as it ferments further. Put it in the fridge (or cold cellar) when it tastes right to you.
- 1 medium head green cabbage
- 1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp caraway seeds (optional)
- Two-quart wide-mouth canning jar or two-quart mason jar
- Smaller jar that fits inside the larger mason jar
- Clean stones, marbles, or other weights for weighing the smaller jar
- Cloth to cover the large jar
- Elastic band or string to secure the cloth
- Clean and rinse everything well.
- Discard any wilted or limp outer leaves and trim out the core of the cabbage.
- Slice the cabbage into very thin ribbons,
- Place cabbage in a large mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle salt over the cabbage and massage it in, squeezing the cabbage with your hands until the cabbage becomes limp and watery (like coleslaw). It will take 5 to 10 minutes.
- Optional to mix in caraway seeds.
- Stuff the cabbage into the large canning or Mason jar, tamping it down with your fist.
- Include the liquid that was squeezed out of the cabbage while you were massaging it.
- Optional: Place one of the larger outer leaves of the cabbage over the surface of the sliced cabbage to help keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid.
- Put the smaller jar into the large jar and weight it down with the stones or marbles.
- Cover the mouth of the large jar with the cloth and secure it with your elastic band or string.
- For 1 day, press down the cabbage by pushing on the inside smaller jar every few hours (obviously go to bed, don't stay up or wake yourself to do this).
- * If the liquid hasn't risen above the cabbage after 24 hours, then dissolve 1 tsp of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to your larger jar to submerge the cabbage.
- Ferment for 3 to 10 days, keeping it away from direct sunlight.
- Check it daily to make sure cabbage remains submerged in liquid.
- Taste it after 3 days. When it tastes good (may take more than 3 days), remove the weighted jar and put a lid on the large jar. Refrigerate it.
- Try to have the temperature at cool room temperature, as having it too cold will make it ferment really slowly and too hot will sometimes make it mushy.
- If you notice a foam or white scum on the top of your cabbage, this is part of the fermentation process and you can skim it off either during fermentation or before placing in the fridge.
- If you see mold, skim it off right away and make sure the cabbage is still fully submerged.
- As a fermented food, your sauerkraut will last for at least 2 months. Longer if refrigerated.
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
Non-Starch Polysaccharides–AKA Fibre Foods
Non-starch polysaccharides is not an easy term to remember, or to market as part of a nutritious diet. More commonly termed dietary fibre, it includes cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectins (though it gets complicated here with the terminology often expanding and changing).
If sugar is considered the “bad boy” in the carbohydrate family, then fibre is treated like the “golden child.” You probably know fibre as that thing that you know you should eat more of, but that doesn’t seem that appetizing. It’s generally not something that your taste buds will crave because it has no taste. Plus, though you have to make the effort to eat it, it leaves your body mostly undigested.
So, what’s the point?
Fibre foods help support digestive health, regulate blood sugar fluctuations, lower elevated cholesterol, help eliminate toxic waste products from the body, prevent colon cancer, and more.
Dietary fibres are most commonly divided into soluble and insoluble fibres. It’s not a perfect division (what in the world is?), but here are some of the benefits and types of food that provide each of these categories. Most whole plant foods contain a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibres.
Soluble Fibre Foods:
Soluble fibre attracts water, so it turns to a gel when it enters your body, thus slowing your digestive process. Note that if you are supplementing with psyllium husk or any other soluble fibre product, make sure to consume it with a lot of water. Because it creates a gel, insufficient water will make it act more like a plug, causing constipation—uh oh!
- Though fibre is commonly thought of as something that “makes you go,” because it slows the speed of digestion, it also helps manage diarrhea and loose stools.
- It helps regulate blood sugar levels.
- It lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
- It reduces the risk of getting intestinal ulcers.
- It may increase the amount of healthy bacteria in the colon.
- It provides a feeling of satiation (feel full) without added caloric count.
To get more soluble fibre in your diet, include:
- Oats/oat bran
- Psyllium husk
- Other grains like barley, bran, brown rice, and rye
- Black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, soy beans, and other beans
- Tofu, edamame
- Vegetables like asparagus, beets, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, green beans, peas, sweet potato, turnip
- Fruits like apples, apricots, avocado, figs, pears, plums, prunes
- Almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds
Insoluble Fibre Foods:
It makes sense, based off its name, that insoluble fibre does not bind itself to water and turn to gel, like the soluble fibre, but it does absorb water while moving through the digestive system, making for an easier passage. Insoluble fibre is found in many whole foods, but the highest amounts are often found in the parts of the foods that are tougher to chew, like cabbage, onions, bell peppers, and the skin of apples, cucumbers, and grapes.
