Herbs for Crohn's disease have been an area of growing interest among patients and practitioners alike.
This is largely due to the increasing awareness of their potential benefits in managing this chronic condition.
Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), presents unique challenges to those affected. Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, often disrupting daily life significantly.
In search of relief, many individuals are turning to herbal remedies to complement conventional treatments.
Today's exploration into herbs for Crohn's disease will help you navigate which herbs and supplements are best for your symptoms and get you back to feeling your best!
Imagine living your life without worrying about bathroom accommodations, stress around food, anxiety over symptoms, or disruptive pain.
Well, I'm here to tell you that it's possible with a few lifestyle changes, and, of course, the healing power of herbs!
Understanding Crohn's Disease and Its Impact
Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), affects a staggering 3.1 million adults in the United States.
This condition affects the digestive tract and often leads to severe ulceration in the last portion of the small intestine as well as the beginning of the large intestine, but it can occur in any part of the digestive tract (including the mouth).
Crohn's Disease manifests differently in various cases, with 35% of individuals experiencing its effects exclusively in the small intestine, 20% exclusively in the large intestine, and 45% facing the disease in both the small and large intestine.
The severity and distribution of ulcers, a hallmark of the condition, can also vary greatly, occurring as either a singular ulcer or multiple ulcers that can affect different sections of the digestive tract.
As the ulcers heal, they often leave behind scar tissue, which can subsequently lead to narrowing or constriction of the affected portions of the gastrointestinal passageway.
Since Crohn's Disease presents itself on such an individual basis and its range of severity is so broad, it often needs to be monitored by a gastroenterologist to ensure that the bowel stays healthy and unobstructed.
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
As sufferers of this disease know all too well, the symptoms of Crohn's can be exceedingly unpleasant.
Crohn's Disease Symptoms include:
- Malabsorption of nutrients
- Intense intestinal/abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Mouth and anal sores
- A general sense of malaise
- Anemia (caused by frequent intestinal bleeding)
- Intestinal fistulas
- Blocked intestines (caused by too much scar tissue)
- Feelings of anxiety, stress, and embarrassment around food and social interactions
Causes of Crohn's Disease
The root causes of Crohn's disease are thought to be diet-related since many "primitive" societies that follow diets based on whole, unprocessed food have very rare incidences of this disease.
In fact, Crohn's was practically unheard of in the United States until consumption of refined and processed foods began to skyrocket around the 1950s.
This increased the occurrence of food allergies and intolerances, which is often the first stepping stone for many bowel diseases to take root.
The Root Causes of Crohn's Disease include:
- A diet high in fatty, refined, and processed foods
- A diet high in sugar
- A low-fiber diet
- Food allergies and intolerances
- Free radicals
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Increased intestinal permeability
- Intestinal infection
- General poor lifestyle choices (i.e., consuming alcohol and smoking)
Who Gets Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's disease often begins during adolescence and young adulthood, with most cases occurring before age 35, although it can affect the elderly.
In rare cases, the disease strikes once and never again.
For most people, however, Crohn's becomes a chronic condition that can flare up every few months or years, but can also flare up if you've eaten foods you're intolerant or allergic to, including diets high in processed ingredients or foods that are inherently hard to digest.
Regardless of what causes your specific flares, it is a condition that must be taken very seriously, and you must be under the care of an experienced gastroenterologist.
If Crohn's is left untreated, the bowels may stop functioning altogether.
However, all hope is not lost!
Natural remedies and herbal medicine have much to offer those suffering from this debilitating disease.
Many have been able to keep their Crohn's symptoms in check and under control by using natural alternatives and a comprehensive lifestyle approach.
The Role of Inflammation in IBD and Crohn's
Inflammatory responses are central players in Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis diseases. Persistent inflammation within the digestive tract results from an abnormal immune response and is what characterizes these conditions.
This constant inflammation often leads to painful sores or ulcers forming along your intestinal lining - hence the term 'inflammatory bowel.' These complications could escalate into serious issues like intestinal blockages or abscesses if not addressed promptly.
