If you're interested in my story, check out Part 1 of 2: My Battle with Crohn's.
Before I go into specific dietary supplements that I take, I want to share a few words on what I have learned living with Crohn’s Disease for the past seven years since my diagnosis.
- Stress, in my opinion, is the #1 enemy to the Crohn’s/Colitis patient. Stress can cause someone to go into a flare, and stress can increase the intensity and duration of a flare. Managing stress may be the most important thing a person with IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease) can do. For me, I aim to reduce stress through exercising, playing tennis, going for a run, listening or creating music, going to church, going to the beach, hanging out with friends, and not letting uncertainty in life create anxiety in my life. This is easier said than done, but by employing the aforementioned tactics, I’m giving myself a chance to keep my stress levels low or lower.
- Sleep. Sleep is key. I realize that many people have difficulty sleeping. I have more difficulty getting up in the morning – I love my sleep! Our bodies recover and rejuvenate and heal during our sleep. Muscles recover from soreness in our sleep. And to quote my father, our best sleep occurs in the timeframe when the sun goes down and the sun rises. I struggle with going to bed shortly after the sun goes down, but when I do, I wake up feeling like a million bucks.
- Diet is of paramount importance. Diet is also a source of debate, because technically there is no unified, agreed-upon “Crohn’s Diet”. I will attempt to classify foods into two categories: Worst and Best. I highly recommend eliminating or greatly reducing all foods in the “Worst” category, and eating as much of the “Best” foods as possible.
- Sugar (fructose and sucrose): Soda, ice cream, cakes, cookies, high-fructose corn syrups, large quantities of sweets, etc.
- Fake sugars: aspartame, equal, and sweet 'n low have been shown to cause cancer, MS, and other diseases
- Greasy, fried foods (US-style Chinese food): fried chicken, fried fish, fried dough, doughnuts
- Refined Carbohydrates: white bread, bagels, pasta
- Caffeine: caffeinated coffee, chocolate, caffeinated teas (black teas) – limit or eliminate caffeine.
- Dairy (many studies indicate that a large percentage of IBD patients are unknowingly allergic to dairy – try eliminating dairy for 2-3 weeks and see what happens. Better yet, get tested to see if you are allergic to dairy).
- Pork – Pork is banned in 2 of the top 3 world religions (Islam and Judaism). Pigs literally eat everything – including their own feces. You are what you eat. Substitute chicken for pork.
- Shellfish – shellfish are “bottom-dwellers”. They eat the crap that falls to the bottom of the sea. Although they are tasty, try substituting with salmon or other fish that swim in higher tides.
- Wild caught fish: salmon (loaded with EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids), tuna, haddock
- Hormone-free, free-range poultry: chicken, turkey
- Hormone-free beef: hamburgers are OK (however steak is difficult to digest and quantities should be limited)
- Well-cooked, steamed vegetables sautéed in coconut oil, lard, or olive oil, and served with a pad of raw butter (for absorption): broccoli, spinach, kale, asparagus – the darker, more colorful the vegetable, the healthier it is.
- Use a slow-cooker and eat a whole chicken. Use the chicken bones leftover and slowly create a chicken (or beef) broth. Broths contain gelatin that aid in digestion. Megan does a great post on the benefits and uses for stock
- Garlic (use liberally!), ginger root (aids in digestion), onions, cooked carrots
- Cook with olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil (avoid vegetable, canola and corn oils – these can go rancid easily)
- Whole-grain, sprouted grains and wheat, including breads, pastas, tortilla shells, etc. http://www.foodforlife.com/
- Bananas (loaded with potassium (anti-inflammatory) – bananas also reduce anxiety!)
- Fresh pineapple (contains bromelain – aids in digestion)
- Avocados (Loaded w/ vitamin B,E, K and potassium) – contains antibacterial/antifungal chemicals, great for skin, prevents wrinkles
- Sweet potatoes (vitamin A, C, calcium and potassium)
- Super-Foods: berries (blueberries, kiwis, strawberries, …)
- Acai (uh-sigh-ee) - this Brazilian berry is simply amazing – look for acai juices and frozen acai packages used for smoothies
- Raw Milk and Raw Cheese (although I would recommend being tested for a dairy allergy or intolerance first)
- Kefir is a fermented milk drink that you can use in place of yogurt for smoothies. Yogurt is also good, but avoid yogurts with sugar additives
- Hormone-free, free-range eggs
- Herbal (caffeine free) teas: Peppermint, Spearmint, Ginger, Chamomile. Mountain Rose Herbs has delicious, affordable, organic loose teas.
