From The Desk of Josh Gitalis

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Last Sunday, I spoke at the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC) annual education symposium. I was thrilled to be able to present on evidence-based integrative approaches to treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

I got some great feedback from the participants, many of whom mentioned how refreshing it was to get empowering information that focused on what Dr. Mark Hyman calls “treating causes, not conditions.”

I have included some highlights from my talk below.

I opened my talk with a discussion on how the current standard of care is really just the “tip of the iceberg.” Our health care system is based on a model of first diagnosing a particular disease or condition, and then managing the symptoms using drugs and surgery. This model does not allow for the consideration of other therapies and thus ignores scientifically validated alternative therapies.

There is a time and place for the use of drugs and surgery, but why not try diet, lifestyle, therapeutic nutrition, and supplements before resorting to the highest risk treatments?

I then discussed that the cause of IBD cannot be blamed on genes. Although it takes thousands of years for our genes to change, IBD has been on the rise. In fact, ulcerative colitis has increased 24-fold and crohn’s 15-fold between 1986 and 2005. So there must be something else at play here. The “SAD” (standard american diet) and the western way of life has proven to be strongly linked to IBD incidence.

There is so much misconception around food and nutrition. There was a time when we were told all fats are bad, but it turns out that there are good fats and bad fats. Then we were told that all carbohydrates are bad and, again, we found out that there are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. Similarly, many IBD patients are told that all fibre is bad when, again, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are certain soluble fibres that have an incredibly soothing effect on the digestive tract. These fibres are found in marshmallow root, slippery elm, aloe, and flax (the outer coating).

Then I opened up the world of botanical therapeutics. I showed a chart comparing pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals on the modulation of inflammation. What’s surprising to many people is that many of these botanicals are available in your grocery store, including ginger, garlic, turmeric, and onions. Food is medicine!

In the botanical world, there is one herb that really shines above the rest, turmeric. I showed a chart which outlined all of the inflammatory compounds turmeric affected, and then I compared that with the inflammatory compounds that some of the most popular drugs target.

What’s interesting is that in Asia, L-glutamine is actually the top prescription for ulcers. L-glutamine is the primary fuel source for the small intestine, and thus promotes healing and repair. It is also a key therapeutic in healing a damaged gut. What’s given as a prescription in one country is barely even known in another.

I concluded by revealing that the future standard of care is the integration of the best of both worlds; the medical and natural. More importantly, though, is that the future is NOW. All of these therapies are accessible to everyone, they just need to seek it out themselves since the current medical system is so slow to catch up.

Finally, it may sound obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded that health care practitioners (doctors, nurses, nutritionists, physiotherapists, etc.) are there to serve us. Thus, if they can’t or don’t answer your questions, it’s time to seek a new practitioner who has your best health in their interest.