Crohn’s and Digestive Health

Sunday we looked at the digestive system, but what about one of its ailments. Today I will investigate a chronic inflammation of the GI (gastro-intestinal) tract, known as Crohn’s disease. We highlighted its prevalence the other day, but it along with ulcerative colitis (which takes place solely in the colon) are the two main diseases that make up the bigger picture of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). Crohn’s disease can occur anywhere in the GI tract, but it is most prevalent in the small intestine and/or colon. The immune system mistakenly views microbes (such as bacteria that is normal for the intestines) as foreign invaders and sends white blood cells for a full-fledged attack. Not surprisingly this spells bad news for your intestines and the lining and can lead to injury (just check out the lovely picture). There are several types (all depending on the location of the inflammation) and symptoms include:

  • persistent diarrhea
  • crampy abdominal pain
  • fever
  • at times rectal bleeding

As is common, though, systems can vary from person to person. Of course it says that the cause is unknown, but for some reason in the developed world and in urban areas vs. rural areas, that the disease is more common. Huh, this seems like a no-brainer. What, chronic inflammation is more common in a country that cranks out man-made food and advertises poisonous polyunsaturated fats to the population for profit and self-life. Hell we throw stuff down our throat that has never been seen before and our bodies don’t know what to do with it. Add too little sleep and a lot of stress, plus the over consumption of grains and starches due to the recommendations by our lovely government and we wonder why we have more chronic inflammation? Oy! Then of course we need to fix things by medications which will cause problems elsewhere and we’ll have to take more medications (and feed into the medical industry). How about a change of lifestyle (prevention rather than just trying to get a quick fix) to decrease the chronic inflammation destroying Americans health (sorry for a bit of a tangent but this kind of stuff gets me fired up)? So how can we improve the health of our digestive system?

  Carbs: Let’s begin with those pesky grains and starches that our nasty government recommends, shall we. Ok these foods are high in disaccharides and polysaccharides (groups of sugars don’t forget all carbs are broken down into sugars) and nutrient foes (phytates– check out last weeks post). A lot of people cannot breakdown disaccharides because they lack the enzymes to break them down. This leaves them to putrefy in the colon, distressing the system. Where do we get disaccharides? Anything with sucrose (all sugars) and unfermented  dairy (milk, ice cream and some soft cheeses). What about polysacharrides? Found in you bet ya, in starches (those lovely potatoes, corn and rice-also featured last week). Also think of grains, that not only contain starch, but phytates that jack with your mineral intake and absorption (damn robbers!). Not only that, but gluten (click the link), which is hard to digest and causes further distress for many individuals. Other foods that may be hard to swallow, for people with intestinal difficulties are Jerusalem artichoke (inulins that are hard to break down), legumes and beans (notably soy due to nutrient inhibitors). Carbs that are good? Fermented dairy like kefir, yogurt, and many hard cheeses, non-starchy vegetables, properly prepared and soaked nuts. Eat vegetables cooked.

Fats: clearly omega-6 (found in most commercial oils and processed foods) not only are rancid but can lead to inflammation. So it’s a no-brainer to decrease and eliminate them from your daily caloric intake. However, we do want to increase omega-23 intake with foods like wild salmon, eggs, organ meats, grass-fed products and of course pharmaceutical fish oil daily (these are also good sources of the fat-soluble vitamin D, that Crohn’s sufferers are often deficient in and can develop ricket-like conditions). Other fats of course also include my other favorite fats grass-fed raw butter and coconut oil that exhibit anti-microbial properties.

Other things to consider: Soups and stocks (I love a bone broth), which are not only a great source of absorbable minerals (so often with chronic conditions your vitamin and mineral levels are zapped so you need to make sure you’re in taking enough)., but they get to the heart of the digestive disorder to help soothe and heal. Protect flora with probiotic (more coming Thursday) or fermented vegetables. Add enzymes to help breakdown and digestion. Clean and purified water is also a nice suggestion. Alrighty so now we know how to take care of our digestion (although a lot of this sounds familiar), tomorrow we’ll look at more harmful components of digestion. For more on our fat-burner weight-loss programs check out our website at bodychange.net

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