Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) are on the rise in United States as well as in other developed nations. What we know is that two of the most profound influences on gut integrity are poor diet, and the increased use of antibiotics.

Antibiotics do a very good job of wiping out bad bacteria, but also wipe out the beneficial bacteria critical to the health and functioning of the GI tract. A poor diet full of antinutrients such as sugars, empty calories, trans fats, and food toxins such as pesticides, herbicides, artificial ingredients, additives and allergens contribute to the disease process.

The "Pillars of GI Health" is a holistic, or functional medicine approach to treating CD and UC. It helps clinicians find the unique root causes of disease in the individual patient. These pillars include:

1. Digestion/absorption
2. Elimination
3. Microflora balance
4. Gut integrity

A comprehensive treatment for GI dysfunction involves four basic steps:

1. Remove: Remove toxins, allergens and harmful organisms with an elimination diet and detoxification protocol.

2. Replace: Replacement of digestive enzymes and other factors until the patient's GI complaints can be normalized.

3. Reinoculate: Reinoculate the gut with beneficial probiotics and prebiotics to reestablish microflora balance.

4. Repair: For full healing of the intestinal mucosa, repairing gut integrity is essential. This includes reducing inflammation, providing nutrients for GI cell growth, and strengthening liver and immune function.

Healing the GI tract is possible with the right approach.

Source: The Standard: A Review of Natural & Nutraceutical Therapies for Clinical Practice. 2009( 9); No. 1.

About the Author

Leyla Muedin

Leyla Muedin is a clinical nutritionist and lecturer at the Hoffman Center in New York City.

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