• Dr. Caroline Ricker

Battling Crohn's? Consider a solution that looks deeper than your symptoms

Updated: May 15

“It’s Crohn’s disease” he says, and it sounds serious.

You’re sitting in your doctor’s office, listening to the results of the invasive testing you had done a couple of weeks ago. You understand now why they call it invasive, but whatever. You find out that the horrible gut pain, diarrhea, constipation and gas that you’ve been feeling is a type of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). It’s a little frightening, but also a little exciting, because you feel this little niggle of hope that you haven’t felt in a long time. Like maybe there is a chance that you could feel better and have a normal life again.

But as you sit there and discuss treatments the light starts to fade slowly away. The doctor explains that your condition is likely related to your immune system, and that the only thing that might help with the severity of your condition is monthly infusions. And there’s a lot of side effects. Sounds like trading one set of problems for another.

In a haze you thank the doctor and schedule another appointment to start treatment without really thinking much about it. After all, what choice do you really have?

This is what was going on when I met Janet. She was referred to me by a friend of hers, and although she didn’t necessarily know what I could do for her, she wasn’t excited about her recommendation for weekly infusions

The problem with treatments for IBD is that nobody in the modern medical world really knows what causes it. To make things worse, advice around it in various places is conflicted. For example, crohnsandcolitis.com states “The exact cause of IBD is not known, but researchers believe that it is caused by a combination of factors that involve genetics, the environment, and an overactive immune system. It is not caused by something you ate or your diet.”

There are a number of problems with a statement like this, starting with the firm statement that is it not caused by a person’s diet. If the cause is unknown, how can one be sure that it is not caused by diet? In addition, we now know about an amazing field of science called epigenetics, which in a nutshell helps us understand that things such as our diets actually effect our genetics over time. If that’s the case, and genetics are a possible cause, then it stands to reason that our diets could be a cause.

We also now know about a condition known as leaky gut. This causes a person to have foreign substances “leak” into your blood stream, which is theorized to lead to “an overactive immune system”. Which would suggest again that diet may have some part to play in the “unknown” causes of IBD.

Common medical treatments for IBD include rounds of antibiotics, steroids, immune modifiers and resection of parts of the bowel. These treatments are aimed at trying to quell the immune response that is causing the inflammation in the gut. But the real question we should be asking seems obvious, but is often not sought…what is causing the immune response?!

In functional medicine, we would refer to this as finding the root cause. While many medical treatments are only aimed at treating the symptoms, or surface “causes” of disease, we feel like it makes more sense to look at the exact reasons that someone becomes ill in the first place.

In the case of IBD, nothing is simple, but we find that most people are dealing with bacterial imbalance, chronic inflammation (usually from dietary sources), and food sensitivities. While each person is individual, it’s a matter of simply taking the time to run the tests, take the history and find what combination each person is dealing with in order to find a real treatment that best suits them.

In the case of our friend Janet, we put her on an antibacterial gut healing protocol, supplements to fight inflammation and removed foods she was sensitive to. This protocol allowed her body to slowly but surely function the way it was meant to, and to heal itself from the inside out. We helped her find her root cause, and her body flourished. Not only was she able to avoid the monthly infusions, she was able to truly get back to her best life!

Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.

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