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THE EXCRETORY SYSTEM

Disorders of the excretory system can be uncomfortable and painful and embarrassing to have investigated but it is important to do so as, if let untreated, it can develop into other more serious health issues. The diet is often the cause of excretory system disorders and can be rectified quite quickly in most cases and there are many natural remedies for most dysfunctions of the intestines, colon or bowels.

Any change in bowel movements and stool is always an important indication that something is wrong. It could be caused by many conditions such as liver, pancreas, spleen, kidney or gall bladder problems. It could be an obstruction within the intestines or be caused by an imbalance of the friendly and pathogenic bacteria which reside in the intestines or it could be due to a parasite infection.

Whatever the root cause, it does needs to be investigated thoroughly and treated before it leads to more serious problems such as infections, nutrient deficiencies, scarring of the intestinal walls and even cancer.

An ideal bowel movement is medium brown. It leaves the body easily with no straining or discomfort, has the consistency of toothpaste and measures approximately 10 -25 cm (four to eight inches) long. The stool should enter the water smoothly and slowly sink once it reaches the water. There should be very little gas or odour.

Any change in colour, consistency, size or shape of stools or times of bowel movements that continues for more than two weeks indicates that a condition may be developing and tests need to be undertaken to find out why. Pale stools can indicate a liver condition which needs to be treated to avoid further complications.

The best way to prevent these conditions from developing in the first place is to change the diet to natural healthy nutritious foods and avoid the following for a fortnight and see if there is any improvement:

  • A sedentary lifestyle

  • Coffee (no more than two cups per day)

  • Drugs (all unnecessary medications)

  • Fatty meats and fried foods

  • Food additives especially preservatives and artificial sweeteners

  • Pesticide residues on non-organic foods

  • Processed foods

  • Premade fast meals

  • Refined salt

  • Smoking tobacco

  • Stress

  • Sugar in any processed or refined forms

  • Takeaway or home delivery meals

  • White flour

  • White rice

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Intestinal flora

 

The correct balance of the gut bacteria is vital to life and health. Many factors can upset this fragile intestinal flora such as drugs, especially antibiotics, stress,  toxins and excessive amounts of sugar and protein. Once the this equilibrium is upset the excretory system can go awry. The consumption of prebiotic and probiotic foods can often resolve many excretory system disorders quite quickly and are worth trying as a first port of call.

Prebiotic foods

Prebiotic foods, containing carbohydrates such as as inulin, encourages a healthy intestinal environment to benefit probiotic intestinal flora. Prebiotic is a fairly recently coined name to refer to food components such as oligosaccharides, resistant starch and fermentable fibre that feed certain kinds of bacteria in the colon (large intestine) that have an important influence on the rest of the body. The human digestive system has a hard time breaking down many of these carbohydrates. Almost 90% escapes digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon where it performs a different function; that of a prebiotic.

The bacteria that feed on fermentable carbohydrate produce many beneficial substances, including short-chain fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin K2 and certain B vitamins. They also promote further absorption of some minerals that have escaped the small intestine, including calcium and magnesium and vitamin K2 which is vital to direct calcium to the bones and is needed in conjunction with vitamin D. This is why it is very important to consume both prebiotic and probiotic foods throughout life and especially when suffering from any kind of infections or health disorders.

Prebiotic foods that feed the existing beneficial bacteria

  • Agave

  • Apples

  • Asparagus

  • Banana

  • Beans

  • Bran

  • Broccoli

  • Burdock root

  • Cabbage

  • Cauliflower

  • Celeriac

  • Chicory root

  • Cocoa (raw)

  • Coconut flesh

  • Dandelion root

  • Elecampane

  • Elephant foot yam

  • Garlic

  • Jerusalem artichoke

  • Jicama root
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lentils
  • Mashua
  • Mugwort
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Rampion
  • Salsify
  • Turnip
  • Swede
  • Sweet potato
  • Whole grains
  • Yacon root
  • Yams

Probiotic foods

Probiotic foods contain beneficial bacteria and come from the fermentation process that the food has been allowed to undergo. During and after any treatment with antibiotics, it is advisable to include more probiotic foods in the daily diet to replenish the friendly bacteria that are wiped out by antibiotics. It is advisable to consume probiotics at least an hour before other foods to enable enough beneficial bacteria to survive and pass through the strong stomach acids.

Probiotic foods that contain beneficial bacteria

  • Brine pickles (eggs, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables that have been fermented by lactic acid bacteria)

  • Kefir (fermented milk drink)

  • Kimchi (a fermented, spicy Korean side dish)

  • Kombucha (fermented black or green Asian tea)

  • Miso (a Japanese fermented seasoning made with soya beans, salt and a type of fungus called koji)

  • Sauerkraut (finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria)

  • Tempeh (fermented soya beans)

  • Yoghurt (plain with live cultures)

Psyllium husks are the most highly effective remedy for naturally resolving problems within the bowels by moving waste more easily through the intestinal tract. One teaspoon taken in warm water or juice everyday will greatly assist digestion and excretion and avoid and heal most bowel disorders including anal fissures. Always drink a full glass of water after consuming the psyllium husks.

Marshmallow root is a useful herb for the treatment of diarrhoea and indigestion; along with chronic diseases that cause these symptoms such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Its anti-inflammatory properties are also useful for treating peptic ulcers, hiatus hernias, mouth ulcers, enteritis and colitis.

