Treatment Options for Crohn’s & UC

Treatment Options for Crohn’s & UC

Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a unique, natural, effective and gentle approach to the treatment of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). It can be used as an alternative, or complimentary to standard Western medical intervention. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is very useful in the treatment of chronic problems, whilst Western Medicine is particularly useful in the treatment of acute conditions. There is much that needs to be done to improve outcomes for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Many people find that a complimentary medicine approach can do just that.

Ulcerative Colitis Patients Find Better Relief With Acupuncture Than With Drugs

“While some doctors prescribe medications to reduce the swelling associated with ulcerative colitis, there is no known cure for the condition, which has led scientists to study other possible remedies, including acupuncture. In fact, the results of a recent study suggest that acupuncture is superior to drugs in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, with more acupuncture patients reporting complete relief of symptoms and a higher overall effectiveness rate compared to patients taking anti-inflammatory agents”.1

Research extract: One packet of the Chinese herbs were taken orally two times per day. In addition, a retention enema was used consisting of Chinese herbs. Results were assessed after three successive courses. Based on certain criteria, the cure rate was 61.45% and the total effectiveness rate was 90.36%.2

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views and treats inflammatory bowel disease somewhat differently to current orthodox Western Medical practice. TCM holds that each patient is to be viewed as an individual, with a strong connection between mind and body, and to his/her environment. This approach can be a great strength and help to patients suffering with Crohn’s and UC since we all know that chronic conditions do affect our state of mind, our families, and our ability to function in life. TCM sees no other way to address and resolve a health problem.

To introduce you to how TCM perceives, prevents and treats Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, it is first necessary to explain some of the fundamentals of TCM theory. An effective way to do this is to look at nature. Our planet spins around its geographical axis, having a geometric field with a North and South pole. The same magnetic force field is present in every living cell, each with its positive and negative pole. The human body as a whole similarly has its own force field. In China it is called qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is made up of energy that is in constant motion.3

Qi flows through pathways in the body called meridians, which connect to our internal organs. In order to have a healthy body and mind, qi needs to be in abundance and circulating freely. Balance is also required. The Chinese use the terms yin and yang to measure balance in health and life. Yin and yang refer to relative polarities in nature. Yin pertains to night, rest, passivity and femininity. While Yang pertains to assertiveness, activity, day and the masculine.

Essentially, a TCM practitioner assesses the state of Qi, Yin & Yang in a presenting patient. This is mainly done by asking questions, looking at the tongue, feeling the radial pulse and the abdomen. For cases of Crohn’s and UC, the internal organ systems are paid particular attention. For chronic non-malignant inflammatory bowel disease, I usually see a presentation that TCM identifies as a ‘Spleen deficiency’. Common symptoms of this are frequent and severe diarrhea, watery stool with undigested food, dull abdominal pain, poor appetite, poor digestion and gastric discomfort after food intake, fatigue and lethargy due to chronic malabsorption and malnutrition. Common signs are a pale face, pale tongue with a white coat.

Both Western and Chinese medicines recognize the importance of diet and its role in prevention and treatment of IBD. Western medicine acknowledges that dietary intake of certain factors (such as excessive chemicals or lack of fibre) may be linked to increased incidence of bowel inflammation, while Chinese medicine recognizes that dietary intake with excessive cold or raw food may injure the spleen and stomach.4

TCM also recognises and addresses the effect that emotions, lifestyle and eating habits have on the bowel. In addition to avoiding the wrong food, I also advise my patients to have adequate calorie and fluid intake as malnutrition and dehydration are common problems associated with IBD.

Not all presentations of Crohn’s and UC are treated in the same way. TCM treatment could incorporate herbal medicine, acupuncture, laser acupuncture, acupressure, or electro-acupuncture to activate the homoeostatic mechanisms of the body. Literally hundreds of different herbs can be used for the treatment and prevention of Crohn’s and UC. To optimise safety, effectiveness and compatibility with other herbs, supplements and or pharmaceuticals, I strongly advise you to have Chinese herbs prescribed by a Chinese Medicine practitioner.

