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 neccesary 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 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, symptoms begin to resolve.
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. 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).