Crohn’s disease is regarded as an autoimmune disease of no known cause. Some researchers suspect that some micro-organism may involved but this has been undetected so far.
Ulcerative colitis may run in the families of those people with Crohn’s disease and it it is not understood why the incidence of Crohn’s disease is highest in the 20’s age group.
The common symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease according to traditional Chinese medicine terminology are categorised as diarrhea and red and white dysentery. Chinese medicine looks at the causes of Crohn’s disease differently.
What causes Crohn’s disease according to traditional Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine says that Crohn’s disease can be due to inadvertent exposure to extremes of environmental factors such as excess cold and damp; over work leading to a deficient energy state; improper diet involving excess alcohol or too much greasy and oily food. A major imbalance in the emotional state can also be a causative factor.
Authors Bob Flaws and Phillipe Sionneau in their book, The Treatment of Modern Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine, state that the treatment for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis with Chinese medicine are basically the same. Damp and heat are often associated with Crohn’s disease and this traditional medicine concept is difficult to translate into a modern medical term. I explain it to my patients by comparing damp and heat to a compost heap just sitting there and brewing accumulating a subtle smouldering heat. The internal body somehow has developed an imbalance allowing this so called damp and heat to accumulate. The imbalance may have come about from irregular diet or exposure to a damp and heat environment. The damp and heat intensifies and then attacks the local area such as the intestines in Crohn’s disease. One traditional treatment strategy is to resolve damp and heat.
Damp and Cold can also be a factor in Crohn’s Disease.
All diagnostic criteria needs to be examined thoroughly and it is important to distinguish between cold damp and damp heat when treating Crohn’s disease. Yellow discharge in the stool may indicate damp heat whereas a white discharge may indicate damp cold. Cold and damp associated with Crohn’s disease may require moxibustion to warm the yang.
What about Chinese herbs for Crohn’s Disease?
The treatment of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease has been the subject of a number of studies in China involving Chinese herbal therapy. Dr Dharmananda of Oregon in his paper on Crohn’s disease discusses the formula Jian Li Ping which contains 11 Chinese herbs in formulation and has been used for Crohn’s disease with complications of Spleen deficiency according to traditional Chinese medicine. He also discusses 4 other Chinese herb formulations that have been researched by Chinese hospitals. It is important to note that Chinese herbs are prescribed in formulations and their ingredients modified depending on the diagnosis and other symptoms being experienced by the patient.
Pain and fullness in the lower right quadrant of abdomen
One of the key note symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be pain and fullness in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen and this is where abdominal palpation and diagnosis according to traditional acupuncture exemplifies itself. Alan Jansson who works in Queensland, Australia says “We need to not only feel if there is pain or hardness but we also palpate for cool and warm areas on the abdomen as well as areas that can feel empty. A hollow empty sensation under the fingers can be indicative of deficiency which is often associated with Crohn’s disease. Other times, under the ribs can feel hard and may indicate impeded blood circulation, known as blood stasis in traditional medicine. How the abdomen feels can determine the approach to applying the appropriate treatment for that individual patient.”
There is no one single acupuncture point or herb that may treat Crohn’s disease. A combination of different points and different herbs will be required that has been prescribed to address the individual’s constitution and accompanying symptoms.