As an IBD Natural Health specialist, I work with sufferers of both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, using natural means, to help them increase their energy, reduce their pain and start being able to live life on their own terms.
I don’t focus on symptoms, and certainly don’t diagnose or treat the disease itself. Rather, I focus on someone’s overall health, and when we do that we can have reasonable expectation that many of the symptoms will go away.
IBD is an autoimmune condition, it’s obviously very serious and we need to take into account a lot of areas of the body when looking to beat it. There are 4 main systems that I consider to be the “Pillars of Health”.
These 4 systems are the digestive, blood glucose management, adrenal function and detoxification systems. These systems are all extremely inter-related and the poor health of one will have a knock-on effect on the others.
My whole approach to addressing these systems is underpinned by my DREAM method, which stands for Diet, Rest, Environment, Activity, and Mindset. Today, I want to delve into each of those topics a little more and show their importance when you suffer with IBD.
Diet is a critical and complex area but very much underlooked by the conventional medical system. However, to simplify, the main idea is to remove any foods that could be causing you some kind of inflammation (things that you are sensitive or intolerant towards), and eat foods that help to reduce inflammation while nourishing your body as much as possible.
Gluten, wheat and dairy are the most common problems in terms of food sensitivities/intolerances but it really can be anything and will differ from person to person.
When we do find these problematic foods, they almost always aren’t things that need to be removed from someone’s diet forever. Once a person’s gut is in a much better place, the number of food sensitivities will often greatly reduce. There is no need to be on a restricted diet forever, so long as you work to heal your gut.
There is only so much food alone can do and I often find that supplementation can be beneficial (and necessary). However, it can’t just be any supplement – it needs to be the right brand, with the right ingredients, in the right dosage, at the right time. Buying supplements without knowing what you are doing can mean you very quickly waste money without realising it.
Getting sufficient rest when you suffer with IBD is critical. In particular, good quality sleep is very important. There are certainly studies that have linked inflammatory markers with a lack of sleep, so doing all that you can to improve your sleep is really important if you want to feel as good as possible.
There are a huge number of factors to consider here, and it’s something I work on an awful lot with my clients. Ensuring consistent going to bed and waking up times every day is really beneficial. If you go to bed 3 hours later on a weekend than you would midweek, this really screws up your body clock and affects your sleep quality.
The area of “environment” I split into two separate sections; Stress and Toxins.
If your environment is particularly stressful then that can certainly worsen your symptoms. Almost every IBD sufferer I know can relate to flaring at some point when they were going through a stressful period. Taking steps to reduce stress in your life is really important
How toxic your environment is can also impact your health. The air we breathe and the products we use and are exposed to all contain toxins. It is impossible to avoid all toxins completely, but we can minimise our exposure by taking certain steps. Considering what products you use for your shower gels, shampoo, deodorant, home cleaning, and what you drink all help to do that.
The main point in regard to activity levels when living with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis is generally to avoid doing too much. If you are running marathons for example, then that is a big stressor on the body that could be worsening your symptoms.
Conversely, doing something each day, if only a short walk, can be beneficial and help to improve your mood in particular.
A good way to determine if you are doing the right amount of activity / exercise is how you feel afterward. Do you feel energised, or drained? If it’s the latter, then you have likely done too much and scaling it back would be sensible while your body heals.
Mindset is a big area that is so important. When you have a goal such as changing your health it’s so important to believe you can achieve that.
If someone is telling themselves, even on a subconscious level, that they will always be ill / don’t have the willpower needed / don’t think they will stick to something and so on, then these beliefs will ultimately become self-fulfilling prophesies.
Removing any of these limiting beliefs is a critical step.
Some people can even define themselves by their disease (perhaps referring to themselves as a “Chronie” when they have been diagnosed with Crohn’s, for example). If that’s the case that also needs to change, as taking steps to beat the Crohn’s would be in contradiction to who they believed themselves to be.
Obviously each of these areas can be expanded on a huge amount more, but when you get each of them right, for you and your body, then amazing things can happen to your health.