By Dr. Lindsay Wilkinson, ND, LAc
Yesterday, an article published in Medscape reviewed a recent cohort study linking IBD (Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis) to a significantly increased risk for “arterial events” including cardiovascular ischemia (heart attack and angina), cerebrovascular disease (stroke and TIA), and peripheral arterial disease.
The study compared the frequency of cardiovascular events with the severity of disease in patients with IBD and concluded that a high level of Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis inflammation in the three months before or after a hospitalization for IBD was associated with twice the risk of a first-time adverse cardiovascular event!
The article quotes Dr. Julien Kirchgesner, a gastroenterologist involved in the study who states “…tight control of inflammation could prevent IBD related complications.”
Naturopaths have been helping patients reduce systemic inflammation for literally hundreds of years, with tools ranging from hydrotherapy to nutrition to homeopathy to hands-on healing. NDs are taught almost from day one of medical school the importance of addressing systemic inflammation to achieve optimal health and reduce risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.
For many Crohn’s and UC patients, testing for, monitoring, and reducing inflammation has been the key to controlling their disease and reducing risk of serious complications later on.
Here are a few VERY simple ways to help your body deal with inflammation…however, having a skilled Naturopathic Doctor or other healthcare provider on-board is the best way to get comprehensive care to reduce inflammation and prevent chronic disease. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for recommendations on where to find an ND in your area!
1. Morning Hydration Reduces Inflammation
Seriously, it’s that easy! I can’t tell you how many patients get a pep talk (or lecture??) from me about drinking water in the morning. It’s almost the very first thing I do each day. Overnight, our bodies are doing lots of healing work producing growth hormone, reducing inflammation, regenerating cells, making neural connections in the brain…it’s thirsty business! So, when we wake up in the morning, we tend to be more dehydrated than we were the night before. And what do we typically do instead of drink water? Drink COFFEE…which is a diuretic that depletes B-vitamins and dehydrates us even more…oh NO!! So, I’m on a crusade to have people drink 16 ounces of pure water in the morning (room temperature or a little warm is preferred) to kick start metabolism and rehydrate that thirsty body. If you want an extra gold star, add a drop or two of lemon juice and a few tiny granules of organic sea salt to make your hydrating beverage into an electrolyte charged, trace mineral power drink. Enjoy!
2. Reduce your intake of FFFs (Fried Fatty Foods)
No ND has a perfectly anti-inflammatory diet all the time, and I love to indulge in some not-so-healthy foods as much as the next person, but NDs do know how to minimize our intake of the major offenders….and the FFFs are definitely in this group. There are literally hundreds (maybe thousands??) of studies linking the omega-6 fatty acids to systemic inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Some studies even suggest a connection between a high level of omega-6s and regional pain syndrome! For people with chronic inflammation (including those with IBD), maintaining an appropriate balance of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids is critical. Many fried foods and vegetable oils are very high in pro-inflammatory omega-6s, so steer clear! Here’s a list of some of my top FFFs to avoid:
- Fried chips of all kinds (potato chips, tortilla chips, corn nuts, etc…)
- Fast Food (literally, get rid of all of it!)
- Refined foods and pastries (cookies, candies, cakes, muffins)
- All Carnival Food Ever! (Did you know they even make deep fried Oreos and pickles?)
- Excess of meat and meat products can be very high in Omega-6s (butter, bacon, sausage, eggs, poultry
3. The Almighty Elimination Diet!
The elimination is still the medical “gold standard” (which means best available) test for food allergies and sensitivities. NDs know that systemic inflammation almost always starts in the gut. With over 70% of our immune system focused on our gastrointestinal tract, it is critical to address gut inflammation in order to see any systemic improvements. I would not recommend doing an elimination diet on your own without some guidance, but this is definitely the most effective, inexpensive, and life-changing intervention you can do for your health! I am a true believer in the importance of being what one of my mentors Dr. Ilana Gurevich calls an “educated consumer” when it comes to food. There is no way to know what foods are causing inflammation without investing the time to do an elimination diet. An elimination diet removes groups of foods that are known to be inflammatory for a period of 4-6 weeks and then re-introduces them one by one while tracking body symptoms. If you are interested in learning more (besides what Dr. Google has to say), see a Naturopath who can guide you through the process beginning to end.
Controlling inflammation is truly one of the best preventative healthcare measures you can take to avoid chronic disease. Study after study has linked elevated inflammation with chronic diseases that reduce longevity and quality of life. Please reach out with questions, comments, and other ideas to help get that inflammation under control!
And if you are interested in reading more about the connection between inflammation in IBD and cardiovascular events, check out the full Medscape article here: