When Enzymes Can Help


In my last post on enzymes (Why I don’t Recommend HCL and Enzymes), I outlined why I don’t see enzymes as an essential part of the first stages of a good healing program. In short, we want, first, to bolster or assess our own bodily ability to produce enzymes before we supplement. Too many people jump right in to lots of supplements in the beginning, supplements that they may not need. We want our body to improve digestion and decrease transit time (to heal) on its own, if possible.

Enzymes, however, can be beneficial in the healing process. The caution from my last post on enzymes was to ensure that we are:

  1. Examining our diet, getting enough rest, and trying other, more established therapies, like probiotics, before we start another supplement; making sure we have a real imbalance before we start HCL (which can increase diarrhea in Crohn’s and colitis)
  2. Allowing time for other treatments, like the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, to work before we add another layer of treatment.

Those are my preferences—to use as few supplements as necessary to heal. With that said, enzymes have proven helpful to many people, and it’s worth outlining here, why and how they can be helpful.

The basic theory is, that if used properly, enzymes can:

  • Increase the metabolic energy available to the body such that the body can then utilize that energy to heal from disease, imbalance, etc.
  • In the case of digestive disease, using digestive enzymes can decrease the digestive energy burden on the body, which may help encourage healing.
  • Using digestive enzymes can also help to decrease the burden of undigested matter that reaches the colon, and assists your body in breaking down the food you consume, which can lead to better nutrition for those of us with active symptoms. Read the rest of this entry

Natural Anti-microbial Supplements for IBD

Plants have been used as primary medicine for millennia. In fact, anthropologists have found medicinal herbs in the a 60,000 year old grave of a Neanderthal man. Cultures throughout the world have detailed plans and systems for using medicinal plants. What modern researchers are finding today, is nothing new. In fact, over 50% of the modern-day pharmacy is derived from plant material.


General principles for all natural antibiotics:

  • Unlike conventional antibiotics, there are few side effects. Most have none at all. This is a great relief(!), especially if you’ve been suffering through the side effects of steroids or immune suppressants.
  • Unlike conventional antibiotics, they have multiple action (they work on microbes in and through many different mechanisms); Read the rest of this entry

In this post, I will give you some alternative methods for introducing healthy bacteria into your diet; these methods and recipes should help you augment your probiotic supplementation. With that said, this post is not about yogurt making. Many people with IBD cannot tolerate pasteurized dairy products. If you are one of those people, this post will be helpful for you. If you want to experiment, to add diversity to your diet, then this post will be helpful for you. I’ll just come out and say it: I think fermenting, done properly, will be helpful for anyone with IBD. Read the rest of this entry


