Digestive Warrior is a platform for information regarding digestive conditions in a more alternative fashion, while absolutely acknowledging science. My work represents the integration of two very sophisticated systems: Chinese and Functional Medicine. This is, by definition, East meets West. In my humble opinion, the integration of these two systems operates as the highest potential in the evolution of Medicine.
If you are seeking a ‘standard’ definition Of Ulcerative Colitis, best to visit Wikipedia or Mayo’s site. This is a different type of discussion and there are plenty of resources out there if you desire more Western information. I’m going to assume that if you are reading on my site that you are already well versed on such (relevant) material, no need for redundancy.
*Reading my ‘Root Cause’ article (that you will receive for free by subscribing to my site) is a crucial addition in understanding my approach to reversing Ulcerative Colitis symptoms. It is very educational and defines my 4-step approach.
I believe in order for the discussion of Ulcerative Colitis to take place in the context of these two systems, it is important to have an elementary understanding of each, as well as how they interact and enhance one another. This allows one to be as informed as possible in approaching their illness in a more alternative fashion, if one desires. This is not ‘new-age’ medicine…..this is 2,000 years of Traditional Chinese Medicine that is, as we speak, practiced alongside conventional medicine in all hospitals in China.
What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine (FM) is the study of functional relationships in the body. Simply put, FM is ‘contemporary science.’ FM believes in restoring function through the latest scientific research in how our genetics, environment, diet and lifestyle all interact. Through biochemistry and physiology, FM focuses on assessment and intervention at root levels of metabolic imbalance. It is an evolved version of the Western paradigm of medicine that better addresses needs of the 21st Century. In these modern day times, we have unprecedented epidemics’ of diseases- FM addresses the very core as to why this is so. Ulcerative Colitis (and Crohn’s and IBS) are increasing at an alarming rate; it is imperative we investigate the reasons behind this. Functional Medicine does just that.
There has been a 30% increase in the past year of MD’s acquiring FM certification, transitioning their practices into a more well-rounded, non-cookie-cutter approach. FM practitioners are not anti-pharmaceuticals etc; they are simply open to the exploration of natural treatment and preventative medicine, thereby potentially eliminating the harsh side-effects, toxicity or long-term repercussions of drugs. The greatest attribute of FM practitioners is that they are most interested in root cause of disease. They are detectives, determined to know the underlying reason(s) as to why patients are experiencing symptoms, rather than throwing a label and a drug at them. It is through the unraveling of such fundamental information that they, with precision, can address the patients’ individual needs in treatment.
The most significant commonality between FM and Chinese Medicine is that they recognize each patient as unique. This recognition is long over-due in the realm of orthodox medicine.
For a further look at functional medicine, its history, the institute and what they do, click here:
What is Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) encompasses how the body interacts with all aspects of life and the environment, seasons, weather, diet and emotional states. It is a system that emphasizes pattern recognition per each individual. It sees the key to health as the balanced functioning of the body, mind, spirit and holds that this balance depends on the unobstructed flow of Qi, or “life force” energy throughout the body along pathways known as ‘meridians.’ TCM practitioners see disease as the result of disruption in the circulation of Qi (in the very simplest of terms).
Chinese Medicine strongly identifies each person as very unique in their disease pattern. For example, if a Chinese practitioner had 10 Colitis patients standing before them, each might be diagnosed very differently. Now of course there may be some underlying diagnostic similarities among these ten people…….but they could perhaps each have different patterns in how the disease originally ensued. Each person is identified according to their individual constitution, each ones course of treatment (what herbs to prescribe and where to put needles) specific to their pattern of disharmony. Perhaps this is not too far off from Western Medicine- one person responds great to a biologic, another does not. Chinese Medicine is simply far more intricate. Point being- every person is vastly unique in regard to what their needs are for healing. This is the beauty of Chinese Medicine.
For a more in depth discussion of what Chinese herbs are and what exactly they do, please read my blog Why Chinese Herbs. It will quell your curiosity. Chinese herbal medicine is sophisticated alchemy……not hocus-pocus. For the aforementioned 10 patients, each one would receive a unique herbal prescription. Yes there would most likely be consistency in some of the primary herbs used. Of course it would depend on what the patients’ symptoms are at that moment as well, i.e. to stop bleeding vs stop pain (or both).