The following are excretory system disorders that there are specific natural remedies for:

Anal fissures

When people see spots of blood on the toilet paper and have pain with bowel movements, they often immediately think it's haemorrhoids when the problem may really be a small but painful tear called an anal fissure. Anal fissures are often caused by constipation. If stools are dry and hard, the anal sphincter is forced open wider than normal, resulting in a tear or anal fissure.

Anal fissures also cause a sharp, stinging, often severe pain with the passage of each bowel movement whereas haemorrhoids often cause bleeding but no pain. The pain can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours. In severe cases, the pain can cause a spasm of muscles that surround the rectum, which can cause the pain to intensify. Fortunately, most anal fissures heal rapidly on their own. When a fissure doesn't heal within a few weeks, it's usually because one or more root causes continue to aggravate the fissure.

Causes of anal fissures

The most obvious cause of an anal fissure is direct trauma to the anal canal. Childbirth, anal intercourse and insertion of any foreign bodies into the anal canal can cause a fissure.

Chronic constipation and diarrhoea can also cause an anal fissure by repeatedly straining the lining of the anus.

In the vast majority of cases, an underlying cause is chronic tension in a muscular ring, called the internal anal sphincter, that surrounds the anal canal. Emotional stress causes the autonomic nervous system to gear up to fight or flight response. One of the consequences of being chronically amped for a fight or flight response is a tense and dysfunctional gastrointestinal tract, which includes a taut internal anal sphincter. If the internal anal sphincter is chronically tense, blood flow to this region is reduced. Reduced blood flow causes the lining of the anus to become more susceptible to tearing. Reduced blood flow to the anus also makes it harder for a fissure to heal.

This is why some people tear relatively easily when they try to pass hard stools, while others don't develop a fissure even when chronically constipated, The tone of the internal anal sphincter largely determines if an anal fissure will develop when the anal canal is excessively stretched.

Lack of exercise and sitting down too much can result in poor circulation which can also result in reduced blood flow to the anus.

Nicotine reduces blood flow by constricting the capillaries so smoking should be avoided.

 

Avoid eggs when suffering from anal fissures as they can bind up the stools and cause constipation.

Natural remedies for anal fissures

Never strain when on the toilet. If there is a problem with natural excretion consume natural laxatives such as cascara, prunes or senna to soften stools. Eat extra fruit and vegetables which will aid digestion and ease excretion and avoid eggs until the constipation is resolved.

Consuming foods which increase blood flow can help with the healing of anal fissures such as ginger, garlic and turmeric. Crush three cloves of garlic and allow to stand for ten minutes. Add to meals with grated ginger and a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Dried garlic or ginger powder may be used as well. Turmeric is good with many dishes such as eggs, fish, rice and salads on vegetables especially cauliflower.

Avoid soap. Wash anal area with warm or hot water without the use of soap or other personal care products. Regular use of soap can cause the lining of the anal canal to become dry, predisposing it to tears when stretched excessively.

Coconut oil: If the anal sphincter is dry or there is an existing fissure, use coconut oil to moisturize the area. Coconut oil is an excellent moisturizer for all of the body's linings and it has healing properties for wounds. Some health practitioners in Indonesia have long used coconut oil to effectively treat bed sores and other skin lesions. It's best to apply it to the area throughout the day and before going to bed.

Take a hot bath daily in aloe vera or tea tree oil (or both) to help relax the muscles around the anus and increase blood flow. Both these herbs are poweful natural cleaners and have anti bacterial properties to prevent infection.

Constipation and diarrhoea

Constipation and diarrhoea can be caused by a poor diet, food poisoning, bacteria, virus or yeast infections, disease, parasites and worms, medications and an imbalance of good bacteria in the intestines. Coffee and too much fatty meat and sugar can also have a profound and detrimental affect on digestion. Coffee creates the toxin caffeine hydrochloride when it hits the stomach which causes the liver to over produce bile. Meat can become stuck to the intestinal walls forming undigested clumps of rancid fats. Sugar feeds pathogenic bacteria, viruses and yeasts which then proliferate.

Straining when constipated can cause haemorrhoids and varicose veins and in rare cases has been known to cause strokes therefore it is important to resolve constipation as soon as possible.

Many natural remedies work equally well for both constipation and diarrhoea which are as follows

Natural remedies for constipation

Apple cider vinegar contains pectin, a water-soluble fibre that promotes bowel movements. This makes it a great natural treatment for constipation. Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink it three times a day. Add apple or grape juice to the mix to make it more palatable.

Raw juice therapy can successfully treat constipation.

The best organic natural foods to blend and juice for constipation

  • Apple

  • Beetroot

  • Carrot

  • Grapes

  • Lemons

  • Pears

  • Spinach

  • Watercress

Natural remedies for diarrhoea

Coconut water and pineapple are best to drink to rehydrate if diarrhoea is prolonged.

If diarrhoea is due to an infection then consuming probiotic foods such as brine pickles, brine sauerkraut unpasteurized blue cheese, miso, kefir milk, kimchi, kombucha and live organic yoghurt can help to rectify the balance of bacteria in the intestines which can clear up infections and create normal stools.