Nutrition maintenance poses another challenge for individuals with Crohn’s disease because inflamed tissue hinders proper nutrient absorption. Some patients may face malnutrition since their bodies struggle to absorb nutrients from food passing through their damaged gut.
Recent studies have revealed that around half of all people diagnosed with IBD experience weight loss due to reduced appetite and active inflammation-related malabsorption problems.
Testing Techniques for Chron's Disease
The following tests may be used for identifying Crohn's disease:
- Stool analysis - checks for probiotic and flora balance, infection, and degree of intestinal inflammation
- Food allergy test - blood or electrodermal
- Vitamin and mineral analysis - blood, urine
- Stress hormone test - DHEA, cortisol
Lifestyle Changes Beneficial for Crohn's Patients
By taking proactive steps, it is possible to reduce the symptoms associated with Crohn's disease.
Here are a few strategies:
1. Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight
The journey to reduce symptoms starts with understanding the importance of weight management in relation to Crohn's disease. A healthy weight not only contributes to overall well-being and less inflammation but also helps in mitigating flare-ups associated with this condition.
Achieving healthy weight loss is possible through a balanced diet coupled with regular exercise.
Incorporate lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your meals for essential nutrients without adding unnecessary calories.
2. Tailor Your Diet for Crohn's Disease
Proper nutrition is essential for those with Crohn's since they often deal with the malabsorption of nutrients. Eating a high-quality diet based on whole foods and ideally zero food-related triggers will help keep vitamin and mineral levels within optimal range.
But that's not the only reason!
It has been shown that those who have identified their food allergies and intolerances and permanently eliminated them from their diets have been able to put their Crohn's disease into remission (often for many years at a time!)
Diet is the MOST IMPORTANT element you need to change when dealing with CD.
No herb on earth will heal your gut if you don't make the necessary dietary changes, so please start with your diet.
The best diet choices that help control symptoms of Crohn's disease include:
- Eating a diet full of whole organic ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats
- Consuming adequate amounts of protein like chicken, legumes, turkey, and oily fish (like salmon) twice daily
- Consume homemade bone broth (especially during a flare - it's nutritious and easy to digest)
- Consume fresh vegetable juices every day for easy vitamin and mineral absorption (cabbage juice is especially helpful for healing ulcers)
- Try to eat gluten-free or a carbohydrate-restricted diet
- Eat fermented and cultured foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, etc.(unless you are sensitive to dairy)
Finding foods that agree with your system while dealing with Crohn's disease could be challenging as different foods affect people differently when it comes to this ailment.
To better understand how food impacts your body, consider keeping a food diary where you note down what you eat and any subsequent reactions or discomforts experienced thereafter.
This way, you're able to tailor dietary habits towards foods that alleviate Crohn's symptoms rather than aggravating them.
Foods to Avoid
Avoiding food-related triggers is by far the best way to start controlling your CD and living a more normal life without pain, discomfort, anxiety, and embarrassment.
Food is a powerful force, so make sure that you are eliminating your triggers! It won't be easy at first, but you will feel so much better once you start cutting out the foods that make your symptoms worse.
Consuming the following foods has been strongly associated with the development of Crohn's disease and the worsening of its symptoms:
- Refined carbohydrates like white flour, white rice, and white and brown sugar (diets high in sugar are the most common trigger for developing Crohn's disease)
- Foods high in saturated fat, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated fats
- Red meat
- Fried or greasy foods
- Foods that you are allergic or intolerant to
- Dairy and wheat (unless you tolerate dairy very well, but it is often a trigger for a flare)
- High-fiber foods (these are often too harsh and difficult to digest)
- Carbonated drinks
- Spicy foods
- Too much fruit juice (it can be irritating to the digestive tract)
- Foods that you know are hard for you to digest (this varies from person to person)
The best place to start is by eliminating grains, refined carbs, and processed sugar.
If you need ideas on what to eat while living with Crohn's disease, I highly recommend checking out the blog Against All Grain.
3. Regular Exercise
Beyond its role in promoting weight loss, physical activity serves another purpose – stress reduction.
Stress exacerbates the severity of flare-ups; therefore, incorporating workouts such as walking or swimming into your routine will keep stress levels low while enhancing mood levels.
