A recent study came out this month identifying specific fungus and bacteria that were linked to cases of Crohn’s disease. While E coli had previously been identified, this new study finds Serratia marcescens and candida tropicalis are in the mix as well (1). Crohn’s disease affects more than a half-million people each year inflicting debilitating symptoms such as chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue. Researchers were pleased to present this new information in the hopes of leading to better treatment options for patients down the road.
While this study sheds light on possible aberrations of the gut microbiome, it fails to realize that the overgrowth of these organisms is symptomatic of a much greater issue. In reality, it’s the lack of species diversity that sets the stage for rogue organisms to take advantage of holes in an already disrupted ecology. The study may pick up on the “above the radar” organisms, however, this alone is not causal. Any time we detect levels of organisms that shouldn’t be there it means the whole ecology is weak and depleted. This is the real issue behind Crohn’s and other conditions centering on intestinal dysfunction. Without a diverse well-populated ecosystem that is positively balanced, we lose our greatest protector and health ally.
Standard treatments very often fail
When it comes to Crohn’s disease, diagnostic techniques such as a colonoscopy may work to pick up the condition however standard treatment options fail in the long run. Currently it is well known that antibiotic use can decimate the bacterial populations of the intestine. This is a huge problem that inflicts further damage by creating even more opportunity for organisms to take root that would otherwise not be included in the ecology.
“Antibiotic use should be avoided whenever possible.”
For Crohn’s and all intestinal conditions, I find the best program starts with comprehensive testing through DNA stool analysis, an ion test looking at metabolites produced by organisms through urine sample plus a breath test to explore the possibility of overgrowth in the small intestine. This testing trifecta gives an extremely well rounded view of the intestine from several angles so we can clearly see the state of the bacterial populations and infections. Additionally these types of tests give vital information about the way the body is absorbing and using nutrients as well as the state of the immune system-the majority of which resides in the intestine. When paired with blood testing to measure deeper inflammatory markers such as TNF-alpha, IL1, IL6, IL10, CRP, ESR and LPS a larger picture begins to emerge making treatment strategies that much more targeted. Further, undiagnosed low thyroid is often a player in chronic illnesses, especially those involving the intestine. The TRH stimulation plus a full thyroid panel can help to uncover any of these issues as well.
The 4 R’s of intestinal health
As I touched on earlier, antibiotic use should be avoided whenever possible. The vast majority of patients will not only remain stuck in symptoms, they get worse as the gut microbiome is further damaged. The best treatment centers on improving the microbiome and should be the goal when working with all chronic illnesses. By tapping into the natural power that is already within each of us, healing becomes effortless.
The 4 R program is a clinically proven means to heal and support intestinal health and immune function through the gut microbiome. First we REMOVE any organisms that should not be a part of the intestinal ecology such as fungus, certain bacteria and parasites by use of targeted herbal compounds. In this phase I also work to remove inflammatory triggers like gluten, refined carbs and sugars, GMO, artificial foods and colorings and environmental chemical exposures though household, cleaning and beauty products. Additionally it is imperative to discontinue use of any unnecessary medications that further damage intestinal health such as NSAIDs and PPIs.
We REPLACE stomach acid by using Betaine HCL and digestive enzymes such as protease, amylase, lipase, bile acids and DPPIV. This simple step can have a huge positive impact on the body by aiding the breakdown of foods, proper absorption and help to neutralize any bacteria coming in on the foods we eat.
Targeted compounds are used to REPAIR and rebuild the intestinal wall that is so often damaged in the midst of inflammation, food intolerances and the onslaught of injurious factors it encounters every day. Glutamine, zinc carnosine, butyrate, aloe, DGL, Vitamin D and inflammation busters like curcumin and Omega 3’s can be game changers.
Finally, we REINOCULATE the intestine with large doses of helpful bacteria. Probiotics are not only used as a broad spectrum health aid, results of in-depth blood tests will point to use of specific strains to help combat inflammation, autoimmunity, weight gain and distinct conditions such as Crohn’s. Fermented foods offer an even greater source of healing bacteria. Kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt and fermented vegetables should be used generously to repopulate the beneficial bacteria so interconnected with health. Prebiotic fibers found in many common plant foods like garlic, onion, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, leeks and radish supply bacteria with a source of nutrients to ensure they are able to take root and thrive in the intestine.
Additional treatments that are extremely helpful for Crohn’s patients include PEMF to help cells including intestinal cells to detox and return to a state of vibrancy, nutritional IV’s which are especially important for those with malabsorption issues, other IV’s such as phosphatidylcholine and glutathione plus use of the short chain fatty acid butyrate orally and rectally to improve immune functional and colon health.
When I look at studies such as this, my first thoughts are always about how deep the research is going. While E. coli can be a driver of inflammation, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We must view all of these findings through the lens of understanding the greater picture of the overall microbiota health. These identified pathogens are just clues about the state of the entire ecology. Without that context, the research is missing the boat.
1. Bacteriome and Mycobiome Interactions Underscore Microbial Dysbiosis in Familial Crohn’s Disease. mBio july/august 2016, volume 7 issue 4. Hoarau G, et al.