Ban B. Wong, L.Ac.
Disease (IBD) is often believed to be an autoimmune disorder that causes
inflammation and/or ulceration of the digestive tract. Genetics, race,
diet and the immune system can all play a role in IBD, but the exact
cause is still unknown.
There are two major types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative
colitis. Crohn’s disease affects deeper layers of the intestinal wall,
often forming ulcers in the lowest part of the small intestine and the
large intestine, while ulcerative colitis affects the inner lining of
the large intestine, usually the left side of the colon and the rectum.
Crohn’s disease begins slowly with abdominal pain, loss of appetite,
weight loss and anemia. Sometimes there may also be episodes of bloody
diarrhea. An acute condition of the disease can cause fever and severe
abdominal pain with intestinal obstruction. In comparison to Crohn’s
disease, ulcerative colitis has symptoms of constipation or the urge to
defecate with little stools or passage of blood or mucus in the stools.
These symptoms may last a few to several months before lower abdominal
pain develops with diarrhea. Like Crohn’s disease, the patient can also
develop symptoms of fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, and fever.
Long-term dependence on powerful Western drugs to treat IBD can leave
the patient with debilitating side effects and surgical removal of the
colon can make bowel movement even more difficult. Traditional Chinese
Medicine (TCM) can offer less invasive methods to control IBD.
TCM Approaches to Managing IBD
In TCM, the goal to helping IBD is to balance the immune system and
harmonize the intestinal energy. Acupuncture, Qi-gong and Chinese herbs
can help strengthen the immune system by balancing the flow of energy
within the abdomen. Moreover, TCM can help relieve the stress that can
exacerbate the flare-ups of IBD. Some IBD research done in China has
found that herbs like gingko biloba, licorice, aloe vera, cinnamon and
angelica appear to have anti-inflammatory and soothing effects on the
intestinal walls. Furthermore, from my experience in working with IBD
patients, I found that customizing Chinese herbs for patients could
better help relieve spasm, ulceration, and inflammation since the
symptoms of IBD vary according to the extent and duration of the
If you already have IBD, be cautious of following factors that can cause
I also recommend the
following for IBD patients:
Eat a diet high in
protein and vitamins, but low in fat and fiber
supplements, especially the B vitamins
Keep hydrated with
warm drinks, soups, fresh vegetable and fruit juices
Eat small portions
of well-cooked food throughout the day
Avoid sweets like
cakes, candies and ice cream
coffee and cold drinks