I help my patients to develop a lifestyle that supports and maintains the benefits of the treatment. I approach this using a fusion of Eastern and Western theory, ancient and modern techniques. Some of the general key points are:

  • Minimise the intake of dairy products
  • Eat at regular times
  • Avoiding over-eating
  • Avoid worrying
  • Practice abdominal massage

A more detailed general dietary guide is available here (insert link to dietary page). A holistic and individualised approach is best taken, so see a TCM practitioner for specific advice.

There is much that needs to be done to improve outcomes for people with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. An integrated approach of Western and Chinese Medicine may be a great help to you.

To find a qualified TCM practitioner in your area, call the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association on 1300 725 334.

Alternatively, contact my practice in Melbourne on (03) 9486 5966 or via reception@freedomchinesemedicine.com

 

Dr. Elaine Hickman

B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac (Beijing).

Registered Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine

 

Endnotes

1 Ma X. Acupuncture treatment for 76 cases of ulcerative colitis. Journal

of Traditional Chinese Medicine December 2005;25(4):264-265.

2 An article published by Zhang Bei-qin, et al.,

in Xin Zhong Yi (New Chinese Medicine) issue no. 4, 2003. Titled “A Study of the Therapeutic Efficacy of 38 Cases of Chronic, Nonmalignant

Ulcerative Colitis Treated by Jian Pi, Wen Shen Qing Chang Tang,” this

article appeared on pages 27-28 of that journal.

3 Listen to Your Body. B. Guo & A. Powell, 2001, p.3-4

4 John K. Chen, PhD, PharmD, OMD, LAc

Crohn’s Disease: Western and Oriental Perspectives, Part II

http://www.acupuncturetoday.com

Herbal Medicine for Crohn’s or UC

Herbal Medicine for people living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis

Most cultures, including the West, have a continuous history of the use of substances from nature to treat illness. Until recently, most Western medicines were based on plants and other natural substances. Herbal Medicine is becoming increasingly popular and accepted as, if used properly, it is safe, natural and very effective. Herbal Medicine can be used to assist people living with Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis by boosting the immune system, improving general wellbeing, and decreasing inflammation in the bowel. Many drugs commonly prescribed for these conditions have potential adverse side effects. It is therefore important to identify well tolerated medicines that can help induce and maintain remission.

Note: Herbal Medicine can be used safely in conjunction with pharmaceutical drugs. All you need is accurate information and advice. The best source of this information is your treating gastroenterologist, GP, or herbalist. Self-administration without professional advice can be ineffective or dangerous. Even though most specialists and GP’s have no training in herbal medicine, they will receive information about any reactions and contraindications between medicines. A qualified herbalist, either Chinese Medicine Practitioner or Naturopath, will be able to prescribe herbs which could help you.

Herbal Medicine is the use of mostly plant parts (leaves, twigs, bark, roots and seeds) to treat illness. There are specific herbs and supplements which can be used to decrease inflammation in the gut, protect the lining of the bowel and boost immunity:

  • 1. Turmeric
  • Turmeric may have a protective role in ulcerative colitis through regulation of oxidant/anti-oxidant balance and modulation of the release of some inflammatory agents.1
  • 2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Some studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, may reduce inflammation in people with Crohn’s Disease. More research on omega-3 fatty acids is needed, especially at differing doses, because not all studies have found a positive effect. There were no serious side effects in any of the studies.2
  • 3. Glutamine
  • Glutamine is an essential amino acid is known to play a key role in maintaining the integrity of the intestinal mucosa (lining). Glutamine supplementation has been shown to reduce intestinal permeability (Hond 1999), prevent mucosal atrophy and maintain gut integrity (Van der Hurst 1993).3
  • 4. Probiotics
  • Probiotics are living microorganisms that are thought to benefit health by altering the growth of bacteria in the intestines thereby reducing inflammation. Probiotics have been found to be effective in managing inflammatory bowel disease. They help control the number of potentially harmful bacteria, reduce inflammation, and improve the protective mucus lining of the gut.4
  • 5. Oral Aloe Vera Gelhas been found in studies to have an anti-inflammatory effect in the bowel.5
  • 6. Boswelliahas been found to block chemical reactions involved in inflammation. Unlike anti-inflammatory medication, Boswellia doesn’t seem to cause gut irritation that can occur with many conventional pain relievers. Boswellia should not be taken for more than 8 to 12 weeks unless under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.5
  • 7. Folic Acid