Natural Healing: Using Herbs for Crohn's Disease Relief
Exploring herbal medicine as a means of managing Crohn's Disease symptoms is a fantastic way to help speed up healing and prevent future symptoms.
Along with changing your diet and eliminating refined carbs, herbs can help heal the gastrointestinal tract and protect it from bacteria, microbes, fungus, and irritants.
Others help alleviate symptoms like bloating, gas, inflammation, and cramping.
Whatever your symptoms may be, there's an herb that can help!
*** As always, it is up to you to make sure that you check whether or not these herbs will interact with any medication/prescriptions you are taking.
***If you are pregnant, chamomile tea, slippery elm, and marshmallow root are fine to use, but avoid the other herbs listed below.
Peppermint tea is a simple yet powerful herbal tonic that can help ease various symptoms of Crohn's disease.
It has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antibacterial, and carminative (relieves gas) properties that help offer relief and much-needed comfort.
Drinking a strong tea (as long as you don't have reflux) is a great way to alleviate nausea, bloating, and intestinal pain.
Drink 2-3 cups per day or as soon as you feel a flare coming on.
You can get my favorite peppermint tea HERE.
Chamomile tea is another humble yet potent remedy for treating CD. It has powerful carminative properties that help reduce cramps, bloating, and gas. It also reduces inflammation in the bowel and relaxes the intestinal tract.
Chamomile can also alleviate the stress, anxiety, and depression caused by Crohn's disease.
It is one of the best herbs for Crohn's disease and one of the easiest to obtain, so don't skip out on the chamomile!
Drink 2-3 cups per day or as soon as you feel a flare developing.
You can get my favorite chamomile tea HERE.
Slippery elm is a demulcent herb that helps coat and protect the mucus membranes in the body, including the lining of the intestines.
Its mucilage content helps calm and reduce inflammation. Demulcents are inherently some of the best herbs for Crohn's disease for this reason.
I find that slippery elm is best used as a capsule.
Take 400-500 mg 3-4x daily with plenty of water.
You can get my favorite slippery elm capsules HERE.
Marshmallow root is another demulcent herb that will help coat and protect the intestines. It will help soothe uncomfortable flare symptoms and cool down inflammation.
It isn't the most pleasant herb to consume as a tea, so I prefer to take it as a capsule.
Take as directed with plenty of water.
You can get marshmallow root HERE.
Cat's Claw, an herb that hails from the Amazon forest, has been shown to treat various bowel disorders, including Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, gastritis, diverticulitis, diverticulosis, leaky gut, intestinal fistulas, fungus, and parasites.
It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
If nothing else has worked for your Crohn's disease, try this herb!
Take 500 mg 3x daily.
You can get cat's claw HERE.
***Don't use it if you are on blood pressure medication, as it can interfere.
During a flare, there is often an infection in the intestines.
To help control and mitigate symptoms, take an oregano oil capsule (500mg) 3x daily or as directed on the packaging.
Oregano is a powerful natural antibiotic that will help kill bacteria and microbes and boost your immune system. It is one of the best herbs for Crohn's disease flare-ups and preventing abscesses from occurring.
You can get oregano capsules HERE.
Also known as Frankincense resin, Boswellia serrata is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can be especially helpful to use as soon as you feel a flare coming on.
Take 1200-1500 mg of standardized extract containing 60-65% boswellic acid.
You can get boswellia HERE.
Boswellia is great for all forms of pain and inflammation, including arthritic pain.
Aloe vera is incredibly soothing and healing for the digestive tract.
It contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, including glycoproteins and polysaccharides.
Inflammation plays a significant role in Crohn's Disease, and reducing inflammation in the digestive tract can help alleviate symptoms; aloe vera is the perfect herbal ally to incorporate into your daily routine.
Take ¼ to ½ cup 3x daily or as directed.
You can get my favorite aloe vera juice HERE.
It's important to get high-quality aloe juice and not ones that contain sugar and flavorings.
DGL (Licorice Root)
DGL is another powerful demulcent herb that helps coat and protect the intestines.