Fibre is essential to help to normalise stools and make it easier to pass them. Psyllium husks, whole grains, vegetables and fruit are particularly useful for this.

Passion fruit contains components which have the ability to relax the nerves and relieve constipation, colitis and diarrhoea.

Raw juice therapy can successfully treat diarrhoea. The best organic natural foods to juice are:

  • Carrots

  • Celery

  • Ginger

  • Papaya

  • Lemon

  • Pineapple

There are many herbs and spices especially good for digestive problems, food poisoning, infections, constipation and diarrhoea. See the Medicinal Herbs and Spices page.

Diverticulitis

Diverticular disease is the general term used to describe a number of different disorders that affect the intestinal tract. A diverticulum is a sac-like out pouch found on any part of the gastrointestinal tract - but most common, by far, in the large intestine, especially along the last section, just before the rectum. The presence of these pouches is called diverticulitis, which frequently develops after middle age. If the diverticula become inflamed, which usually only happens when food becomes trapped in a pouch, then the condition is known as diverticulitis.

See the Diverticulitis page for more information and natural remedies.

Flatulence (wind, gas, bloating)

The main cause of this embarrassing condition is usually due to the diet. High sugar and salt intake, processed foods with unnatural additives, artificial sweeteners, lack of phytonutrients and minerals, lack of fibre, fruit and vegetables and prescription drugs often throw the body's inner ecosystem out of balance where pathogenic and disease causing pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and viruses can thrive.

These infections take over the digestive system, left untreated they can then invade other organs in the body and even enter the blood stream. They may cause the blood to become acidic causing fatigue which contributes to chronic disease and cause gas, belching and bloating.

Causes of flatulence

Carbonated drinks, indigestible fatty foods causing gut fermentation and improper food combining can all cause flatulence as well as the following factors:

Other more serious complaints which also cause flatulence and bloating are:

Natural remedies for flatulence

When food is eaten too fast, a pint or more of air can get trapped in the gut. With slow, careful chewing, less air will be taken in and the food will become drenched with saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that begin to break down food before it even reaches the gut and chewing helps it to saturate all of the food which in turn aids with proper digestion.

The following natural foods can all alleviate wind problems. A tea may be made with the herbs and ground up seeds and spices with the addition of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey.

  • Apple cider vinegar: Add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water. Allow the water to cool to room temperature and then drink it.

  • Bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice: Put the juice of one fresh lemon in a glass and add some baking soda to it. This will cause fizzing. Add some more baking soda and a cup of water and stir it well so the bicarbonate of soda dissolves completely. Drink this slowly. For instant relief from stomach gas, add a small amount of bicarbonate of soda to a glass of water and drink it on empty stomach. Be aware that bicarbonate of soda is high in sodium. Those with high blood pressure should only use this remedy as a last resort and not often.

  • Cardamom, fennel seeds and ginger. Take a quarter of a teaspoon of each and mix them thoroughly then add a cup of water and drink once or twice a day.

  • Celery seeds and black salt in a cup of buttermilk can relieve flatulence.

  • Cinnamon: Add one-half teaspoon of cinnamon powder to a cup of warm milk. Stir it well and then drink it. Honey can be added also if desired. Alternatively, make cinnamon tea by adding some cinnamon powder to a cup of boiling water. Let it steep for a few minutes and then drink it.

  • Cumin seeds, black pepper and garlic: Boil some ground garlic in water for a few minutes then add a small amount of black pepper and cumin seeds. Strain it and let it cool to room temperature. Drink this two or three times a day to see results in a few days.

  • Garlic: Make a garlic soup to reduce gas and help with proper digestion. For best results, use fresh garlic.

  • Ginger tea: can help to prevent the formation of gas in the stomach. Boil one tablespoon of ground ginger in water for a few minutes. Drink this tea two or three times a day. Alternatively, chew a fresh piece of ginger regularly after meals or add small amounts of dried or fresh ginger to food.

  • Sage tea can help reduce flatulence and make digestion easier. It should not be used for more than a week, but during this period, the tea may be taken up to three times per day.

To combat flatulence and bloating eliminate the following from the diet and introduce slowly, one at a time, to find out the cause of the flatulence that may just be an intolerance to certain foods. See Food Allergies

  • Beans

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Cabbage

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Chewing gum

  • Chocolate

  • Coffee

  • Dairy products

  • Fatty or fried products

  • Onions

  • Red and green peppers

  • Sugar

  • Wheat

Haemorrhoids (piles)

Haemorrhoids are normally present veins in the anus and rectum that become swollen and inflamed. Many people suffer haemorrhoids at some time in their lives The peak age is between 45 to 65 years.

Symptoms

Internal haemorrhoids (ones that are inside the anal cavity) usually cause painless bleeding at the end of a bowel movement. Blood can be a sign of a serious problem so it's important to be evaluated by a health professional.

Other symptoms are a sensation of fullness, usually described as feeling the urge to have a bowel movement even when there is no stool. Straining worsens the discomfort.

There may be acute pain, itching, and irritation around the anus. This often occurs when the haemorrhoid has prolapsed and can be seen outside the anus or it can be caused when a blood clot develops or the haemorrhoid becomes twisted. There may be a painful lump or swelling around the anus. These may be serious and requires evaluation.