10-Top Supplements to beat Crohn’s/Colitis:
Please note, I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one. All of the following supplements, however, are found in nature and thus, unlike pharmaceutical drugs, do not have harmful side effects. Nevertheless, I recommend that you contact your doctor before taking the following supplements. After hours of web research and book reading, speaking to nutritional consultants, CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine) practitioners (homeopaths, naturopaths, herbalists) and cross-examining well-educated local health-food store associates, I recommend the following:
1. Probiotics: Probiotics are organisms that contribute to the balance and overall health of the intestinal tract. Probiotics are referred to as “good” or “beneficial” bacteria found in the gut. Our intestinal tract contains a mix of good and bad bacteria. Do your gut a favor and add probiotics (beneficial bacteria). Additionally, HSO’s (Homeostatic Soil Organisms) are types of probiotics that can potentially reverse the degenerative process of Crohn’s disease. HSO’s live in nutrient-rich soils and provide plants (vegetables and fruits) with nutrients needed to grow. HSO’s are absorbed by the plants and protect against harmful bacteria. HSO’s can increase food absorption, boost the immune system, and restore balance to the GI tract. You can read more about Jordan Rubin’s probiotics.
I have had success with Biokult as well. Many bloggers with digestive orders tout Biokult as one of the top probiotics on the market.
Types of probiotics include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus delbreukii, Lactobacillus caseii, Lactobacillus caucasicus, Lactobacillus fermenti, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus brevis,Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus leichmannii, Lactobacillus lactis, Bacillus licheniformus, Bacillus subtilis, Bifidobacteria bifidus, and Sacchromyces boulardi.
2. Bovine Colostrum: I have not used Colostrum personally, but based on the reports and testimonies I have read, this may be a wonder substance capable of healing Crohn’s Disease, as well as other auto-immune diseases, all by itself. Colostrum is a complex milk-like substance that a mother produces soon after giving birth that is full of potent, immune-stimulating factors that jump-start a newborn’s immune system. Colostrum is rich in immunoglobulins, which provide essential growth and immune factors that may aid overall health. “Bovine” refers to the fact that you are obtaining the substance from a cow. I highly recommend you conduct your own research on colostrum.
3. Fish Oils (and cod liver oil - CLO): Fish oils contain two important omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation: EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA develop brain tissue, proper functioning of the nervous system and improve eyesight. They also reduce the risk of developing arthritis. Protects against heart disease. Reduces chances of all types of cancer including breast, colon and prostate. Helps to prevent depression, helps treat IBD.
Megan uses Green Pastures Fermented Cinnamon CLO. She really likes this brand.
4. L-Glutamine: Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body. Glutamine enhances the mass and strength of the intestine’s protective mucosal lining, and is often used for organ repair and GI tract nutritional support. Intense physical exercise, trauma, or illness drains the body of its natural stores of Glutamine, thus bodybuilders use this as a supplement to restore its glutamine to help repair muscle tissue. It also helps to boost immune function, fight infection, and decrease sugar cravings and the desire for alcohol.
5. NAG (N-Acetyl Glucosamine): NAG is a form of glucosamine, one of the building blocks of joint tissue. NAG is a carbohydrate that helps promote normal intestinal mucous production.
6. Plant Enzymes (Amylase, Cellulase, Invertase, Lactase, Maltase, and Protease): Plant enzymes assist in the digestive process within the small intestine. These enzymes convert carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grain and bean fibers, sugars) into their final digestive end products, helping to reduce bloating, flatulence and bowel toxemia.
7. Aloe Leaf (Aloe Vera Juice and Gel): Aloe has remarkable anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and bowel-moving properties. Aloe promotes the repair and structural integrity of injured tissues.
8. Herbs (Marshmallow root, ginger root, slippery elm, dandelion, okra and cat’s claw): These are mucilaginous herbs that have been used for centuries for GI issues. They act to coat and soothe inflamed, injured tissues. They enhance the normal mucosal lining of the intestines.
9. Folic Acid: Folic acid is the synthetic form of the natural occurring folate, found in fruits and vegetables. Through clinical studies, folic acid has been found to reduce the incidence of colon cancer among colitis patients by as much as 60%.
10. Bromelain: This is an enzyme found in fresh pineapple. It is often used to treat injuries and as a digestive aid. Bromelain is used to improve immune function. It also has potent anti-inflammatory properties, can help to improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. It aids in digestion by enhancing the effects of the digestive enzymes trypsin and pepin.
Supplement Recommendations: Which supplements should I try?
To reiterate, I am simply writing this blog to help you or your loved one overcome Crohn’s/Colitis. I do not receive any commissions in recommending any products. Thus, I will let you know which products I use, and which I recommend.