As I was going through my files today, I realized that I wrote this post in November, and never posted it. Oops. So, here it is.
This is the third in our series on vitamin supplementation. If you read posts 1, 2, and 3, on this topic, you’ll remember that we’re taking an executive summary approach—what you need to know about vitamins and IBD. This means I’ve avoided lengthy discussions of each of the B-vitamins, for example. If you want to learn more, take a look at my reading list. This post was compiled using Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, and What to Eat with IBD.
The next post will go into micronutrients. I will conclude this series with a few different supplement plans and some recommendations for good multivitamins.
Vitamin C
About: Vitamin C is probably the most important water-soluble anti-oxidant in the body. It is abundant in fruits and vegetables, but I mention it here because people with active IBD generally don’t eat enough of either, and what fruits and vegetables are eaten are often mal-absorbed.
Vitamin C quickly decreases during stress and infections. Stress is more than just mental/emotional. Infection, chronic inflammation, extremely high levels of exercise, daily contact with environmental toxins, lack of sleep—these all are stresses on our body. Read more about the effects of stress here.
The reduction in vitamin C is partially because during times of stress and/or infection the liver works in overdrive to detoxify the body. It’s main go-to mechanism uses glutathione, which requires Vitamin C to make. In fact, supplementing with 1500 mg of vitamin C has been shown to increase glutathione levels (read: increases the body’s ability to detox and fight infection) by close to 50%.
Benefits: Vitamin C is an antioxidant. This means that it cleans up free radicals around the body which cause cell damage. Its role as an antioxidant makes it an essential cancer and heart disease fighter (among others).
Vitamin C is also involved in immune function, wound healing, allergic reactions, helps Iron uptake, helps preserve capillary integrity, increases glutathione levels in the liver (read: helps in detoxification), and is a natural antiviral/antibacterial.
It’s main effect is to increase immune function. Vitamin C is important in increasing white blood cell response function, it increases interferon (anti-cancer), improves the integrity of mucus membrane linings, and increases thymic hormone levels. It has been shown to increase liver function (by increasing glutathione levels), and it also increases the intestine’s ability to absorb iron by 2-4 times.
Dietary Sources: Vitamin C is good to take with bioflavonoids because they have been shown to increase Vitamin C concentrations in the body and increase it’s efficacy. Citrus, tomato, melon, peppers, greens, raw cabbage, guava, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, potato are all good sources of vitamin C.
Recommended dose for IBD: 500mg 3x/day.
The B Vitamins: Folate (separate below), B12, B6, Riboflavin (B2), Thiamin (B1), Pantothenic Acid (B5)
About: The B vitamin family is involved in enzyme formation and function, normal growth, synthesis of nucleic acids (the molecules that carry our genetic information), normal apetite and digestion, and is essential for healthy nerves.
Vitamin B1, B2, and B5 are also important in immune function. Deficiencies can result in decreased antibody responses to infectious agents, decreased white blood cell counts, and atrophy of the thymus and lymph tissue.
B12 is important to single out for those with Crohn’s damage and/or inflammation of the ileum. Since B12 is absorbed in the ileum, those with significant damage or a shortened small intestine may not absorb B12 at all, even in supplement form. These folks should talk to their doctor about B12 shots as lack of B12 causes pernicious anemia.
Benefits: Avoid all the nastiness mentioned above. B vitamins also increase general energy levels, and can be an effective treatment for mild depression.
Dietary Sources: Animal products—Some dairy, liver, eggs, chicken, pork, beef. Plant products are traditionally not high in B vitamins, but fortified cereal and grains can be a good source. Vegetarians can try legumes (including peanuts for Niacin, B6, Biotin, and Thiamine), potatoes, broccoli, yeast, and wheat germ.
I don’t supplement B-vitamins individually. Instead, I use an SCD-friendly B-complex with vitamin C and zinc. Recommended dosages for B-vitamins will vary depending on the level of disease activity, its location, and your diet. I take 1-2 of these per day.
About: I mention Folate separately because of it’s particular importance in health, and because of its ubiquitous deficiency in people with IBD. Nearly everyone with chronic intestinal inflammation can benefit from supplementing with Folic acid.
Benefits: Folate is essential for nucleic acid synthesis (Remember, DNA, RNA, etc.?). Deficiencies lead to impaired cell division, and altered protein synthesis. The effect is most pronounced in rapidly growing tissues (for young, growing people…) and tissues which regenerate often (like the intestinal mucosa). This is important. Research has shown that proper Folate levels can help rapidly dividing cells from becoming damaged or abnormal (cell dysplasia), and can prevent cancer. For those with ulcerative colitis, supplementing with Folic acid may reduce your risk of cancer by as much as 46%.
Folate is essential for red blood cell formation, for fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism.
Some IBD medications decrease folate absorption. Sulfasalazine is one such drug.
Dietary Sources: Dark green leafy vegetables—Kale, spinach, romaine; also, asparagus, broccoli, liver, legums, eggs, fish, yeast.
Folate is the natural form, but most supplements provide it in the form of Folic Acid. Your multivitamin should have Folic Acid already, so look at the label. The US RDA for Folic Acid is 400 mcg, but remember that is for a gut-normal person. I get 800 mcg from my multivitamin, and 400 mcg from my B-complex. That is plenty.
Onward to Health.