External haemorrhoids (outside the anus) can often be felt as a bulge in the anus. Although they can be itchy and painful, they sometimes don't cause typical symptoms.

Causes of haemorrhoids

  • Aging starting in the thirties, there is a progressive weakening of the support structures in the area.

  • Chronic venous insufficiency can be a sign of general weakness in the veins. Contributing factors are standing or sitting for long periods, being overweight, not exercising enough and smoking

  • Constipation straining puts greater pressure on the veins

  • Inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease may be the underlying cause of haemorrhoids

  • Portal hypertension increased pressure within the portal vein blood from the intestines to the liver. Liver cirrhosis is the most common cause

  • Pregnancy a common problem caused by hormonal changes and increased pressure by the growing foetus, which forces the veins to work harder to pump blood

Prevention of haemorrhoids

The three basics that may reduce haemorrhoids symptoms are:

  • Adequate water intake (four to six glasses a day)

  • Adequate fibre in the diet

  • Exercise

Natural remedies for haemorrhoids

Foods rich in rutin can cure haemorrhoids as this flavonoid acts on the circulatory system to strengthen blood vessels. Foods rich in rutin should be consumed along with foods rich in vitamin E, vitamin C and hesperidin. Follow the blue links below to find natural resources of these nutrients

Butcher's Broom: Butcher's broom is traditional use for haemorrhoids and varicose veins. Butcher's broom contains anti-inflammatory and vein-constricting properties that are believed to improve the tone and integrity of veins and shrink the swollen tissue. It is taken tea form. The tea has a slightly bitter taste, so honey can be used to sweeten it. The tea can be made by steeping one teaspoon of the herb in a cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Butchers broom has also been shown to be effective when applied topically as an ointment or compress.

NOTE: Butcher's broom should not be used by individuals taking alpha blocker or MAO inhibitor drugs or who have the following conditions:

Bioflavonoids are a type of plant compound that are thought to work by stabilizing and strengthening blood vessel walls and by decreasing inflammation. They have been found to reduce anal discomfort, pain and anal discharge during an acute haemorrhoid attack. Side effects of bioflavonoids appear to be mild and rare, making them a promising treatment for haemorrhoids in pregnancy. The major flavonoids found in citrus fruits, diosmin, herperidin, and oxerutins, appear to be beneficial. In citrus fruits bioflavonoids are found in the white pith material just beneath citrus peel. For all natural foods sources see Bioflavonoids

Fibre can soften stool and increase its bulk, which helps to reduce straining. Foods high in fibre are fruit skins, legumes, vegetables  and whole grains. Psyllium husks, a powdered fibre supplement, is another option that is inexpensive and readily available. A typical amount of psyllium is one teaspoon of the husks in water followed by another glass of water. Another option is ground flaxseeds. Whatever the source of fibre, it is important to drink sufficient water or constipation may worsen. For more natural remedies see Constipation above.

Horse chestnut: is good for poor circulation in the veins or chronic venous insufficiency. It is used to relieve symptoms such as swelling and inflammation in haemorrhoids and strengthen blood vessel walls. Horse chestnut can be taken as a tea. It can also be applied externally as a compress.

NOTE: People with an allergy to the horse chestnut family, bleeding disorders, or people taking blood thinners should not take horse chestnut. Only products made from the seeds or bark of the young branches should be used. Other parts of the plant are poisonous. Although uncommon, side effects have included kidney damage, severe bleeding, bruising and liver damage.

Maqui berries are the richest source of anthocyanins of any other natural food. The anthocyanins give plants their dark purple and blue colour and exhibit powerful anti-inflammatory activity, and do it as well as drugs for the same purposes, without the negative side effects.

Raw juice therapy can successfully treat haemorrhoids. The best organic natural foods to blend and juice are:

  • Carrot

  • Lemon

  • Orange

  • Papaya

  • Pineapple

  • Spinach

  • Turnip

  • Watercress

Wormwood Historical documentation shows that this Vietnamese/Chinese herb was used to treat intestinal parasitic infections, haemorrhoids (its an anti-inflammatory) and malaria as early as 2000 years ago. To make a medicinal tea, soak a handful of sweet wormwood leaves in hot water for 20 minutes. Then wring out the juice and drink it all.

External remedies for haemorrhoids

The following herbs can be applied externally as a compress or ointment.

  • Butcher's broom

  • Calendula (marigold)

  • Chamomile

  • Horse chestnut

  • Yarrow

  • Pine needle tea bath

  • Fig Leaves Place two or three of the leaves in one litre of water and bring to boil. Boil for at least 15 minutes. Remove from the fire and let the pot cool. Remove the leaves from the tea and use as a bath or apply to the affected areas.

  • Witch hazel: A compress or ointment made from the tea of the leaves and bark of the plant. It is not be taken internally but is instead applied topically to the anal area in the form of witch hazel distilled liquid. Witch hazel is thought to decrease the bleeding of haemorrhoids by acting as an astringent. It may also relieve pain, itching and swelling.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, it does not permanently harm the intestines and does not lead to intestinal bleeding or any serious disease, such as cancer. Most people can control their symptoms with dietary adjustment and stress management. Researchers have yet to discover any specific cause for IBS. One theory is that people who suffer from IBS have a colon, or large intestine, that is particularly sensitive and reactive to certain foods and stress. The immune system, which fights infection, may also be involved.