It also helps calm inflammation of the digestive tract and other irritated mucosal tissues.
Licorice also helps relax the intestines, which helps alleviate uncomfortable cramping.
It also helps the body fight off infection.
Take 1-2 chewable capsules 20 minutes before each meal.
You can get my favorite DGL HERE.
Not just a spice, curcumin is known for its strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Inflammation plays a significant role in the development and progression of Crohn's Disease, and curcumin's ability to reduce inflammation can help alleviate symptoms associated with Crohn's and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Make sure to get turmeric that is combined with black pepper to increase its potency. This combo makes for a powerful remedy that knocks out inflammation and reduces pain.
You can get my favorite turmeric supplement HERE.
Dietary Supplements for Crohn's as a Complementary Approach
Coupled with traditional treatments, dietary supplements can provide significant support when dealing with Crohn's disease.
Replenishing Nutrients through Dietary Supplements
The role of dietary supplements in managing Crohn’s Disease is crucial because they replenish nutrients that are often lost due to malabsorption and inflammation associated with this condition.
Iron supplementation, for instance, helps tackle anemia frequently seen in individuals battling Crohn's disease.
A healthy diet abundant in essential vitamins and minerals also promotes overall digestive health, which could potentially alleviate some symptoms related to Crohn’s Disease.
My favorite supplements are often liquid and easy to digest (especially when taken with meals.)
Here are my five favorite supplements:
- Mary Ruth's Raspberry Multivitamin - replenish vitamins (like vitamin d) and minerals
- Mary Ruth's Liquid Iron Supplement - combat anemia
- Bio-K Probiotic - a good probiotic will help replenish good bacteria in the gut
- Nordic Naturals Fish Oil - Omega-3 help fight free radicals
- Enzymedica Enzymes - digestive enzymes will help you digest food better and help prevent discomfort
Essential Oils for Crohn's Disease
Aromatherapy can be especially beneficial for treating mental, emotional, and physical symptoms of Crohn's.
Some of my favorite essential oils to use for digestive disorders include:
- Peppermint Oil - Peppermint oil can help with digestive discomfort and reduce symptoms like abdominal pain and cramping. However, it's crucial to use it carefully, as it can exacerbate acid reflux in some people.
- Ginger Oil - Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce nausea and support digestion. It can be helpful for managing symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
- Lavender Oil - Lavender oil can assist in managing stress and anxiety, which can be triggers for Crohn's symptoms or exacerbate the condition.
- Chamomile Oil - Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties and can help reduce digestive discomfort by relaxing the intestines and promote a sense of calm.
- Frankincense Oil - Frankincense is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and may support overall well-being.
- Lemon Oil - Lemon oil may help detoxify the body and support digestive health. It is also very uplifting and helps alleviate stress.
- Fennel Oil - Fennel oil can help with digestive issues like bloating and gas when applied (diluted) over the abdomen.
How to use essential oils for Crohn's disease:
The application of essential oils depends on the specific oil and the purpose for which you are using it. Here are some common methods of applying essential oils:
- Topical Application
- Dilution: Essential oils should be diluted with a carrier oil (such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, or almond oil) before applying them to the skin. The typical dilution ratio is 1-2 drops of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil, but it can vary depending on the oil and individual sensitivity.
- Massage: You can mix the diluted essential oil with a carrier oil and massage it into your skin. This method can be used for digestive discomfort by applying the oil to the abdominal area, but it's essential to use gentle, clockwise motions.
- Pulse Points: Apply diluted essential oils to pulse points like your wrists, temples, or the back of your neck. This method can help with stress or anxiety relief.
- Diffusion: Use an essential oil diffuser to disperse the aroma of the oil into the air. Inhalation of the vapor can provide benefits like relaxation or stress relief.
- Steam Inhalation: Add a few drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water, cover your head with a towel, and inhale the steam. This method can be helpful for congestion or respiratory issues but is also good for stress relief.
- Add a few drops of essential oil bath salts or carrier oil and add to a warm bath for relaxation or to ease muscle tension. The warm water will also soothe cramps.