- It promotes regular bowel movements.
- Because it absorbs water, it adds bulk to the stool to relieve constipation.
- Speeding intestinal transit time helps it move toxic waste through the colon more quickly.
- It assists in blood sugar regulation.
- By optimizing intestinal pH, it helps prevent colon cancer.
- It may increase the amount of healthy bacteria in the colon.
- It provides a feeling of satiation (feel full) without added caloric count.
To get more insoluble fibre in your diet, include:
- Wheat bran
- Most whole grains, including barley, millet, rye
- Most legumes, including kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, and pinto beans
- Most vegetables, including broccoli, carrots, kale, okra, peas, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, squash, and turnip
- Dried fruits, including dates and prunes
- Berries, peels of apples, apricots, pears, and plums
- Almonds, flax seeds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, and walnuts
Next month I’ll include my TCM nutrition book section on how to store your oils.
IBD is short for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and it includes chronic inflammation at any or all parts of the bowels. The most common types of inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, but inflammation of the rectum is also possible, and it’s called proctitis.
Few people want to talk about their challenges with an IBD. It simply isn’t accepted as a topic easily discussed in public. But, recently someone asked me to write about inflammatory bowel disease, in particular proctitis, as it’s something that she suffers from.
* If you want to read more about Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, check out my blog Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s or my article in 24 Hours, Time to Get Gutsy.
Proctitis can be either acute (short-lived) or chronic (long lasting), and it can cause rectal pain, frequent or continuous sensation of needing to have a bowel movement, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, mucus in stool, and pain in the left side of the abdomen. Diagnosis can involve blood tests, stool tests, and a scope.
Causes of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Proctitis
About a third of the people with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis will have proctitis.
Sexually transmitted infections—including gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, and HIV—particularly from anal intercourse, is one of the risk factors for proctitis, so it’s important to use protection.
Other types of infection that can result in proctitis include foodborne infections like salmonella, campylobacter, and shigella. Antibiotic use may also make us more susceptible to infection as it destroys the good bacteria in our gut, allowing harmful bacteria to flourish. Probiotic supplementation and the consumption of naturally fermented foods rich in good bacteria can help diminish the risk by rebalancing our gut flora.
Radiation therapy for cancer treatment in areas close to the rectum (such as prostate or ovarian cancer) can also cause proctitis. This can happen during radiation therapy and last for months after, or even occur years after treatment.
Treatment of Proctitis
Obviously, if the cause of the proctitis is an infection, that will need to be treated. Antibiotics may be the appropriate course of treatment, but remember to take your probiotics as well. Time them away from when you take the antibiotics. Yogurt is not enough. Yogurt and other fermented foods are helpful for general promotion of good bacteria in the gut, but antibiotics are powerful drugs, so you’ll need to take a probiotic supplement to counter the destruction of all the good bacteria.
Probiotics are a good treatment option in general for digestive disorders, so talk with a health practitioner about your best choices.
If the infection is viral, like herpes, you may need to take an antiviral medication. One natural option for herpes treatment is the amino acid l-lysine. Again, it’s best to talk with the right health practitioner for assessment.
As the “itis” component of the word proctitis indicates, this is an inflammatory disease, so taking care of the inflammation is key. Natural anti-inflammatories include turmeric (curcumin), bromelain, and fish oils. It’s also important to avoid foods that are likely to trigger inflammation, including refined sugars, processed fats, chemically-laden foods, caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and too many animal meats. Spicy foods, seeds, popcorn, raw foods, and foods with sorbitol in it may also be triggers for proctitis and other IBDs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Proctitis
TCM always assesses each person individually. The best TCM is not a “cookie cutter” treatment with the same acupuncture points, herbal formula, or nutritional advice being doled out to every person with the same medical diagnosis. In fact, treatment plans can vary quite widely for the same disease because the people suffering are all quite different.
Nevertheless, there are some patterns that we do commonly see. For example, inflammatory issues, especially when acute or in a flare, often show signs of Heat, so we recommend avoiding hot spices, stimulants, alcohol, and excessive exercise (light and moderate are still recommended, depending on the severity). Those who’ve been struggling with a digestive disorder (or most any chronic health issue, really) for a long time, probably have a number of deficiencies–areas of weakness. For those, we may recommend herbs that help strengthen the body, including ginseng and reishi or cordyceps mushrooms. Juicing may be appropriate for those with more Heat signs, while soups and stews and slow cooked meals may be recommended for those with more Cold. Both are more easily digested than simple raw foods.
Acupuncture can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and calm the nervous system to support healing. And, don’t worry, the needles are not done locally.
