Alternative & Conventional Treatments for IBD

Elizabeth Roberts Health Guide
  • Ten years ago when my IBD symptoms were at their absolute worst I was desperate. I'd been seeing a gastroenterologist, I'd had all the tests, gotten the diagnosis, and was taking my prescribed medications. But I wasn't really improving - I was still having 10, 20, 30 BMs per day, blood and mucus, and severe pain along with depleted energy, virtually no appetite, and rapid weight loss.


    I wasn't angry at my doctor - I liked him, trusted him, and felt he really was doing for me what he knew best to do. But, I also felt that I had to try something else to get my health out of the hole it was in that was slowly getting bigger and deeper every day. At the time, I lived in California and a good friend lived in Prescott, Arizona, near Sedona. He had tried for months to convince me to go to Arizona to participate in "energy healing" that a friend of his did -to me, a girl who grew up in the Midwest, this sounded like a bunch of granola-crunchy-West-Coast-mumbo-jumbo. But, as the days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and I continued to live my life pooping, in pain, and continuing to lose weight I became desperate and finally acquiesced to my friend's suggestion.

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    My husband and I drove from our home in Lake Tahoe, California to Prescott, Arizona. The car trip, alone, was an adventure [You can read about my whole Arizona experience in my book, Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success]. For the next week I spent two hours each morning with Katie, a Reiki master and energy healer. She used a "hands-off" approach to using my body's own energy to nurture and heal itself. This was all new, foreign, and very odd to me but by the second day of working with her I actually noticed differences in my body. First, and foremost, I had an appetite, the frequency of my BMs was less, and I had more energy than I'd experienced in months. I wasn't cured but I was better.


    At the end of my five days in Arizona my husband and I went back home but Katie was still able to give me Reiki treatments long distance - there were times when I would be in my home in California and would feel a warm, tingling sensation in my abdomen or my butt and I knew Katie was working on my energy.


    I know this all sounds odd and weird - remember, I was dubious from the beginning, too. But, over the past ten years since my first experience with Reiki I've since gone through the training and am now a Reiki master, able to treat myself and others with this energy work. And the virtues of "alternative healing therapies" are coming a little more into the mainstream each year. In fact, the most current issue of Take Charge magazine from the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America is almost 100% devoted to discussing the merits of combining conventional medicine with alternative therapies.


    Back in 1998 when I tried Reiki and actually had a positive experience with it on my IBD symptoms I relayed the information and experience to my GI. His reaction was not what I had expected. I thought he would poo-poo the idea of "energy work." But, to his credit, he was interested in my experience. "Because," as he explained, "If it worked for me it might help some of his other patients as well." His attitude was quite progressive for the times and I appreciated his open-mindedness.


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    Over the years I have found a wide combination of conventional and alternative things that help me to control my IBD (&IBS). I take Asacol and probiotics daily, and Bentyl very infrequently. I have changed my diet drastically and keep up with my daily/weekly practices of Reiki, meditation, and yoga. These are the things that work for me and allow me to live a productive life. This doesn't mean I can do absolutely everything that I want all the time. I have my ups and downs, my good days and bad. For instance, my husband and I are working on a project that required a trip to India last month. I desperately wanted to go, I even thought about throwing caution to the wind and going, vowing to live in rice and yogurt and bottled water for three weeks. I talked to my doctors, I did hours of research, I talked to people who had traveled to India in the past, and ultimately had to make the decision that my traveling to this particular country was simply too risky for me and my gut. But, I am able to travel quite extensively to other locations, to live fully, and to participate with friends and family on a regular basis.


    So, looking into "alternatives" to supplement conventional medicine for treating your IBD may be helpful as it has been for me. But, I suggest discussing your options and thoughts with your doctor first. Some of the "natural" supplements can interact badly with prescription medicines, or may not be right for you if you have certain other illnesses. It's always best to keep your doctors and pharmacists well apprised of all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking, as well as vitamins and supplements. For reasons I don't understand my system does not react well to most herbal remedies - ginseng, Echinacea, etc. will set off my gut faster than a diuretic, so do use caution and realize that "natural" or "herbal" doesn't intrinsically mean without possible side effects.

Published On: February 06, 2008