- Biogenesis Nutraceuticals – Intestinal Repair Capsules (120 capsules). These caps contain L-Glutamine, Folic Acid, NAG, Okra, Cat’s Claw, Zinc, and a few other ingredients. I use these both when I am sick and, to a lesser degree, as a preventative measure when I am not sick. A 120-capsule supply costs approximately $40, however I recommend shopping online – the link below features the product on sale for $33.60. Various online health food stores supply this product – shop around for the best deal. http://www.
naturalhealthyconcepts.com/ intestinal-repair-caps-p- digestive-system.html
- Garden of Life – Primal Defense – Ultra – Veggie- 90 Veggie Caps. Contains 15 billion probiotic cells, 13 species of beneficial bacteria cultures that include HSOs (Homeostatic Soil Organisms). This product is manufactured by Jordan Rubin’s company (Garden of Life). Product is 100% vegetarian and dairy free (which is good b/c many people are allergic to dairy). 90 Veggie Caps cost approximately $31. When it comes to probiotics, you get what you pay for – and this is a good product. http://www.iherb.com/Garden-of-Life-Primal-Defense-Ultra-90-Veggie-Caps/5434?at=0
- Now Sports - L-Glutamine – 1000 mg, 120 or 240 capsules. 240 capsules cost approximately $28, where 120 capsules cost approximately $13. http://www.iherb.com/Now-
Foods-L-Glutamine-Double- Strength-1000-mg-120-Capsules/ 301
- DigestMORE – 45-day supply of digestive enzyme capsules (containing plant enzymes, L-Glutamine and NAG – also contains ginger root, marshmallow root, bromelain and papaya fruit). 135-capsules (45-day supply – although this can be stretched out longer than 45-days) cost approximately $32. http://www.renewlife.com/
products/digestmore.aspx. Shop around and find it cheaper at: http://www.iherb.com/renew- life-digestmore-135-veggie- caps/12080?utm_source=nt&utm_ medium=c&at=0
- Pioneer – Vegetarian B Complex Stress Formula (Gluten Free) – 120 tablets, contains coenzymes, herbs and green foods. (These pills actually taste like vegetables!) These costs approximately $26 for 120 tablets. These are Vitamin B Complex pills – help manage stress. http://www.
thebetterhealthstore.com/ ItemDetail.asp?ovchn=FRO& ovtac=CMP&sku=3281100027& ovcpn=PIONEER&ovcrn=3281100027
- Nordic Naturals - Ultimate Omega - (high-concentration EPA and DHA omega-3 fish oil). These gels have a touch of lemon-flavor added. 60 soft gels cost approximately $24. http://www.worldofomega.com/Nordic-Naturals-Ultimate-Omega.html
Recommended Products (that I have not taken)
- Symbiotics – Colostrum Plus Capsules – 120 capsules – Cost approximately $26. New Life Foods: http://www.newlifefoods.com/
More Recommendations to combat Crohn’s / Colitis
- Try Massage Therapy – whether it’s through a chain store like Massage Envy or through a local therapist that you trust and respect, give it a shot! And enjoy!
- Try Acupuncture. My acupuncturist is Cheryl Bacon. She is fantastic. Her office is located in Norwell, MA on 6 Grove St., Suite 103, Norwell, MA 02061. Her phone number is (781) 878-2667. I have personally seen a breakthrough in Crohn’s symptom management through acupuncture. I am a believer in acupuncture! My acupuncturist has told me that she has helped many other people with Crohn’s/Colitis, as well as various other ailments.
- Try Homeopathy / Naturopathy. I see a very, very nice woman named Dr. Barbara Coffey. She works for The Natural Health Group located in the Hanover Wellness & Medical Center, located at 20 East St., Hanover, MA, 02339. She can be reached at (781) 829-8900. She has treated various patients for Crohn’s and Colitis, among many other issues as well. She is a naturopath, homeopath, herbalist, and has many years of experience! Dr. Coffey was very instrumental in helping me get well and learn about alternative treatments for Crohn’s.
- Find a local health food store. I go to Good Health Natural Foods in Hanover, MA. http://www.
goodhealthnaturalfood.com/There is also a store in Quincy, MA. Whole Foods Supermarket also carries a good deal of high-quality supplements. If cost becomes an issue at Whole Foods, find what you want and buy it online! Find out where the health food store is in your neighborhood.
- Beware of cheap (low quality) supplements! Do your body a favor: do not buy the cheapest health supplements. Avoid buying supplements from CVS or another drug store. You are far better off paying a little more and buying high (or the best) quality supplements, especially when it comes to probiotics, colostrum and digestive enzymes. CVS does not sell high quality vitamins or supplements.
- If you drink milk, drink raw milk. If you eat cheese, eat raw cheese. Raw milk contains the beneficial bacteria that our guts want, where store-bought milk has been pasteurized (heated up). Pasteurizing milk kills off all bacteria, good and bad (not to mention kills good enzymes, destroys vitamin C, B12, and B6). Raw milk contains the good bacteria that our guts want! Why drink milk with no beneficial bacteria if you can get it! Unfortunately, buying raw milk is difficult to find, it is banned from being sold in stores in MA. My wife and I buy our raw milk from a farm in Foxboro, MA – right next to the New England Patriot’s football stadium. The farm is called Oake Knoll Ayrshires at Lawton’s Family Farm. The address is 70 North Street, Foxboro, MA. The farm is run by a nice woman named Terri Lawton. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send an email to oake_knoll_ayrshires@
lawtonsfamilyfarm.com. Terri also sells raw cheese and farm-fresh eggs. Check out the Real Milk website for more information on the benefits of raw milk.