  • Normal motility or movement, may not be present in the colon of a person who has IBS. It can be spasmodic or can even stop working temporarily. Spasms are sudden strong muscle contractions that come and go.

  • The lining of the colon called the epithelium, which is affected by the immune and nervous systems, regulates the flow of fluids in and out of the colon. In IBS, the epithelium appears to work properly. However, when the contents inside the colon move too quickly, the colon loses its ability to absorb fluids. The result is too much fluid in the stool. In other people, the movement inside the colon is too slow, which causes extra fluid to be absorbed. As a result, a person develops constipation.

  • A person’s colon may respond strongly to stimuli such as certain foods or stress that would not bother most people.

  • Recent research has reported that serotonin is linked with normal gastrointestinal (GI) functioning. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or chemical, that delivers messages from one part of your body to another. Ninety-five percent of the serotonin in your body is located in the GI tract, and the other 5 percent is found in the brain. Cells that line the inside of the bowel work as transporters and carry the serotonin out of the GI tract. People with IBS, however, have diminished receptor activity, causing abnormal levels of serotonin to exist in the GI tract. As a result, they experience problems with bowel movement, motility, and sensation—having more sensitive pain receptors in their GI tract.

  • Researchers have reported that IBS may be caused by a bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies show that people who have had gastroenteritis sometimes develop IBS, otherwise called post-infectious IBS.

  • Researchers have also found very mild celiac disease in some people with symptoms similar to IBS. People with celiac disease cannot digest gluten, a substance found in wheat, rye, and barley. People with celiac disease cannot eat these foods without becoming very sick because their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. A blood test can determine whether celiac disease may be present.

Crohn's disease: is among the most common, non-infectious inflammatory condition that may affect any part of the gut from the mouth to the anus. It is believed to be due to an autoimmune mechanism.

Ulcerative colitis: only affects the colon and rectum. As its name indicates, IBS is a syndrome: a combination of signs and symptoms. IBS has not been shown to lead to a serious disease, including cancer. Through the years, IBS has been called by many names, among them colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon or spastic bowel. However, no link has been established between IBS and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): should not be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is a functional disorder of the bowels, meaning that it is in a state of dysfunction although there is not evident pathology of the bowels.

The alimentary tract extends from the mouth to the anus. Most of the length of this tract is made up on the bowels, namely the small intestine and large intestine. The small intestine is divided into three parts; duodenum (leading from the stomach), jejunum and ileum (leading to the large intestine). The large intestine is composed of the cecum, colon and rectum. Most of the digestion, absorption and stool formation occurs within the bowels.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic disease characterized by varying degrees of inflammation of mainly the bowel but may extend to other parts of the gastrointestinal tract. There are two main types; Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Although there are several key differences between the two conditions, the symptoms are largely the same and it may be difficult to differentiate. Crohn’s disease more frequently affects the ileum and colon but can occur in any part of the alimentary tract. Ulcerative colitis is only seen in the colon and rectum.

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis appear to be due to the same mechanism, the cause of which is largely unknown. (idiopathic). Most cases of Crohn's disease appear in early adulthood, although it may be very infrequently seen in children. Ulcerative colitis is more common and women are more prone than men to developing IBD.

The cause of inflammatory bowel disease appears to be due to a defective mucosal immune mechanism, but it is not considered as an autoimmune disease. It is believed that a combination of the following mechanisms may be responsible for the chronic inflammation.  These defects are largely due to genetics and may therefore be seen in families although this is not always the case.

Intestinal bacteria

The bowels contain trillions of bacterial cells which play an important role in digestion and absorption of various nutrients. These naturally-occurring bacteria, known as the normal intestinal flora, also help to prevent the invasion of the bowel by foreign pathogens. However, the population of these bacteria needs to be closely controlled by various mechanisms within its microenvironment to prevent it from becoming harmful to the bowels. There is some evidence to suggest that in inflammatory bowel disease, the body forms antibodies against these bacteria which then leads to inflammation that is ongoing as the bacteria are constantly replenished. The bacterial population may also, for some reason or the other, pass beyond its normal acceptable limits in inflammatory bowel disease.

Epithelial tight junction barrier

The neighbouring cells that make up the mucosal epithelium lie closely together and practically join together to form an impermeable membrane. This close association is known as a tight junction and the effect of the epithelial barrier is to ensure that substances within the epithelial tissue does not leak out into the gut and at the same time substances do not enter the tissue spaces without being absorbed, either passively or actively, as required. One of the hypotheses around the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease suggests that this epithelial tight junction barrier function is compromised to some degree and this may allow for unregulated transport of substances across the mucosal epithelium. Ultimately this triggers inflammation of the bowel wall. A defective transport of substances across the epithelial lining may also be another factor in inflammatory bowel disease, irrespective of the integrity of the tight junction barrier.

Mucosal immune response

Mucosal epithelium lines the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. Although there may be differences in the lining of the various portions of the gut, it is largely the same structure. The mucosa is not a tight impermeable barrier like the skin but is often just as exposed to the environment; air, foods and drinks. It has its own immune response known as the mucosal immune system which is geared to protect it from any invading pathogens. In this manner it also prevents infiltration into deeper tissue and infection from spreading to the rest of the body. In inflammatory bowel disease this mucosal immune response appears to be defective. Inflammatory mediators are abnormally activated and inflammation therefore sets in despite the obvious absence of any threat to the mucosal epithelium.

