The Beginner's Guide to Natural Living
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Dr. Angela Agrios, ND
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Los Angeles, CA (Pacific Palisades)

Crohn's Disease
Naturopathic Medicine Treatment
Interview with Dr. Lucy Rojo, ND

Crohn’s Disease Symptoms
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that typically focuses on the end of the small intestine and the large intestine, or the colon. Of course, this can happen anywhere between the mouth and the rectum; however, it typically focuses on those areas that I just mentioned. Some of the symptoms that show up with this condition are gas, bloatiness; because there’s inflammatory response in those areas, folks that have this conditions characteristically have bloody diarrhea that can come and go. Sometimes they can have issues with anemia. Since the distal intestine—small intestine—is where B12 gets absorbed, any issues that you have involving inflammation in this area can limit the amount of B12 that gets absorbed.

Crohn’s Disease Iron Deficiency
The blood can also cause iron deficiency anemia, so these folks typically have issues with fatigue, abdominal distension; some of them may also have fistulas in the rectal area, which is basically a burrowing within the tissue from the colon—from the rectum—out into the tissue of the body. Some folks also have inflammatory conditions that affect the sacro-ileal junction as well.

Crohn’s Disease Medications
The conventional treatment for Crohn’s disease is typically drug therapy, and the idea behind the drugs is to suppress the immune inflammatory responses occurring in these individuals. Some examples of those drugs might be things like salicylates, salamine, corticosteroids; other immune-suppressive drugs are also characterized. Some of the side effects of these drugs are actually gas, bloating, abdominal distension—the worst-case scenario might be pancreatitis. Unfortunately, these drugs—while they do suppress the immune response and minimize the inflammation—are not treating the cause. They’re actually just suppressing.

Naturopathic Medicine Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis
Typically when a patient comes to me, they already have the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. However, I’ll go ahead and still do a history and physical. In the history, what I’m looking for is any dietary foods that they’re consuming that might cause an inflammatory condition. I also want to assess their level of energy and I also want to assess how this is impacting their other systems. The way I’ll do that is I’ll look for lab work: I will often request a comprehensive metabolic panel to see how the liver and the kidneys are doing, perhaps a lipase or an amylase to see if the pancreas is involved.

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A complete blood count will help me determine about anemia. Anemia can either be B12 deficiency anemia or iron deficiency anemia. I can ask for a ferritin level, or an iron level, to determine what’s going on, if there’s anemia present. The last thing I might check for on the lab work would be an ESR, or a sed rate. This is a nonspecific indicator for inflammatory response in the body. All these things, along with the history and a brief physical exam, and looking at the old labs, can help me assess the severity of the condition for the patient.

Naturopathic Medicine Crohn’s Treatment
When I treat someone with Crohn’s disease, I have two main goals in mind: one is to address their dietary intake of foods; the second one is to address the inflammatory response. When it comes to addressing the foods that they’re consuming, I will generally recommend that they get off of the processed synthetic foods and start utilizing organic whole foods. If we have a food allergy result, we’ll also look at eliminating the foods that they’re sensitive to or allergic to.

Naturopathic Medicine Crohn’s Supplements
In terms of the inflammatory response, there are many tools that we can use. One of them is fish oils—fish oils are known to help minimize inflammatory response. We might also use aloe, a concentrated form of aloe, which heals that gut lining. I will also use pycnogenol, which is a great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. I will also use digestive enzymes that help break down the food further. Of course, I’ll give them some advice on how to eat their food, because if they’re not chewing their food, or they’re gulping down a bunch of water to dilute their stomach gas and that can also be a factor in the matter.

Naturopathic Medicine Crohn’s Disease Probiotics and B Vitamins
The last thing that I would use is probiotics. There is some research that suggests that imbalance in the gut bacteria is actually part of the inflammatory response. If they happen to have vitamin or mineral deficiencies, I will also supplement them with a good, absorbable multivitamin and multimineral, in particularly B12 and some of the other B vitamins.

Naturopathic Medicine Crohn’s Disease Treatment Success
When people with Crohn’s disease follow my protocol, within three to six months they’re virtually symptom-free, and they no longer require their pharmaceuticals. If someone would like to reverse their Crohn’s disease, I would recommend that they adopt the natural living lifestyle, which would include eating whole organic food, taking supplements such as pycnogenol, fish oils, probiotics, and digestive enzymes, and seeing a naturopathic doctor.

Interview with Dr. Lucy Rojo, ND

Also See: Dr. Angela Agrios, ND Naturopathic Doctor Health Series