Holistic Approach to Inflammatory Bowel Disease

by Harry Hong, Ph.D. L.Ac.

Dana, a 40-year-old woman, came to see me with a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. While taking Prednisone (10 mg) and several immune suppressants, she was still having abdominal pain and diarrhea with bloody stool every day. Her doctor suggested a piece of her colon would have to be removed and the use of a colostomy bag if her symptoms couldn’t be controlled with current medication. She was very scared.


Dana enjoyed her food very much. She was also drinking wine and smoking daily when she came to see me. I explained to her that her lifestyle and dietary habits played an important role in her disease. Without making changes in her life, she indeed would eventually have to have her diseased colon removed. Moreover, other areas of her intestines could develop the same problem in the future.

Dana agreed to make some gradual changes. Dealing with a painful divorce and having a small business to run, she tried to use food and drinking to ease her life stress, but the toxins and stress made her body fall apart. She also complained of fatigue, insomnia, headaches and many food sensitivities.

After testing for sensitivities and imbalances of her body, I made a lifestyle and dietary plan for her, which included staying away from things such as alcohol and tobacco, rotating her food every five-day cycle, and eating smaller meals more often. This was a long-term plan with moderations specifically for her condition.

Her holistic treatment plan included three stages of my Individualized Body Mind Therapy (IBMT). The first stage was to stabilize her body and recover the body’s healing ability. I saw her once a month and prescribed homeopathic remedies to recharge her cellular energy and improve the body’s drainage system. I also taught her to perform desensitization procedures daily at home using a kit in my system. The first stage of therapy is crucial for most of my patients because it involves establishment of a healthy lifestyle and dietary habits. The immune system also needed to be calmed, otherwise she would develop allergies to everything taken in within a few weeks.

Once the patient becomes accustomed to the new healthy routine of life, everything falls into place. Dana felt much better after three months with no more bloody stool. The second and third stages of the therapy are detoxification and regeneration stage, respectively. After detoxification of major organs, intestinal Candida and parasites, Dana started to reduce her medications. After two years of ups and downs during medication reduction, she finally became symptom-free without any medications.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of inflammatory conditions of the intestines. The major types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). Although very different diseases, both Crohn’s and UC share similar symptoms: abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, severe internal cramps/muscle spasms in the region of the pelvis and weight loss. The main difference between Crohn’s and UC is the location and nature of the inflammatory changes. Crohn’s can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from mouth to anus, although a majority of the cases start in the terminal ileum. UC, in contrast, is restricted to the colon and the rectum. Microscopically, UC is restricted to the mucosa (epithelial lining of the gut) while Crohn’s affects the whole bowel wall.

IBD is a complex disease that arises as a result of the interaction of environmental and genetic factors. It is increasingly thought that alterations to enteral bacteria can contribute to inflammation in the gut. Conventional treatment for IBD may require immunosuppression to control the symptoms, such as Prednisone and other anti-inflammatory medications. Severe cases may require surgery, such as colostomy or ileostomy. It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that as many as 1.4 million people in the United States suffer from these diseases.

Holistic medicine believes that IBD is a systemic disease that affects not only the digestive tract but the neuroendocrine control of the immune function and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system as well. First of all, accumulation of toxins and hyperactive inflammatory immune response are the main causes of the disease. Among the organs affected, the digestive tract is the main toxin source of the body due to dysbiosis, a condition of microbial imbalances such as yeast overgrowth (Candidiasis), pathogenic bacteria and parasite overgrowth and the decline of the beneficial bacteria. Thus, intestinal cleansing and detoxification are necessary to reduce inflammatory response to intestinal lining of IBD. However, the detox functions of many IBD patients have already been impaired, which could be the major reason they develop the disease. Common cleansing and detox protocol may result in strong detox responses such as achiness, headache, fatigue, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. Thus, a preparation period with balancing and support for liver, kidney and intestinal function with homeopathy and Chinese medicine is necessary for a successful detoxification therapy with natural remedies.

Second, many patients with autoimmune diseases such as IBD all have one thing in common—adrenal fatigue syndrome. Before autoimmune attack, most of them have a history of experiencing extreme high stress in their lives, including working long hours, financial difficulties, relationship crisis and other emotional issues. Stresses in life weaken the adrenal system and in turn cause hyperactivity of the immune system. On the other hand, strong immune attack causes severe tissue damage and sometimes the only treatment to ease the autoimmune attack is to use steroids such as Prednisone, which is an adrenal hormone with powerful anti-inflammatory and immune suppression function. This suggests that the endogenous adrenal hormone such as cortisol in the patient’s body doesn’t function well to control the autoimmune attack. Thus, addressing the adrenal issue for IBD patients is equally as important as addressing the toxin issue. In the meantime, healing of intestinal lining requires adrenal function as well. Many patients with chronic IBD all have a condition called leaky gut syndrome, which describes intestinal hyper permeability. A strong adrenal function helps to heal the leaky gut and ensures a possible complete recovery of the IBD.

Lastly, and the most important point, is food allergy and sensitivity which can be a trigger to autoimmune attack. Food allergy involves specific antigen-antibody reaction, while food sensitivity is a neuro-inflammatory response believed to be a less severe stage compared to allergy. Resolving food allergy and sensitivity sometimes is crucial to drive IBD into remission. Unfortunately, there has not been a reliable test to absolutely identify food allergy and sensitivity. An experienced holistic practitioner should be able to help the patient work out a dietary plan based on a combination of clinical observation, analysis of dietary habits, blood antibody test (for food allergy) and electrodermal screening (for food sensitivity). A food elimination and rotation diet is necessary to reduce food stress. A food desensitization technique also helps to reduce food sensitivity and improves absorption of nutrients to the body.

Dr. Harry Hong is a licensed acupuncturist specializing in holistic healing for the Highly Sensitive. He teaches highly sensitive people to listen to their body and take charge of their own health. With his own systematic IBMT protocol that includes Chinese medicine, modern homeopathy, energetic testing and allergy desensitization, Dr. Hong helps highly sensitives gain back their immune strength and get their life back. He has offices in both South Florida and Chicago. Dr. Hong does not take any insurance plans directly. Visit HighlySensitiveBody.com or email [email protected] See ad page 26.

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