Q: I have a family member with colitis who has been having a really difficult time. He has awful stomach pains and frequent diarrhea which makes living difficult. Do you have any suggestions of supplements that could make a difference for him?
A: Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease with a variety of symptoms which can include extreme weight loss, pain and tenderness in the abdomen, diarrhea and constipation, and loss of appetite. It can be a difficult thing to live with, so thankfully there are a number of science backed supplements that may help with colitis.
The first suggestion would be probiotics, since they help with normalizing digestive functioning and work to crowd out bad bacteria in the digestive tract. There are many different probiotics on the market, but I’d recommend one that is specifically geared towards people with digestive issues called Probi 30 by a company called Solgar. Here is a feature on that probiotic from a previous issue of our newsletter.
They did a study on the specific strain in the Solgar’s Probi probiotic on people with IBS that said that the study found an improvement in 95% of IBS patients who took the specific probiotic strain found in Solgar’s Probi 30. Every participant who took that LP229v strain of probiotics had a reduction in abdominal pain. Another found that the LP229v strain of probiotics reduced intestinal inflammation (linked here).
Another probiotic idea is a probiotic supplement called saccharomyces boulardii. It is a probiotic used for helping with diarrhea from a variety of causes, and is actually taken preventatively for people going to Mexico or on a cruise to prevent diarrhea from bacterial infections. It has been studied with positive results however for colitis (you can see the study here). Of the people with colitis that took the saccharomyces boulardii, 24 patients who completed the study and 17 attained clinical remission, which was confirmed endoscopically.
Both probiotics could be used together, though it may not be a bad idea to take them one at a time to see the results of one over the other.
Additionally, something that may be helpful is taking aloe vera gel internally. Aloe is very soothing and healing to the entire digestive tract, although the more common aloe vera juice naturally contains an ingredient that can have laxative effects. Aloe gel has the healing effects of the juice without the laxative effect. Here is a link to a placebo controlled study on Pub Med about aloe gel and colitis.
Most people do a ¼ cup of aloe morning and night, though the colitis study linked above gave them 100ml twice a day, which is a little less than half a cup. We have aloe gel at the store that is meant for internal use- it is different from aloe gel in a tube that is meant for topical use.
Something else that may be beneficial, depending on one’s specific issues, are peppermint gels. They can be helpful for reducing intestinal cramping. Here is a link to an article with more information on peppermint gels. Again, it’s talking about for people with IBS, but the benefits could also help with someone dealing with colitis if that is a symptom they’re experiencing.
Finally, I’d recommend turmeric supplements, and one turmeric supplement in particular by the company Solgar called their Full Spectrum Curcumin. Turmeric is the yellow spice often found in curry powder, and it has strong anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, but turmeric contains only 4% curcumin, and even in a curcumin extract, it is difficult for the body to absorb.
This company Solgar has made a curcumin extract that has been shown in research to be absorbed 185 times better than standard curcumin or turmeric supplements, so I would recommend that product specifically. Turmeric and curcumin are great anti-inflammatories and can help with a variety of issues. This curcumin supplement can be especially helpful for inflammatory digestive issues since because it is so well absorbed, it does not need to be in a mega dose, which is good because turmeric or curcumin in high doses can be irritating to the stomach.
In regards to diet, doing an elimination diet may be helpful since different foods can be triggers to digestive problems, which can be different for each person. This link has more information on how to do an elimination diet.
Following a “gastritis diet” may also be helpful, which eliminates all irritating foods from the diet for a time. Doing this can sometimes help calm an irritated digestive tract and help things to get back to normal.
One step further from a gastritis diet would be the BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. The BRAT diet uses foods which are very bland and can help with calming the digestive tract.
With all of the above diets, they are not meant as a forever thing, but to be used for a time especially during a flare up of symptoms to help calm and soothe the digestive tract.
Unfortunately with colitis or other inflammatory bowel diseases, sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to discover what may help. Please stop by the store so we can help you further.