A Look at the Relationship between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Functional Medicine (FM)
In modern TCM research it is possible to integrate syndrome differentiation with a biomedical diagnosis. Syndrome differentiation is one of the most important pieces in the practice of Chinese Medicine, and while it looks very different from conventional diagnostic methods, there is a cross-relationship. There is no ‘one to one’ correlation, however, in TCM to Western medicine.
A patient can suffer from 2 or more diseases at the same time, and each disease can show 2 or more TCM patterns of disharmony. Bottom line: In Chinese Medicine, syndrome differentiation is dynamic, with the diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis being no exception. In TCM, one pattern could be altered or resolved after treatment, requiring revision of treatment.
While the practice of TCM is becoming more widely used and accepted these days outside of China, scientists in the West have mostly focused on phyto-chemical aspects of Chinese Medicine (herbs). Unfortunately, they have no real understanding of the way a Chinese practitioner differentiates disease and syndromes.
The systems’ biology approach used in FM is very similar to the concepts of pattern differentiation in TCM. These principles can (and should be) used as a bridge between Eastern and Western medicine. The ‘correlation exploration’ studies between TCM pattern differentiation and biomedical disease diagnosis are very innovative studies and have the potential to offer profound intervention for patients, biologically. More and more clinical trials are taking place in China in the last decade in an attempt to correlate these two systems for a more comprehensive understanding. Published data is increasing in China from scientists, doctors’ and researchers to provide information due to the recognition of the efficacy in the integration of these two systems. Modern research development is on the rise in this arena, and I believe it is only a matter of time before an entirely new paradigm of medicine is born.
For an example: A double-blind, randomized clinical trial an enteric-coated capsule of Fu Fung Ku Shen was proven to be as effective and safe (if not safer) in the treatment of Ulcerative Colitis given the TCM diagnosis of damp-heat accumulation, compared to an enteric-coated capsule of mesalamine; it even showed a more positive effect specifically in the inflamed left hemi-colon area (Gong et al, 2011).
- For a look at Chinese herbal medicine trials and studies with UC, check out my ‘Scientific Articles’ section
Cutting edge TCM research is also very interested in the pharmalogical evaluation of herbal formulas for drug discovery, as over 70% of drugs are derived from plants. In conventional medicine, prescribed drugs mostly consist of a single compound for the treatment of a specific disease. In TCM, multiple compounds are prescribed to restore health (a Chinese Herbal formula typically consists of 5-10 herbs). This ‘multiple compound’ approach, which addresses layered biological imbalances, could be dissected for new drug discovery…….and perhaps become a future pillar in pharmacology.
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis according to Functional Medicine:
Genetic Mutation (11 genes have been identified)
Clearly not all of the above apply in each case. Each person is unique as to what is triggering the immune system. As one or more of these areas are addressed specific to the individual, symptoms can be resolved. *Every case of UC involves dysbiosis. Also, in my clinical experience, I have never seen a case of UC where food allergies were not a significant issue.
Epigenetics is a huge area of focus in Functional Medicine. Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off. The epigenome is another “layer” of chemical compounds that have been “attached” to our DNA as a way to regulate the activity or expression of all the genes. DNA modifications that do not change the original DNA sequence can affect gene activity and are known as “epigenetic changes.” Epigenetic changes can help determine whether genes are turned on or off. Environmental influences, such as a person’s diet and exposure to pollutants, and infection all greatly impact the epigenome. The epigenome can direct the activity involved in controlled or uncontrolled cell growth or immune response. Metabolic disorders and degenerative disorders have been found to be related to epigenetic errors.
Simply put- even if one has marked genes for a specific ‘disease,’ these genes can be turned off in their expression. Eliminate the infection, resolve any other triggers, and the genes for said ‘disease’ turn off. This is a fascinating and very up and coming area of science. Meditation has also proven to drastically effect the expression of our gene’s as well.
Speculation over the Specific MAP Bacterium in relationship to Ulcerative Colitis
The term ‘auto-immune’ is up for question in regards to all such labeled diseases – with UC being no exception. It is very important to note that science has only discovered less than 5% of disease causing microbes. That’s it! There has been an increase as of late in the discovery of specific diseases being linked to certain pathogenic bacteria (or virus, parasite, fungus etc). This is a huge topic that surely cannot be summarized here. However, I will reference my favorite quote, by a doctor that is a pioneer in a very specific field of digestive disease right now:
“Infection and auto-immune disease are the opposite sides of the same coin.”
