Controlling and Treating Crohn’s Disease Through Chinese Medicine and Dietary Therapy

In a recent study conducted by researchers at the Endoscopy Center of Zhongshan Hospital in Fudan University in Shanghai and the Shanghai Institute of Acupuncture & Meridian, it was shown that a treatment that combined acupuncture and moxibustion led to significant positive effects in people with active Crohn’s Disease. There was marked symptomatic relief, better quality of life, a reduction in C-reactive proteins (an inflammation marker), and a statistically significant rise in the hemoglobin levels (affiliated with the presence and magnitude of anemia) of the patients in the treatment group at the end of the treatment cycle.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Western medicine defines Crohn’s disease as a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the gastrointestinal system. It has the same characteristics as one other inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, which affects the rectum and colon (large intestine). However, unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease usually manifests as patches surrounded by healthy tissue and may develop anywhere in the intestine. It also can cause anal fissures, (a crack in the skin of the anus or a crack in the anus itself), fistulas (hollow tracts from one area of the intestine to another), ulcers (usually in the small intestine’s lower region), and blockages in the large and small intestines or the rectum intestines that can lead to infection may also affect the deeper tissues.

The symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Stomach bloating and pain
Usually urgent diarrhea (with or without blood
Weak appetite
Weight loss
Floating stools (due to poor fat digestion)
Nausea and vomiting
Anemia (poor absorption of nutrients causing inadequate levels of iron in the body)

What is the cause of Crohn’s Disease?

No one knows what exactly causes Crohn’s disease but one commonly accepted theory is a malfunctioning immune system. Its other risk factors may include obesity, smoking, low consumption of vegetables and fruits, a poor diet consisting of processed foods and saturated fats, and genetics.

Chinese Medicine, acupuncture and Crohn’s disease

In Chinese medicine, the causes of Crohn’s disease are categorized into four basic patterns of disharmony with each of their corresponding symptoms. They include:

Weakness of the Spleen: This pattern can be the result of overconsumption of raw and cold foods or constitutional weakness. Symptoms may manifest as lethargy/fatigue, sallow complexion, post eating gastric discomfort, weak appetite and digestion, dull pain in the stomach, watery stool with undigested food, and severe and frequent diarrhea.

Damp-Heat Infiltration in the Large Intestine: This can give rise to sudden and acute rise of gastrointestinal symptoms such as burning pains after bowel movement, a bearing down sensation or urgency to have a bowel movement, stomach pain and fullness, yellow urine, malodorous stools, blood and/or mucus in the stools, diarrhea, thirst, irritability, and preference for cold drinks.

Blood & Qi Stagnation: This pattern is similar to an acute stage of Crohn’s disease with symptoms such as extreme stomach fullness and pain with palpable mass in the lower right part of the stomach. Other symptoms include lethargy, wasting of the muscles, poor appetite, and diarrhea.

Weakness of the Kidney & Spleen: Symptoms include cold hands and feet, intolerance to cold, stomach pain that’s aggravated by cold, and diarrhea during the early morning (usually around 5:00am).

The importance of diet in the prevention and treatment of Crohn’s disease is recognized by both Chinese and Western medicines. Too much consumption of raw and cold foods (iced drinks, ice cream, juices, salads, etc.) may adversely affect the ability of the stomach and spleen to properly process and convert foods. Eating a lot of raw vegetables and fruits should be avoided as it can aggravate the colic and intestinal blockage. Sufferers of Crohn’s are also advised to refrain from eating foods containing dyes and certain chemicals. They should also avoid dairy products such as cheese and milk, more so, if they’re lactose intolerant.

A treatment that combines dietary therapies, moxibustion, acupuncture and herbs can be a very effective approach to help manage and even resolve the symptoms and signs of Crohn’s disease. Consider Chinese medicine and acupuncture as treatment approach if you or someone you know has Crohn’s disease or other gastrointestinal symptoms.