If you or someone you know has proctitis or any other IBD or digestive disorder, contact me if you have questions on how to treat it. No need to suffer in silence.
Many of you may be travelling this winter, either for Christmas holidays, New Year’s celebrations, or to get somewhere sunny early in the new year. The last thing you want to do is get sick. One of the first things I organize when I travel is my healthy travel pack. Your list may vary, depending on your particular needs, where you are travelling, length of travel, and how much room you have in your bags, but here are some of my tips.
Cover the Basics for Healthy Travel
While many have a fear of flying, afraid that the plane is going to crash, we all know that that is highly unlikely to happen. You are, however, highly likely to be exposed to a lot of viruses and bacteria that can leave you sick when you arrive at your destination. The first thing I would suggest when it comes to travel is to support your immune system. It’s also key to be proactive for digestive health, as travel can offer up some challenges in this regard. And how about stress and sleep? Even vacations can still stress you out and cause sleep problems.
Immune Health for Healthy Travel
- Hydrate. Planes, in particular, are likely to leave you dehydrated. Though you may have to bother your fellow travellers so you can get up from your plane, train, or bus seat or ask for a driving pit stop, drink plenty of fluids. And no, wine or other alcohol do not count. In fact, don’t drink alcohol on the plane if you want to stay healthy (if you drink because it calms your nerves, read below for tips on that).
- Use an essential oil spritzer. A small (keep in mind liquid restrictions on airplanes) spray bottle with anti-viral essential oils like lavender and tea tree can be used to spritz your face. It’s refreshing, and if you inhale deeply as you spray, you’ll hydrate the mucus membranes of your nasal cavities, keeping them moist and doing their job of trapping infections before they enter your body deeper. Keep in mind that not all your fellow passengers will like this, so you may want to go to the bathroom to do this. Or, some may ask if they can borrow your spray bottle so they can try it themselves (no problem!).
- Take an immune support supplement with you. I take Japanese red reishi capsules and an anti-viral natural herbal throat spray. I also often take vitamin C or Panax ginseng powder to mix into my water.
- Take anti-bacterial wipes and/or hand sanitizer. I don’t like the conventional ones like Purell (hate the smell and find it drying), preferring instead ones like EO’s lavender hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your face. This one takes practice. You may not realize it, but many of you will touch your nose, mouth, eyes, and ears several times in a day, each time possibly transferring bacteria to those entry points of your body. Use your forearm, sleeve, or tissue if your face is itchy or whatever. This funny video gives you another option for your sneeze: Sneeze into the back of your knee.
Digestive Health for Healthy Travel
- Take a digestive enzyme blend. One of the things I love about travelling, is the chance to try new foods. But sometimes the body takes some time to get used to a change in diet. Plus, many of us over-indulge. I always bring digestive enzyme capsules in my purse, at the ready for culinary adventures.
- Bring ginger. I like ginger candy chews to help with motion sickness and nausea or vomiting from other cause (ugh, many of us have been down that road before).
- Be careful. Of course you know that if you are travelling to a place that is known for the equivalent of Montezuma’s Revenge (not just in Mexico), you’ll want to avoid drinking non-bottled or non-boiled water, ice, and even some raw fruits and vegetables. If you can peel them, you are much safer. I also bring grapefruit seed extract (Nutribiotic) so I can wash fruit I want to enjoy, but can’t fully trust.
- Take probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria that support a healthy digestive and immune system. The research on probiotics (and our “microbiome”) is growing exponentially. Look for one that’s shelf-stable (doesn’t need to be refrigerated), if you don’t have a fridge to store them.
- Bring anti-nausea wrist bands. If there’s any chance of someone in your travel party getting nauseous from motion sickness, throw these inexpensive and small wrist bands into your bag.
Managing Stress and Sleep Issues for Healthy Travel
- Make time for sleep. I know that getting ready to take a break from work can mean overtime before and after holidays. But, do your best to still get enough sleep. If you don’t sleep well, your immune system, digestive system, and everything else will not work as well. You’ll be more stressed too.
- Stress manage. Of course you may not be able to avoid all things stressful, but you can be prepared. If you are afraid of flying, get yourself geared up. My husband does not like to fly. But distraction (he never travels without his MP3 player and good headphones), breathing techniques, and explanations (“What’s that noise?!” “That’s the landing gear coming down.”) all help. There are also many natural remedies to help calm the nervous system. Passion flower (e.g.Pascoflair tablets) and Rescue Remedy drops or lozenges are examples. And, if something stronger is needed, I bring Gravol, in case he needs to be knocked out (though it doesn’t always work).