- Create a warm or cold compress by adding a few drops of essential oil some carrier oil and apply it over the abdomen and cover with a piece of flannel, then apply a heat pad or cold pack over top. This method can be used for muscle pain or digestive discomfort.
- Some essential oils are labeled as safe for consumption and can be taken as a capsule. Peppermint is a good option for digestive distress. You can get it HERE.
Homeopathic Remedies for Crohn's Disease
Homeopathic remedies can further enhance your healing journey when dealing with Crohn's disease symptoms.
Mercurius Solubilis used if there is intense abdominal pain and discomfort, especially at night. It is sometimes considered when there is excessive salivation and a metallic taste in the mouth.
Lycopodium may be chosen when there is bloating and gas, especially after eating. People who benefit from this remedy may have a fear of failure and may be emotionally reserved.
China (Cinchona Officinalis)
China is used when there is diarrhea with weakness and debility, often after loss of fluids, such as excessive sweating or diarrhea.
Arsenicum Album is for individuals with symptoms of restlessness, anxiety, and a sense of insecurity.
It may be used if there is diarrhea with a burning sensation or if the patient is highly sensitive to cold.
Belladonna is used for conditions characterized by sudden, intense symptoms, including high fever, redness, and inflammation.
If the person with Crohn's Disease experiences acute flare-ups with these types of symptoms, Belladonna will help ease symptoms.
Colocynthis is derived from the bitter cucumber plant. It is used in homeopathy for conditions involving cramping, spasmodic abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Symptoms feel better with pressure.
If the person with Crohn's Disease experiences severe abdominal cramps and colicky pain, Colocynthis is an excellent choice.
Ignatia is derived from the seeds of the St. Ignatius bean. It is often used in homeopathy for emotional or psychological symptoms such as grief, sadness, or emotional distress.
If someone with Crohn's Disease experiences emotional stress that exacerbates their symptoms, Ignatia will help address the emotional component.
Magnesia phosphorica, also known as "Mag phos," is used in homeopathy for cramping and spasmodic pains, including menstrual cramps and abdominal colic.
If the person with Crohn's Disease experiences cramping or spasmodic pain, this remedy will be especially useful.
Nux vomica is often thought of when there is abdominal pain and discomfort, particularly after overindulgence in food, alcohol, or stimulants. It is useful when there is constipation alternating with diarrhea.
Pulsatilla is derived from the windflower plant and is often used in homeopathy for conditions characterized by changeable and shifting symptoms.
It is often considered when there are symptoms of gastrointestinal upset, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Pulsatilla individuals tend to be emotionally sensitive and seek comfort and reassurance.
If you experience these types of symptoms, especially with a changeable or emotional component, Pulsatilla is a great option.
Sulfur is a fundamental homeopathic remedy often used for various health concerns. It is commonly indicated when there are burning sensations, itching, and skin issues.
In digestive complaints, Sulfur may be considered if there is a burning sensation in the abdomen or rectum, and if the individual feels worse from heat or warm surroundings.
These individuals tend to be warm-blooded and may have a passionate or impatient temperament.
FAQs in Relation to Herbs for Crohn's Disease
Are there any herbal remedies for Crohn's disease?
Yes, certain herbs like cat's claw, chamomile, aloe vera, and peppermint have shown great potential in alleviating symptoms associated with Crohn's disease.
What are the best herbal teas for Crohn's?
Herbal teas such as chamomile tea, peppermint tea, green tea, or ginger tea may help soothe digestive issues linked to Crohn's Disease.
What herbs help with intestinal inflammation?
Ayurvedic herbs like Guduchi and Musta, Traditional Chinese Medicine like licorice root, astragalus, and peony root, along with Western herbs like peppermint and chamomile can assist in reducing intestinal inflammation.
How do I heal my gut with Crohn's disease?
Healing your gut involves strict dietary changes like avoiding grain, gluten, sugar, and high-fiber foods. Taking herbal and dietary supplements as well as probiotics also support and protect gut health. Lifestyle adjustments like controlling stress, sleeping well, and getting plenty of exercise also play a crucial role in putting Crohn's disease into remission.
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