Healing Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine. It should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Ulcerative colitis is characterized by the presence of inflammation and ulceration in the intestinal mucosa. The chief symptom is chronic diarrhea, with pain, blood, and mucus in the stool

Although ulcerative colitis has no known cause, bio-medicine presumes a genetic component to susceptibility. However the disease may be triggered in a susceptible person by environmental factors, such as stress. Anecdotally, I would add that in every case I have treated with Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, high levels of stressors, poor stress management, and/or untreated emotional issues (which in turn create stressful reactions like anger) have been a factor.

Severe cases of U.C. can lead to anemia, toxicity, and even death. Even mild cases can involve weight loss and pain. This is a disease to be taken seriously.

Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic treatment of Ulcerative Colitis is very helpful and can be used safely alongside Western medicine drug therapy. Unlike simple drug therapy, Chi.Med. and Ayur. treatment is holistic and comprehensive; we treatment the whole person in the unique manner they manifest their disease pattern.

Chinese Medicine conceptualizes Ulcerative Colitis as a manifestation of "Damp Heat in the Intestines." There are symptoms of "dampness" (chronic diarrhea: the presence of too much fluid in the stool, also mucus/pus in the stool) and "heat" (inflammation, ulceration, blood in the stool)

Typically this "Damp Heat in the Intestines" has developed over time due to "Liver Depression Qi Stagnation" which is how Chinese Medicine names the way stress and emotional repression affects the nervous, hormonal, muscular/soft tissue, cardio-vascular, and digestive systems. This upsets the entire "Qi Mechanism" of the body, creating chaos where there should be order. The Qi mechanism is, essentially, how Chinese medicine describes the way things work under normal healthy conditions. Qi is the master that leads the blood and fluids of the body where they have to be, like the locomotive of a train. The Qi circulates the blood and fluids.

As the Qi stagnates, so do the fluids of the body, accumulating where they should not be. This is dampness. If this dampness congeals further it develops into phlegm. As Qi is by nature warm (living beings produce heat) over time this dampness turns into damp heat. There may also be what we call "Blood Stasis" which is what occurs when Qi has stagnated over a long period; which represents a deeper, harder level of stagnation, and is a factor in the formation of wounds and bleeding, too.

And in the case of U.C. as the person has a susceptibility to disease occurring in the large intestines, when environmental conditions are right, that is, when the Qi has stagnated enough to upset the above mechanisms, we end up with Damp Heat in the Large Intestine complicated by Qi and Blood stagnation, underlying weakness of the Qi Mechanism, possible Kidney Yang or Yin weakness, and possible Phlegm stagnation. Not a simple problem. This is not a common cold or simple tension headache.

Chinese medicine has a variety of medicinal combinations used for Ulcerative Colitis involving a combination of herbs that heal tissues and wounds, like Astragalus or Tien-Qi, with herbs that are anti-inflammatory and heat clearing, (Forsythia, Isatis); damp draining (Coix); liver qi relaxing (Bupleurum); immune
boosting/adaptagenic (Reishii; blood "moving" (Salvia Miltorhizae) and aromatically stimulating (Magnolia, Cang Zhu).

Damp draining, by the way, here refers both to the ability to alleviate diarrhea and improve large intestine function, and to the ability to treat infection and inflammation that is wet by nature, like ulcerative tissues.

Acupuncture is also very valuable in the treatment of U.C. Acupuncture's fundamental function is to circulate or unblock "stuck Qi." There is an aphorism in Chinese Medicine: "...where there is pain, there is stuck Qi, where there is stuck Qi there will be pain." But more important is that "stuck Qi" is the energetic blueprint for disease, and in Ulcerative Colitis the underlying cause of the Damp Heat is the Depression of Liver Qi. Over time this "Liver Depression Qi Stagnation" collected and collected in the Large Intestine, due to some constitutional (read: genetic)susceptibility, to get the Qi moving again is the beginning of healing, of undoing this disease forming process.

And I have seen that even in one treatment with acupuncture and moxabustion, a U.C. patient can begin to feel relief of the pain associated with the disease, and a reduction in episodes of diarrhea.

