According to the National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), over five hundred thousand Americans suffer from colitis with estimates at about one to fifteen cases per every one hundred thousand people.
Colitis is the chronic swelling and inflammation of the mucosa of the large intestine (colon) that is a non-specific ulcerative disease often presented as bloody stool in the form of diarrhea. It manifests in the recto-sigmoid (end of the large intestine) and travels proximally until it takes over the entire colon. Sometimes it may not be as slow moving and instead could involve the total large bowel all at once. Symptoms vary and can include:
- Constant or intermittent abdominal bloating and pain
- Continual urge to defecate
- Intestinal gas
- Bloody stool
Chronic colitis also increases the possible risk of colorectal cancer but if frequent testing is administered it can be detected early and managed increasing the chance of healing. Causes have been associated with such things as lack of blood flow (a/k/a ischemic colitis); past radiation administered to the large bowel; acute and chronic infections sometimes associated with food poisoning; irritable bowel syndrome; and other inflammatory disorders. Detection includes such procedures as abdominal x-rays, MRI or CT scans as well as barium enemas and a possible surgical biopsy. Conventional medicine has no cure for colitis so treatment is minimal. Addressing the symptoms with anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrheal, steroidal and anti-spasmodic medication as well as powerful antibiotics if an infection occurs is about all that is offered.
Either way colitis is an intrusive, uncomfortable, often debilitating disease that creeps up on the system and embeds itself for the long haul. Those afflicted have resorted to living with only hoping for minimal flare-ups and a possible medical breakthrough. However, addressing another approach that may target colitis from a different angle could prove beneficial. Traditional alternative remedies such as acupuncture and naturopathic medicine can often re-align and strengthen the system. Using specific formulas whether botanical, nutraceutical, nutritive, homeopathic and/or psychological can work to allow the system to embrace a healing regimen that works from within.
Acupuncture: Opening Essential Pathways
Classical Chinese medicine addresses the symptoms of colitis by targeting specific constitutional signs rather than just exterior reactions. Therefore several applications of acupuncture meridian manipulation are considered. Depending on the presentation of excess or weakness regarding such findings as dampness, heat, energy (Qi) stagnation and more can offer clues as to the best protocol to administer. These seven categories with attached indications show how colitis might manifest in a variety of ways according to each individual’s unique constitutional challenge:
- Qi and Blood stagnation – Wiry knotted pulse, lack of appetite, purple tongue, acid reflux, abdominal distention and dark facial complexion.
- Damp buildup in a deficient Spleen: Excessive intake of raw foods, malabsorption, fatigue, appetite loss, short breath, flabby tongue, soft pulse and limited taste.
- Large Intestine damp-heat: overconsumption of sweets, fatty-greasy foods, abdominal cramps that calms after defecation, greasy-yellow tongue, fever, dry mouth, deep yellow urine, and rapid pulse.
- Liver overacting on the Spleen (Wood element overacting Earth element): emotional disturbance, red tongue with white coating, bitter taste, poor appetite, abdominal distention and anger.
- Yang deficiency in the Kidney: diarrhea, cold limbs, poor appetite and pale tongue.
- Heat and cold attacks: More heat than cold = bloody diarrhea and more cold than heat = watery diarrhea, dry mouth, urgency to defecate, abdominal pain, aversion to cold, thready pulse and red tongue with thin white or yellow coating.
- Damp-cold affecting the Spleen: Raw food consumption, abdominal fullness, heavy extremity sensation, white-greasy tongue and soft, slippery pulse.
Each presentation leads to points that will open pathways of stagnation. These points include: SP1, ST44, BL10, BL64, KI6 and CV4.
Probiotics: The Importance of Good Bacteria for Colitis
Described as “live micro-organisms”, probiotics are healthy, beneficial “good” bacteria (often found in yogurt) that act in creating antagonistic responses to pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Due to the highly inflammatory mucosal symptoms of colitis “bad bacteria” can overrun the intestinal tract resulting in immune system challenges as this area is ground zero for our immune responses. Therefore, probiotics have shown significant results in testing of subjects suffering from a variety of colitis symptoms. A review presented by The American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting of 19 randomized controlled trials involving over 1600 patients found that “…probiotics were helpful in controlling and improving bowel movements in those suffering from diarrhea…” Five ways in which probiotics may be able to assist in combating colitis are:
1. Colonization Resistance – Support of normal flora to resist organization of pathogen populations.
2. Antimicrobial Production – The manufacture of microbial defense.
3. Nutrient Competition – Probiotics can inhibit pathogenic growth.
4. Adhesion Inhibition – Good bacteria is capable of reducing pathogenic adhesion sites that can lead to exacerbating infections.
5. Immune Response Encouragement – Oral bacterio-therapy has shown to increase immune response markers.
Nutraceutical Supplementation: Vitamin and Mineral Therapy for Colitis Support
Although conventional medicine cannot offer a cure, traditional naturopathic medicine has found that use of specific nutraceutical supplements and botanical medicine often shows great promise in, in some cases, the reduction and sometimes elimination of colitis altogether. An example of particular nutraceutical and botanical choices are as follows:
- Antioxidants – Due to the high potential of infection as result of colitis, antioxidant therapy is a highly beneficial defense. Such supplements as vitamin C and E as well as zinc and selenium work well in combating colitis infection.
- Tissue Reparation – Because colitis is notorious for breaking down intestinal wall tissue, taking such restorative supplements such as as vitamin D, B12 and folic acid can help repair the damage.
- Amino Acids – Processed packaged food removes almost all amino acids in most foods. Replacing these essential building blocks with supplements such as bee pollen and L-Glutamine, can assist in healing the lining of the digestive tract.
- Omega-3’s and an Anti-Inflammatory Diet – Fatty acids rich in omega-3 have the ability to reduce inflammation, particularly throughout the gastrointestinal system. In addition, an anti-inflammatory diet that includes omega-3’s such as fish, flaxseed and walnuts, live fruits and vegetables, brown rice, ginger and curry will allow the body to accumulate a rapid and effective defense system.
- Turmeric, Aloe Vera, Boswellia and Slippery Elm – Anti-inflammatory remedies that some concluded and continual studies show effective promise for use for intestinal inflammation due to colitis. Studies from India suggest that the remission rate with Boswellia is 70% to 82% compared with 40% to 75% in those taking conventional treatment (sulfasalazine).
- Licorice Root – This root is a natural demulcent which means that it is capable of coating mucous membranes to decrease irritation.
Do not attempt the above colitis remedies on your own as each one can offer a completely different application to each individual system. At Integrative Med Solutions, we will design an acupuncture and naturopathic treatment program that works for you. In many cases, insurance covers portions of the acupuncture treatment. Allow us to support you to achieve optimal health. To make an appointment or find out more about how acupuncture and naturopathic medicine can benefit you, please call our office at 914.337.2980 or click here to schedule an online appointment.*Please Click Here to see a current list of In-Network Insurance Companies for Acupuncture that we participate with as well as insurance companies that commonly have Out-of-Network benefits. Please call 914.337.2980 or securely email firstname.lastname@example.org to verify your specific benefits. If you are emailing, please include your full name, date of birth and insurance identification card number.