Causes of irritable bowel syndrome

Although the exact cause has not as yet been identified despite a better understanding of the mechanism in recent years, it is believed that some external factor triggers the process in a person who is genetically susceptible. Trigger factors that have been suggested include a previous infection (possibly infectious gastroenteritis), exposure to cow’s milk or other animal protein and underlying autoimmune diseases like autoimmune thyroiditis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Cigarette smoking appears to play some role in inflammatory bowel disease but the exact interaction is not clear as yet. Appendectomy, removal of the appendix, appears to play a protective role which is also not clearly understood as yet.


Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

The main differences between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are listed below. Other differences and similarities relate to ethnicity, recurrence after surgery, cancer potential and nutrient malabsorption. Ulcers occur in both conditions but may vary in size and depth.

  • Crohn’s disease: Skip lesions with inflammation extending through the entire wall of the bowel. Fibrosis is significant. Deep narrow ulcers, fissures and fistulas.

  • Ulcerative colitis: Inflammation isolated to the mucosa and submucosa. Little or no fibrosis is seen. Large, shallow ulcers.

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

Recurrent or persistent diarrhoea is the main feature of both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In Crohn’s disease this is watery, large volume diarrhoea with no blood or mucus. In ulcerative colitis, bloody diarrhoea is a cardinal sign, along with mucus in patients with proctitis. Some ulcerative colitis patients may experience frequent bowel movements with small-volume loose stools and rarely may even experience constipation with hard stools between acute attacks.

Abdominal pain is significant in Crohn’s disease which intensifies with eating and passing stool. In ulcerative colitis, abdominal pain is not as prominent although there is some abdominal discomfort and cramping which is often temporarily relieved by defecation. In severe cases of ulcerative colitis, however, the pain is intense and not eased by bowel movements.

Weight loss is prominent in most patients with Crohn’s disease partly due to pain associated with eating and malabsorption. Ulcerative colitis patients are largely unaffected with regards to weight loss except in very severe cases although there may be some temporary loss of weight during acute attacks.

Other symptoms can be:

  • Anaemia

  • Anorexia

  • Arthralgia (joint pains)

  • Black tarry stools

  • Bleeding from the anus.

  • Bowel movement, inability to have one.

  • Depression or anxiety.

  • Eye inflammation (uveitis).

  • Fever.

  • Flatulence and bloating.

  • Headache.

  • Lethargy and fatigue.

  • Malaise.

  • Mouth sores.

  • Mucus covered stools.

  • Nausea, especially after eating.

  • Sharp pain in the lower abdomen or groin areas before and during bowel movement.

  • Skin disorders.

  • The urge to have another bowel movement after you've just had one.

Feelings of nervousness, anxiety, guilt, depression, frustration or anger may bring on or aggravate this very common disorder. Coffee, raw fruits and vegetables, hormones, certain medications and overuse of laxatives can promote it, as can an inability of the body to digest the natural sugar found in milk.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis may also occur outside the gut and include joint pain, eye inflammation, skin rashes and lesions and mouth ulcers.

What to avoid

A basic diet avoiding items, which have been associated with IBS, IBD, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis may result in marked improvement. Such items to avoid include sugar, sweets, bleached white flour, insoluble fibre, carbohydrates, processed meat and alcohol as well as allergenic foods such as wheat, dairy products and corn.

Alcohol can cause diarrhoea and nausea and interfere with digestion. See Alcohol dangers

Caffeine found in coffee, chocolate, cola and even some medications can stimulate the intestines and cause heartburn and cramping. Coffee is especially aggravating as it reacts with the stomach's normal acids. See Coffee dangers

Chocolate not only contains caffeine but high amounts of sugar and fat all of which can worsen IBS symptoms.

Citrus fruits: Of all the types of fruit, citrus varieties, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes and tangerines, seem to be the most common offenders.

Dairy products: Some sufferers are lactose intolerant, which means they can't digest lactose, the sugar found naturally in milk and other dairy products. Live probiotic yogurt and hard cheeses don't seem to cause any symptoms because their bacterial content converts much of the lactose to lactic acid before they're consumed. Whole-milk dairy products also contain fat, which may be an irritant. Goat's milk can be better tolerated than cow's milk. Yoghurt can actually benefit the digestive system and ease symptoms.

Fat: Fatty meats like duck, goose, lamb and pork, butter and oils are more difficult for the body to digest and can cause problems in the intestines.

Gas producers: Onions, legumes, pulses, beans, broccoli, Brussels' sprouts, cabbage, red and green peppers and carbonated beverages can increase wind. Many of these offenders are rich in nutrients, however, so experiment with smaller amounts or different cooking methods or try a Micro-diet Sprouting regime.

Lectins are a type of glycoprotein found in many plant foods. Seeds of the grasses such as rice, rye, spelt and wheat have exceptionally high levels of this defensive glycoprotein. Whole wheat, sprouted grains and wheat germ enriched products, all have considerably higher levels of lectins than their processed, refined and non-germinated equivalents and may be ironically contributing to making people significantly less healthy. This may be why the ‘Paleo diet’, which eliminates grains entirely from the diet, may be effective in improving the health and reducing pain and inflammation in some individuals.