My Ulcerative Colitis patients with the most successful outcomes are the ones that complemented their medical treatment with Meditation, Tai Qi, and Western Psycho-therapy or Counseling. This, to me, is real Holistic treatment; treatment that includes the Body, Mind, and Emotions; its not just a question of taking herbs like we take Ibuprofen (without looking at the pattern), or blaming everything on diet. "The mind commands the Qi..." is another aphorism. This means that the biggest source of toxins is between our ears and in our hearts; to deal with these realities in the place they originate is the greatest treatment. But it is work. It undertaking a process of self-understanding and healing of emotional wounds and conflicts, or at least undoing the patterned way we respond to stressors.

In Ayurveda Ulcerative Colitis is a disease that involves an aggravation of Pitta and Kapha, which combine to aggravate Vata. There is a heavy collection of Ama, typified by a thick greasy tongue coating, and typically an excess of Tamas and Rajas, as well. This disorder must be treated with a very Sattvic and Tridoshic diet-- that means easy-to-digest, mild, pure foods that are fundamentally nourishing and cleansing, that will not irritate the ulcers and will restore the prana and tissues. The starting point for these processes is to stimule Agni without creating heat or damp.

Ayurvedic herbal treatment begins with Trifala, which is adaptogenic, reduces inflammation in the intestines and promotes healing of ulcers in the mucosa. We combine this with Boswellia serrata, a potent herbal anti-inflammatory that also reduces pain and pacifies Kapha. We may also use Ashwagandha, which is Ayurveda's premier adaptogen to improve immune system function and relieve the effects of stress (a Vata nourisher), and Neem; which has potent anti-bacterial and Pitta pacifying effects.

It would be ideal for someone pursuing Ayurvedic therapy for this disease to undergo skilled Panchakarma treatment in India. But, Caveat Emptor; Ayurveda is now a big money maker in India, so go somewhere you have valid referral for. In the meanwhile, I would recommend once weekly Oil Bath Massage (see earlier article) to pacify Vata and Pitta.

Oddly, Western bio-med treatment does not seem concerned with the use of diet to ameliorate symptoms. This seems short sighted, as its obvious, that if there are open wounds in the lining of one's intestines, then at the barest minimum the patient should be counseled to avoid irritating foods like chilies and cayenne pepper and consume easy to digest foods. While diet alone will not cure U.C., it should be part of the home medicine or "nursing" program for the disease, and is at least 25% of treatment.

In Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine we look at the particular qualities of disease symptoms in order to understand what diet to prescribe. As there are symptoms of "dampness" and "heat" in Ulcerative Colitis, we must choose a diet that, just like our herbals, clears heat, dries or drains damp, and preserves or even stimulates digestive fire.

In Chinese Medical terms "Damp Heat in the Intestines" needs a diet that clears toxic heat and eliminates dampness. A diet that eliminates dampness is one that avoids damp producing foods like wheat and cheese, while at the same time includes green foods and vegetables that cleanse and mild spices that stimulate digestive fire to transform damp.

A diet that eliminates toxic heat is one that avoids fiery foods like alcohol, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, too much fat, excess animal fat, shell fish and crustaceans, and very spicy foods with chillies and cayenne, or even black pepper.

But there are many other herbs and spices that are both antibacterial and digestive stimulating that are excellent for U.C. Herbs like coriander, cumin, and fennel. A diet for U.C. should be easy to digest, primarily cooked foods with some raw food depending on the person's individual constitution. In all cases a diet should be tailored to the patient's individual constitution while accommodating cultural values, as well as idiosyncratic likes and dislikes.

A person with this disorder fundamentally needs to find a way to be nourished. They are at risk of losing weight, they have what amount to open sores in their colon, and their ability to transform life and food has become impaired. This is the starting point. They need to be strengthened.

In my next post read about an Ayurvedic lentil and vegetable dish suitable for someone with U.C.

Thank you!

Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego


Deni said…
Hello Eyton,
Thank you for the nice article, I learned a lot from reading it. Could you please clarify yet one more point: is it possible to cure U.C. completely? That is - to reach a stage, when the person is not only in a long remission, but really rid of the disease till the rest of this lifetime? Have you managed to go to that stage with your patients and how would you know if you are there?
Thank you again,
eyton shalom said…
Hi Denitsa, thank you for your excellent question. Yes it is possible and yes I have had such patients. The way you will know is that you will be able to go back to a normal healthy diet, as opposed to a more restricted medicinal diet, and have normal elimination without pain. But it could remain a weak area, meaning if you were to ignore stress management and or diet for too long symptoms could reaapear. I just recently had someone come in who I have not seen for 10 years. He was cured 10 years ago, and now has too much stress and he started to feel just the tiniest discomfort, so he came in for acupuncture treatmnent. Hope this helps!
Anonymous said…
Thanks for this really honest and informative article. Could you advise if fasting is something you would recommend for someone who has just recently been experiencing inflammatory symptoms of the colon/intestine/rectum? If so, what kind of fast and for how long? Many thanks
eyton shalom said…
first it depends on the specific symptoms, and also your constitution or dosha in Ayurveda. kapha types can take the strongest fasting (see the article on fasting) i would recommend
first and foremost fasting from all refined flour and sugar, of course that is a general health guideline. second, fasting from wheat and even gluten. be very strict for a while with that. finally, one could do a monodiet fast of kitcharee for 2-3 days or even a week, depending, along with the burdock vegetable cleanse i have written about, and, if you are a meat eater, restrict meat to bone broth and very overcooked meat in soups.
Anonymous said…
hello sir ,
i have suffer from colitis or ibs from last 3 year i have take many medicen but couldn't have relif .i go to toilet only 1 or 2 times .what should i do now and how can i managed it?

eyton shalom said…
dear anonymous, IBS and Ulcerative Colitis are two separate disorders. There is some overlap of treatment. Plz contact me by email and i will be glad to help you. I will need lot of details.
Anonymous said…
I am suffering from 7 to 8 bowel movements with no pain. I only have light burning pain on right side abdomen. When i visited the ayurvedic doctor he told me its colitis. Is it possible to do diagnosis of colitis in ayurveda or the doctor is just guessing. I have not done any test
Anonymous said…
I am suffering from 7 to 8 bowel movements with no pain. I only have light burning pain on right side abdomen. When i visited the ayurvedic doctor he told me its colitis. Is it possible to do diagnosis of colitis in ayurveda or the doctor is just guessing. I have not done any test
Unknown said…
Hi, I just read your article and I really enjoyed reading it. I suffered from chronic colitis ulcerosa when I was about 11 for around 2 Years. I "healed" it myself I guess in changing my mindset to things.
Now I am 30 and my niece died in a tragic accident. My whole life is out of balance, I have no focus, I am sad, everything has changed. I have my colitis back and this time I don't know what to do. I also suffer from chronic headaches (since 6 years daily), which I am currently treating with anti depressants (I am reducing them currently, week by week) as I feel they cure the headache but don't help with the rest.

2 days ago I decided to go an a pitta balancing diet and since 3 weeks I do progressive muscle relaxation and meditation (since I started reducing the antidepressants).
Do you have any advice what else I could do to find a way out of this? I would be very grateful if you would reply.

You can also contact me by email dierebecca@hotmail.de
eyton shalom said…
Hi Rebecca, and thank you for your enquiry.

It is interesting, because in Chinese Medicine it says that grief weakens the Lung Qi. By grief here, it means unprocessed grief, or such a large amount at once it is to much to process easily and on your own.

Next is that the LUng and Large Intestine channels or meridians are in an a relationship, so that things that attack the lungs can also affect the Large Int, where the colitis is.

Its good that you are doing the relaxation and meditation, i would esp recommend Mindfulness with a focus on Lovingkindness meditation, as taught in the book Calmin your Anxious mind by Jerffry Brantly, M.D.

This might also be a very good time to do some grief work wiht a therapist, since, as you point out this tragedy effects your mood and cognition so strongly. There is also a good book on the Gut Brain Connection which will help you understand how your emotions affect your gut...

all the best,

Unknown said…
Dear Eyton
I am diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.
But I don't have any pain in abdomen.I usually go for still only once once or twice a day.
i eat a lot but I don't gain weight
Is there any permanent cute for this