Integrative Medicine for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

Integrative medicine offers a dual approach to the treatment of colitis and Crohn’s disease. A practitioner who uses integrative medicine evaluates the various therapies available in traditional and alternative medicine and develops the optimal treatment plan to treat an individual’s colitis or Crohn’s disease. The treatment plan will include elements of traditional and complementary medicine that can be used in harmony. The patient will receive treatment from a traditional physician as well as alternative or holistic practitioners.

What Type of Treatment Can Relieve Colitis and Crohn’s Disease?

Integrative treatment for colitis and Crohn’s disease starts with an evaluation by a gastroenterologist (GI doctor) or other physician who uses traditional medicine techniques such as blood tests, colonoscopy, intestinal biopsy, and other tests to determine the severity and type of colitis or Crohn’s disease in an individual. This physician may prescribe medication as well as diet and lifestyle changes.

Next, the physician refers the patient to a specific alternative or complementary treatment that meshes well with the recommended traditional medical treatments. The physician and the alternative or complementary treatment practitioner work together to treat the whole person and develop a treatment plan for colitis and Crohn’s disease in the individual.

Alternative or complementary therapy for colitis or Crohn’s disease may include:

  • Nutritional supplements
  • Meditation
  • Self-hypnosis
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Psychotherapy
  • Homeopathic remedies

Why Use Integrative Medicine for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease?

Colitis and Crohn’s disease are chronic conditions that significantly impact quality of life for affected individuals. Current treatments for colitis and Crohn’s disease are mostly nonspecific, not always effective, and often accompanied by serious side effects. In some cases, traditional medicine alone cannot help relieve the symptoms of colitis and Crohn’s disease. Use of integrative medicine can help people with colitis and Crohn’s disease understand the changes needed for treatment of their disease and take control of their health care. In addition, by combining complementary therapies with standard medication treatment, better long-term results can be achieved.

Although the integrated medicine approach does not always provide an exact scientific explanation for its effectiveness, the goal is to prevent or cure disease by treating multiple mental and physical aspects of a patient. In addition, in this style of medicine, patients are encouraged to take an active role in their own health and medical treatment.

What are Colitis and Crohn’s disease?

Colitis and Crohn’s disease, also called inflammatory bowel diseases, are chronic medical conditions that affect the lining of the digestive system. Studies suggest approximately 500,000 to 2 million people in the United States are affected by colitis, Crohn’s disease, and related inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

Symptoms of colitis and Crohn’s disease vary from person to person, but can include:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Loose, watery, or frequent bowel movements
  • Crampy abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Joint pain

What Causes Colitis and Crohn’s disease?

The causes of colitis and Crohn’s disease are unknown. The symptoms of the condition occur when the body's immune system no longer knows how to “turn off” an immune attack at the correct time causing inflammation. It is believed the inflammation in colitis and Crohn’s disease involves a complex interaction of factors: the genes the person has inherited, the immune system, and environment factors.

What is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative Medicine is an approach to illness and chronic disease that combines standard traditional medical treatments with alternative or complementary treatments. For example, an individual affected by colitis and Crohn’s disease may combine visits with a gastrointestinal specialist for medications and colon imaging, with visits to an alternative medicine facility for acupuncture and massage. Or, if available, the traditional physician may offer sessions with alternative or complementary medicine therapists, such as acupuncturists or massage therapists, right in the physician’s office.

In general, integrative medicine can be seen as an open-minded approach to healing that promotes cooperative management of health conditions using a standard physician and practitioners of alternative or complementary treatments. Examples of alternative and complementary treatments include: herbal medicine, nutritional supplements, acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, yoga, and stress reduction techniques. The goal of integrative medicine is to treat the whole person, not just one aspect of the disease.

Finding More Information About Integrative Medicine

Ask your doctor about the integration of complementary and alternative treatments into your care for colitis and Crohn’s disease. You can also look online to find more information about Integrative Medicine, including information about credentials required for different alternative and complementary therapies, at the American Association of Integrative Medicine (AAIM) website.

Additional Resources
Andrew T. Weil, “Health and Healing: The Philosophy of Integrative Medicine and Optimum Health,” Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1998.

Douglas Wengell and Nathen Gabriel, “Educational Opportunities in Integrative Medicine: The A to Z Healing Arts Guide and Professional Resource Directory,” The Hunter Press, September 1, 2008.

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