Food sources of lectins include most fruits, grains, legumes, herbs, nuts, seeds, spices and vegetables and grain-fed animals. Some types of lectins are destroyed during processing and digestion however others are not and can cause the pain and inflammation and health problems mentioned above. The most common potentially 'toxic' lectin containing food groups are:

  • Grains: (Especially wheat and wheat germ but also barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye and spelt).

  • Legumes: (all dried beans, including navy beans, soya beans and peanuts).

  • Dairy: (when cows are fed grains instead of grass).

  • Nightshades: (aubergines, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes).

NOTE: Dairy products may be potentially more harmful when pasteurised and processed because of the reduction of SIgA, an immunoglobulin that binds to and eliminates dangerous lectins.

Nightshades: Aubergine, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes belong to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family that contain inflammation inducing alkaloids and , although not truly nightshades, ashwaganda, blueberries, goji berries and huckleberries also share the same alkaloids. The Solanaceae  family contains cholinesterase inhibiting glycoalkaloids and steroid alkaloids including, among others, capsaicin in peppers, nicotine in tobacco, solanine in aubergines and potatoes and tomatine in tomatoes. The glycoalkaloids in potatoes are known to contribute to Irritable Bowel Syndrome and negatively affect intestinal permeability.

Spicy foods: Hot spices can be a cause of IBS. Try eliminating them and see if that makes a difference.

Sugar: Some IBS sufferers have what's known as fructose intolerance and have difficulty digesting fructose (fruit sugar). Sucrose or white sugar can also trigger IBS and are especially detrimental to the digestive tract. See Sugar Dangers

Tobacco: Smoking may have an effect on the motility, or movement, of the digestive system but it has been found to lower the risk of ulcerative colitis and some people have been treated with nicotine.

Sugar free products especially chewing gum: Specifically, those made with sorbitol or aspartame can aggravate IBS symptoms because the artificial sweetener is not digestible. See Aspartame Dangers.

Wheat can irritate the lining of the intestines and should be avoided when suffering from IBS or any other colon and intestinal disorders. Many processed products contain wheat so labels should be checked carefully. Amaranth, coconut flour, millet, quinoa and rice flours are good alternatives to use in place of wheat.

Visit the Food allergies page to learn more about foods that cause inflammation and contribute to immune system disorders, IBS and other intestinal disorders including leaky gut.

Natural remedies for irritable bowel syndrome

Mainstream medicine usually treats ulcerative colitis as an immune disorder and often prescribe the dangerous steroids and other drugs to control symptoms. Natural remedies, on the other hand, often control symptoms and lead to prolonged remission without drugs, side effects or surgery. Some of the best are:

Black seed oil is a natural immune modulator that can help prevent immune dysfunction which may cause ulcerative colitis.

Cabbage: Juice of the cabbage soothes the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. To turn it into juice, wash and put through a juicer or blender. If these are not available, cook the cabbage in a very small amount of water, just enough to keep it from scorching or burning, until very mushy. Then mash with a fork or mixer. NOTE: Avoid cabbage if suffering with thyroid problems, kidney stones, gallstones, joint problems or osteoporosis

Carrots: Help to prevent the symptoms of IBS as well as regulate diarrhoea and constipation. Eat them raw with avocado or in salads or steamed. They can be juiced too but they're not a juicy vegetable so add a little pure apricot nectar when making carrot juice. Don't overcook them to avoid loss of nutrients. In order to absorb the carotenoids in carrots they must be consumed with fatty foods such as avocado, nuts or rapeseed or olive oil.

Curcumin is a natural immune modulator that can help prevent immune dysfunction which may cause ulcerative colitis.

Fennel seeds can relieve the intestinal spasms associated with IBS. They may also aid in the elimination of fats from the digestive system, inhibiting the over production of mucus in the intestine, which is a symptom of the ailment. Make a tea with the seeds by adding 1/2 teaspoon fennel to 1 cup boiling water, steep for 15 minutes then strain and drink after meals. Or add them to vegetables such as carrots or cabbage, both of which soothe IBS symptoms. They can be sprinkled on salads or roasted and consumed as a snack after a meal to reduce the symptoms of IBS (they also freshen the breath). To roast, sprinkle a baking sheet with olive oil, then cover with fennel seeds. Bake at 325F for 10 to 15 minutes. NOTE: avoid seeds and nuts if suffering from diverticulitis.

Flaxseed: Make a tea using one teaspoon flaxseed per cup of water, steep for 15 minutes then strain and drink at bedtime for relief of symptoms.

Frankincense has been found to block chemical reactions involved in inflammation. NOTE: Rare side effects of frankincense include diarrhoea, heart burn, nausea and skin rash.

Lettuce: Consumed raw it can relieve symptoms of IBS, but it's especially helpful if lightly steamed. Go for the darker varieties, the darker the colour, the more nutrients it contains.

Maqui berry is a Chilean 'super fruit' which contains the highest amount of antioxidants and anti inflammatory compounds than any other known natural food. Regular consumption can relieve the symptoms of colitis.