- Breathe. Of course you breathe. But do you really, really breathe? I mean, do you breathe deeply and slowly and with awareness? If you want to be calm when you are stressed, practice calm when you are not too stressed.
- Consider an adrenal support protocol. If stress is your M.O., talk to someone about adrenal support supplements. Acupuncture can also help manage stress with its release of endorphins and chance to reset and restore the body and mind.
- Use sleep supplements, if needed. I know that jet lag, a different bed, hectic travel, a change in routine, and even just being super excited about travelling can all make sleep more difficult. I bring a sleep tincture (with valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, and oats) and/or melatonin. If I don’t need it, no worries. But if I do, I’m grateful to have it handy!
And of course, try to eat healthy and get exercise.
If you’re travelling to a different time zone, check out my blog on jet lag acupressure.
May you enjoy your healthy travel time. Let me know your favourite travel tips. And favourite places to travel (I love to add to my travel wish list!).
The question on Quora was “From an Evolutionary Perspective, the digestive system of humans is better designed to be on what sort of a diet? Omnivore, herbivore, or carnivore?” Many want to know what is the best diet plan for all? Traditional Chinese Medicine of course recommends that food choices should be personalized to what works best for the individual.
I’m currently listening to the Audiobook for “Food, Genes, and Culture: Eating Right for your Origins” by Gary Paul Nabhan. So far a very interesting read/listen!
This is a link to my answer on Quora:
You know what I’m talking about. You look in your closet to figure out what to wear to go to the next holiday celebration and you ask yourself, “What will stretch without showing my bloated belly?” Instead of having to cover up, avoid the holiday bloat by making better food and drink choices. That doesn’t mean that you have to avoid all the fun! Just choose wisely and follow some of my simple pieces of advice given in my 24 Hours Vancouver article, Avoid the Christmas bloat
While the likelihood of being diagnosed with many diseases increases with age, there are some that are most likely to start in the “prime of life”—ages 20 to 40. Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (UC), both inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), fit this pattern. While I’ve written about IBDs before, this is an area of health that I’m particularly passionate about because I have a family connection. My sister has Crohn’s.
IBDs cause a host of challenges, including that there really is not that much known about them and that these diseases can be embarrassing. If you or someone you know has an IBD, here are some things to consider.
Both Crohn’s and UC are more common in first-world countries where a Westernized diet and lifestyle have been shown to increase the risk of IBD. There is thought that regular exposure to environmental toxins, synthetic chemicals, and bacteria are possible causes or at least aggravants. In addition—though IBDs are not caused by gluten—for those that are genetically susceptible, eating gluten can aggravate inflammation. Subsequently, it’s wise to consider a gluten-free diet, avoid processed foods, and try to limit contact with toxic chemicals, including pesticides, synthetic fragrances, and BPA plastics.
There are also some unusual treatments that are currently difficult to arrange, but show some promise. One involves infecting the IBD patient with a parasitic worm. Yup, you read that right. The reasoning is that in countries where parasitic worms are common, IBD incidence is low. This is called the “hygiene hypothesis.” It states that lack of these worm infections may result in immune dysregulation, leading to inflammation of the bowels. One worm that has been tested is called Trichuris suis ova (TSO), or pig whipworm egg. When ingested, the eggs only take up residency for a few weeks, and when they embed in the gut wall they help decrease the overstimulated immune cells and decrease inflammation.
Another type of treatment is fecal implants. Because one of the issues with IBD is an imbalance of intestinal bacteria, implanting a stool sample from a healthy donor has been found to effectively treat IBD. Preliminary studies showed reduction in symptoms (19 of 25 IBD patients), stopping of IBD medications (13 of 17 IBD patients on medications), and disease remission (15 of 24 IBD patients).
The problem with both of these last treatments is that they are not readily available options.
More easily accessible treatments include probiotics to help restore a healthy balance of good bacteria to the gut; omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA from fish oils to decrease inflammation; L-glutamine, an amino acid that helps restore intestinal cells; turmeric (curcumin) and boswellia, herbs to reduce inflammation; and slippery elm, marshmallow root, and aloe vera to soothe the gut lining.
A couple of simple things you can consider include extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and also green tea. These two seemingly simple ingredients may very well help treat IBD. Taking 1-2 Tbsp of EVOO daily can help soothe the gut lining and decrease inflammation. Studies have also shown that green tea may help treat mild to moderate UC, and recommendations are for 5-6 cups daily, particularly of organic matcha green tea powder.
For a more in-depth treatment, Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a customized approach to identify individual digestive and health issues, using acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and nutritional advice.
Roundoc Rx: Optimal Integrative Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis by Robert Roundtree, MD; August 2014