What is colitis?
Colitis refers to the inflammation of the colon. This can have many different causes. When digestion is normal, food goes down the esophagus and thorough a valve into the stomach, where the body starts breaking it down. It then moves into the intestine which breaks the food down the rest of the way extracting the nutrients the food has to offer and sending the waste on to be expelled from the body. If this function does not work properly, the colon membranes become irritated.
There are several types of colitis, including:
Infectious Colitis: This type is caused by infections, typically due to bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Common causes include foodborne illnesses (such as E. coli or Salmonella), viral gastroenteritis, and parasitic infections (like amebiasis).
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): IBD includes two main conditions: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis specifically affects the colon and rectum, causing chronic inflammation and ulceration in the lining of the colon.
Ischemic Colitis: This occurs when blood flow to the colon is reduced or compromised, often due to blocked blood vessels or reduced blood supply. It can lead to inflammation and tissue damage.
Radiation Colitis: This condition can develop as a side effect of radiation therapy for cancer, particularly when the radiation is targeted at the pelvic area. It may cause inflammation and damage to the colon.
Microscopic Colitis: This is a chronic inflammation of the colon that can only be seen under a microscope. It includes two subtypes: collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis.
What causes colitis?
Our affluent lifestyle has imbalanced our digestive system. Eating on the run, eating fast foods, eating before we go to bed, eating too quickly, and eating too much all play a major role in digestive problems. Stress and tension impairs digestion by restricting the flow of digestive juices and constructing muscles in the digestive tract.
What are the symptoms of colitis?
Symptoms of colitis can include:
Abdominal pain and cramping
Diarrhea (which may be bloody)
Urgent bowel movements
Loss of appetite
Fever (if the colitis is due to infection)
Dehydration (due to diarrhea)
The treatment for colitis depends on its underlying cause. It may include medications to reduce inflammation, manage symptoms, and address the underlying condition. In some cases, dietary changes, including a low-residue diet or a specific carbohydrate diet, may be recommended to reduce irritation of the colon.
Foods that can trigger these problems are dairy, sugar, gluten, wheat, food coloring, additives, and refined white flour.
Severe cases of colitis, especially those associated with IBD, may require more intensive treatments, such as immunosuppressive medications, biologic drugs, or surgery to remove the affected portion of the colon.
It's important to consult with a healthcare provider if you suspect you have colitis or are experiencing symptoms, as proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to managing the condition effectively and preventing complications.
What are the risk factors for colitis?
You might be more at-risk for developing colitis if you have any of the following:
- psychological stress
- food allergies
- autoimmune factors
- radiation therapy
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the treatment of colitis typically involves a holistic approach that aims to restore balance to the body's energy (Qi), reduce inflammation, and alleviate symptoms. TCM practitioners often create individualized herbal formulas tailored to the specific pattern of imbalance and symptoms experienced by the individual. Here are some Chinese herbs that may be considered for managing colitis naturally:
Huang Qin (Scutellaria baicalensis): Huang Qin is known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It may help reduce inflammation in the colon and alleviate symptoms of colitis.
Huang Lian (Coptis chinensis): Huang Lian has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and may help with diarrhea and abdominal pain associated with colitis.
Bai Tou Weng (Pulsatilla chinensis): Bai Tou Weng is often used in TCM for its ability to clear heat and dampness from the body. It may help reduce inflammation and diarrhea in colitis.
Zhi Zi (Gardenia jasminoides): Zhi Zi has anti-inflammatory and cooling properties and may be used to reduce heat and inflammation in the digestive system.
Da Huang (Rheum palmatum):Da Huang is known for its laxative and detoxifying properties. It may be used cautiously in specific formulations to relieve constipation in colitis.
Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel): Chen Pi is used to regulate Qi in the digestive system and may help with symptoms such as bloating and abdominal discomfort.
Xiang Fu (Cyperus rotundus): Xiang Fu is often used to soothe liver Qi stagnation and may help reduce abdominal pain and discomfort.
Sheng Jiang (Fresh Ginger): Fresh ginger can have a calming effect on the digestive system and may help alleviate nausea and abdominal discomfort.
Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula): Dang Shen may be included in formulas to boost the immune system and promote overall health.
It's important to emphasize that TCM practitioners customize herbal formulations based on an individual's specific pattern of imbalance and symptoms. These herbs are typically used in combination with others to create a well-rounded formula.
Consult with a licensed TCM practitioner for a thorough assessment and personalized treatment plan if you are considering using Chinese herbal remedies for colitis. Additionally, inform your healthcare provider about any herbal treatments you plan to use, especially if you are taking medications or have underlying medical conditions. Herbal treatment should be supervised by a qualified practitioner to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Diamond, Harvey, and Marilyn Diamond. Fit for Life. New York, NY: Warner, 1985. Print.
Rector-Page, Linda G. Linda Page's Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-healing for Everyone. Carmel Valley, CA: Healthy Healing, 2004. Print.
Weil, Andrew. Natural Health, Natural Medicine: A Comprehensive Manual for Wellness and Self-care. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Print.
Werbach, Melvyn R. Nutritional Influences on Illness: A Sourcebook of Clinical Research. New Canaan, CT: Keats Pub., 1990. Print.[/expand]