Marshmallow is a useful herb for the treatment of diarrhoea and indigestion; along with chronic diseases that cause these symptoms such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Its anti-inflammatory properties are also useful for treating peptic ulcers, hiatus hernias, mouth ulcers, enteritis and colitis.

Oat bran: Increasing fibre is a cure for almost every intestinal ill and oat bran is especially good for IBS because it is mild and colon friendly. Consume some every day: a bowl of oatmeal or oat bran bread. It may take up to a month to get any IBS relief. There are other whole grains that are equal to oat bran in nutritional value and cause no irritation of the stomach lining see the Whole Grains section.

Oleander leaf is a natural immune modulatorthat can help prevent immune dysfunction which may cause ulcerative colitis.

Passion fruit contains components which have the ability to relax the nerves and relieve constipation, colitis and diarrhoea.

Pears may help to relieve IBS symptoms. Purchase when they're still hard and let them ripen at room temperature for a few days. Pure unsweetened additive free pear juice and dried pears are also helpful in treating intestinal problems.

Peppermint: Several studies have shown that peppermint can reduce IBS symptoms, particularly when cramping and diarrhoea are major problems.  Steeped into a nice, relaxing tea, dried peppermint can relieve intestinal spasms. Use 1 heaping teaspoon dried peppermint, and steep in 1 cup boiling water for ten minutes. Peppermint can exacerbate heartburn, but there are no other side effects.

Pineapple: Can prevent dehydration when severe diarrhoea is present.

Psyllium husks: Are invaluable in the treatment of bowel problems as they help with digestion and provide lots of fibre making the stool soft and easily passed. Try mixing a small carton of live probiotic yogurt with 1/2 teaspoon psyllium husks and eating the mixture one hour after meals. Or mix one teaspoon with a large glass of water and consume daily upon waking. Always drink plenty of water with psyllium husks.

Drinking around six glasses of non-carbonated, bottle mineral water a day is important, especially when there is diarrhoea or an increase of fibre intake.

Nutrients that can help protect against and treat irritable bowel syndrome

Bromelain, a digestive enzyme from pineapple, reduces inflammation and aids healing and can decrease the incidence and severity of colitis. Pineapples can also prevent dehydration which can be the result of constant diarrhoea.

Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation in people with ulcerative colitis.

Magnesium ia a natural immune modulator that can help prevent immune dysfunction which may cause ulcerative colitis. has been leeched from the soil with modern day intensive farming techniques and is not replaced, which may explain the lack of it in the diet leading to the increase of immune dysfunctions in humans.

Vitamin B9 (folic acid): People with chronic ulcerative colitis are at greater risk of colon cancer. Four times the recommended daily amount of vitamin B9 significantly suppresses ulcerative colitis-associated colon cancer.

Vitamin C helps protect and heal the mucosa.

Vitamin D helps with digestion and absorption of calcium and phosphate, regulates the amount of phosphorus in the body and can reduce chronic inflammatory conditions. 10-15 minutes of midday sunshine on the skin can  provide all the vitamin D the body needs. It is not the same as sunbathing; the skin simply needs to be exposed to sunlight. Through a window is not enough. Over exposure of the suns rays can be dangerous for the skin but no exposure at all can be equally detrimental. Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in sunlight convert cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D. During the winter months (October-April) when it is too cold to expose the skin to the sun and in the northern hemisphere there is not enough UVB rays from the sun anyway, it is advisable to raise the weekly intake of oily fish and cod liver oil. Other sources of vitamin D are: goat's milk, wild mushrooms and eggs.

Other natural remedies include:

Visit the Medicinal Herbs and Spices page to find more natural remedies. Everyone is individual so different remedies will have different effects.

Raw juice therapy can successfully treat colitis and bowel problems. The best organic natural foods to blend and juice are:

  • Apple

  • Apricot

  • Beetroot

  • Carrot

  • Cucumber

  • Papaya

  • Pear

  • Peach

  • Pineapple

  • Spinach

Stress should be avoided as it may cause the onset of ulcerative colitis symptoms. Mind/body therapies such as breathing exercises and meditation can help. Gentle stretching exercises can also help the digestive system. Too much sitting can exasperate symptoms.

Cleansing and fasting helps eliminate toxins and restore natural balance. See the Cleanse and Detoxify page for natural cleansing foods.

Certain types of foods can make the symptoms of diarrhoea and gas worse. To help ease symptoms, try:

  • Eating small amounts of food throughout the day.

  • Drinking lots of water (drink small amounts often throughout the day).

  • Avoiding high-fibre foods (bran, beans, nuts, seeds and popcorn).

  • Avoiding fatty, greasy or fried foods and sauces (butter, margarine and heavy cream).

  • Limiting dairy products. Try low-lactose cheeses, such as Swiss and cheddar and goat's milk instead of cow's.

  • Avoiding foods known to cause gas, such as beans.

Sclerosing mesenteritis

 

Sclerosing mesenteritis is a disease characterised by degeneration (necrosis), inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) of fatty (adipose) tissue of the mesentery. The mesentery is a fold of tissue of the peritoneum that supports and attaches the intestines to the wall of the abdomen. The peritoneum is the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers the abdominal organs. It is the small bowel mesentery that is usually affected by sclerosing mesenteritis. Read more and find natural remedies.

Medicinal herbs useful for treating all types of excretory system disorders

See also  Intestines

"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC

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