People with chronic ulcerative colitis are at greater risk of colon cancer. A study found that dietary Folic Acid supplementation significantly suppressed ulcerative colitis-associated colon cancer.5

  • 8. Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Different Chinese Medicinal Herbs are used according to the nature and severity of the inflammatory bowel disease. These herbs include: rhizoma zedoaria, caulis fibraureae, cortex moutan radicis (moutan bark), semen presicae (peach seed), radix notoginseng, radix achyranthis bidentatae, rhizoma atractylodis, cortex cinnamomi (cinnamon bark), poria, radix ledebouriellae, radix aucklandiae, radix paeoniae rubra (red peony), rhizoma atractylodis macrocephalae (Fan 1999).6

Taking a single herb or supplement can be helpful. Taking a combination of herbs can increase the effect exponentially. In fact, the most effective way to use Herbal Medicine is to take a specific combination or mixture. This can be in liquid, powder, granule, pill or raw (cook it yourself!) form. Pill form is the most popular way to take herbs because they are easy to take and don’t taste unpleasant! Over centuries (or thousands of years in Chinese Medicine’s case), herbalists have worked out how to best combine groups of herbs to maximise effectiveness and minimise (or eradicate) side effects. Just like people, some herbs will work well together, some wont. Some herbs, when mixed together will work much better than when used separately. This use of synergy, and individualisation to your particular case, is where Herbal Medicine becomes very effective. Herbal Medicine is an exact science, so dosage and ratios are crucial. One herbal remedy or supplement will not work for all cases of Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. Having a Chinese Medicine practitioner or Naturopath tailor a prescription specifically for you will give you the best results.

Herbal Medicine can be used to boost the immune system, improve general wellbeing, and decrease inflammation in the bowel. Seeing a qualified herbalist who has the skills and experience to help you can be life changing. Since I was asked to write an article for ACCA in 2006, I’ve treated many people with Crohn’s and UC. 95% of those patients had very positive changes in their symptoms, most within 4 weeks. I’ve helped people significantly reduce their medication needs. Treatment is relatively low cost, and in some cases, after an initial consultation and prescription, herbal pills can be posted to you, with only a brief follow-up consultation needed to assess your response and review the prescription. The best practitioner will give you herbal medicine that works, that can be easy and convenient to take.

By Dr. Elaine HickmanB.H.Sc. TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac (Beijing)

Freedom Chinese Medicine

261 Waterdale Road, Ivanhoe, Victoria 3079

Ph. 03) 9486 5966

Email: elaine@freedomchinesemedicine.com

ENDNOTES

  • 1. Kumar S, Ahuja V, Vishnubhatla S, Prasad K, Kumar A. Curcumin for maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 3.
  • 2. Turner D, Zlotkin SH, Shah PS, Griffiths AM. Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) for maintenance of remission in Crohn’s disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 1.
  • 3. Srinivasan R, Akobeng AK. Glutamine for induction of remission in Crohn’s disease (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4.
  • 4. Butterworth AD, Thomas AG, Akobeng AK. Probiotics for induction of remission in Crohn’s disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 3
  • 5. Ulcerative Colitis Remedies By Cathy Wong, About.com Guide Updated February 14, 2008
  • 6. Gan T, Wang Y, Jin SJ, Tian L. Traditional Chinese medicinal herbs for induction of remission in ulcerative colitis (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, Issue 4.

REFERENCES

Turner D, Steinhart AH, Griffiths AM. Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) for maintenance of remission in ulcerative colitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 3

De Ley M, de Vos R, Hommes DW, Stokkers PC. Fish oil for induction of remission in ulcerative colitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. 

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