Alive Advisor: Bowel disease and Mucous Problems

Dear Dr Rona: I've been afflicted with ulcerative colitis for the past eight years. Doctors/ specialists I have seen say that they do not know what causes it and they don't know how to cure it. I know that it is affected by certain foods, ie sugar and coffee, and I believe that I can be cured through proper diet combined with vitamin/minerals supplements. I would like your advice on the direction to pursue.


Dear LC:

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that deteriorates the lining of the largest bowel. It shows up primarily in the 20 to 40 age group and effects predominantly females. Most often the inflammation begins at the rectum and extends up through the colon and can progress until ulcerations and abcesses develop. In some patients the disease is mild but can be localized or excruciatingly painful, with perforations of the colon. There is usually diarrhea with blood and mucus in the stool. Sudden attacks followed by periods of remission are typical. Ulcerative colitis tends to occur in families and there is a high incidence of excema, hay fever, arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

There is a school of thought that inflammatory bowel disease, especially ulcerative colitis, is the result of an allergy or hypersensitive reaction to food by the colon. Salicylate sensitivity can be shown in some patients, and some researchers have shown the existence of circulating antibodies against cow's milk, wheat and other foods. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are thought to be harmful because they induce intense muscle spasms in susceptible individuals. Based on this and many other factors, various researchers have devised diets to prevent inflammation of the bowel. The most notable of these is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet described in Food and the Gut Reaction by Elaine Gottschall (see alive #112) and the salicylate free diet (similar to the Feingold diet for hyperactive children.) These diets are effective in selected cases. Some patients need only follow one of these diets for six months while others must follow them for years before being able to eat the disallowed foods without symptoms. Experience also tells me that these diets may not work at all for some.

In cases where the use of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the salicylate free diet are unsuccessful in controlling symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, other food or chemical allergies, candida infection, or hidden parasitic infections may be operative. The best currently available test for determining hidden food or chemical allergies is the ELISA/ACT test. This is a special blood test that measures circulating antibody levels to as many as 232 foods and chemicals. It can only be done if you are off prednisone for at least four days. Candidiasis can also be determined by this test, while parasitic infections can be diagnosed by stool analysis or rectal swabs. Diet therapy can then be more specifically tailored to account for the individual food allergies or infections.

Both sulfa drugs and prednisone (two drugs commonly prescribed for ulcerative colitis) change the intestinal flora, favoring the overgrowth of candida albicans and other potentially harmful microorganisms. Alcoholic beverages, like beer and wine, make the problem worse. One can offset this problem by supplementing with lactobacillus acidophilus and pancreatic digestive enzymes (pancreatin.) Prednisone and sulfa drugs destroy zinc and B complex vitamins, and sulfasalazine antagonizes folic acid, one of the B complex vitamins. This can lead to anemia if left untreated. Other nutrients that may be lacking in many colitis sufferers include pantothenic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium, iron and magnesium.

Recent studies indicate that supplementation of the diet with omega-3 EPA oils (fish and freshly pressed, unrefined flax seed oils) has an anti-inflammatory effect in colitis.

Dear Dr Rona:

I have had a problem with phlegm from the summer of 1984. It has now taken the proportions of a 12 month cold -- I never seem to shake it. The phlegm is dark brown in the mornings and tends to clear after I get up.


Dear SS:

The first thing is to have the material you bring up analyzed by a lab for infection and cytology (abnormal cells) before you use any self-help remedies. Chronic, excessive mucous in the respiratory tract can lead to infections such as bronchitis, sinusitis and pneumonia. It may also be associated with asthma, emphysema, cystic fribrosis and many other debilitating conditions, and can be caused by cigarette smoking, drugs, food and environmental allergies, nutrient deficiencies and toxic heavy metal accumulations in the body.

Dr Rona will personally reply to your letter if accompanied by a cheque for $20, payable to him, sent c/o alive.


By Zoltan Rona

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