Dr. William Chamberlin
There is currently much debate into Mycobacterium Avium Paratabuerculosis (MAP), a bacterium with super-human powers that is VERY hard to kill, being the cause of UC. I feel it essential to offer my readers this information. There is now strong evidence supporting that MAP is the cause of Crohn’s Disease (see my eBook for thorough look into the science of this- essential info if you have a UC diagnosis as it potentially relates). I don’t know that the debate involving UC will resolve itself anytime soon; however, I will offer the following information into this suspected correlation (referencing the vaccine that has recently been created and is under trial for Crohn’s): crohnsmapvaccine.com/faq/
“It is also well-known that diagnostic uncertainty is a big problem in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)... so in someone mistakenly diagnosed with UC when it is actually Crohn's disease, MAP will be the cause. If you have UC, there are 3 ways in which the Vaccine could help:
1) It is pure UC. Anti-MAP vaccination would protect against secondary MAP infection.
2) It is UC but superimposed MAP infection is making it worse. Anti-MAP vaccination should improve symptoms.
3) It looks like UC but it is actually Crohn’s. The vaccine is designed to fix it...and if it works in humans as it does in cattle, it should do so.
The new MAP test currently being developed is a simple, smart test which can be done on blood samples or routine gut biopsies. It is highly accurate and quantitative and will help to dispel this kind of diagnostic uncertainty in IBD. "
The current argument between MAP researchers is that some feel that UC might simply be a different immune response to this same intracellular bacteria; take the various forms of tuberculosis as the perfect example. Potentially the same bacteria, just different immune responses and tissue locations. It’s possible that this bacteria is just not understood in its relationship to UC. Time will tell.
Regardless- in my personal experience with Ulcerative Colitis as well as my clinical experience in treating UC, when treated as an infection, a large degree of healing often takes place.
This is, in summary, is a look at UC from a Functional Medicine perspective, taking into account microbiology. Now let’s change hats and look at it from a TCM perspective.
Ulcerative Colitis According to Chinese Medicine
As stated above, differing constitutions of individuals will elicit a unique Chinese Medical diagnosis. I do know that Chinese theory will not make sense to most, but I find it important to at least offer the most common differential diagnosis in Chinse terms so that the reader can begin down the path of understanding their illness specific to their constitution. This differential diagnosis could also be a contributing factor as to why people respond differently to medications/supplements.
Chinese Differential Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis
- Damp-heat Accumulation
- Spleen and Stomach Deficiency
- Liver overacting on Spleen Qi
- Spleen and Kidney Yang Deficiency
- Blood Stagnation
Damp-heat accumulation is almost always involved in UC; it is just a question as to whether or not it is the primary pattern of disharmony or not. The Spleen Qi is usually affected in UC, and in long- term, chronic UC the Yang of the Kidney’s is hindered. For those with remittent sharp, knife-like stabbing pain, blood stagnation is present.
In my shop I offer the 3 most common Chinese Formulas prescribed for UC- these formulas mostly address damp-heat. It takes a skilled Chinese Practitioner to thoroughly interview a person, find out signs and symptoms and accurately diagnose according to Chinese medical theory. I certainly cannot offer all Chinese Formulas in my shop as there are hundreds. However, should we work together, I can investigate your case specifically and prescribe accordingly. Together we can discover which of the above patterns are dominant in your condition. I will say that usually either the Isatis Cooling or Formula H help most cases of UC, to some degree.
The Curing Pill formula is like gold for any UC patient, symptomatically. I could not have gotten through my active UC days without this one- any time there’s pain (qi/blood stagnation) or gas/bloating (damp-heat), or when symptoms ensue after eating a meal, curing pills will do the trick. Of course dosage is key.
Often 2 Chinese Herbal formulas are needed- one to address the primary disharmony and another for the secondary pattern of disharmony. I will be writing further material on each disharmony so that individuals’ can become educated on the nuances of each.
Of course Chinese herbs are only a part of my approach in treating UC, but they are a powerful adjunct to any regime aimed at resolving symptoms. Chinese herbs can energetically change the terrain; clear heat (inflammation). These formulas, combined with functional medicine strategies can be a powerful means of reversing even the most stubborn cases of UC (like mine).