After suffering from ulcerative colitis for several years, a patient arrived at the clinic of Robert Rountree, MD. Dr. Rountree practices Functional Medicine, and his approach yielded good results with this patient – watch the video to learn more.
A few months ago, I saw a fellow who is in his early 30s who had had ulcerative colitis for many years. He came to see me because he had been to a gastroenterologist who told him he needed to be on a biologic drug. He looked at the side effects of the drug and was horrified because he realized one of the side effects included death. He said, “I’m not that sick.”
He was having a lot of diarrhea, was having bleeding in the stool, you know, all the typical symptoms. But it was manageable; he wasn’t deathly ill. He said:
“Why do I need to go on a drug that’s incredibly expensive that could potentially be very, very toxic to me?”
I talked to him a lot about his past, and it turned out that when he was younger, he had taken many courses of antibiotics for ear infections, for respiratory infections, etc. I told him how a number of studies had shown that multiple courses of antibiotics greatly increases the risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
Part of the pathophysiology we think of [in] inflammatory bowel disease is that you get an imbalance of bacteria in your gut, and then your immune system overreacts to that imbalance of bacteria, not just one bad pathogen, but a mix of unhealthy bacteria. Your immune system reacts to that, sets off the systemic response, and then it becomes self-perpetuating.
I talked to him about things he could do to restore his microbiome using probiotics. In particular, healthy bacteria and using prebiotics, which are foods such as dandelion greens that can help rebuild bacteria by acting like fertilizer. I used a number of anti-inflammatory chemicals like fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, Boswellia, and curcumin, which is found [in] turmeric. I put him on this whole program—and I want to stress this—at the same time I put him on a standard drug that’s used to treat ulcerative colitis called Mesalamine. I put him on the drug in addition to doing the dietary changes, the lifestyle changes, etc.
Within six weeks, he was basically asymptomatic. He had gotten back to his normal self.
The bleeding stopped, the frequency went way down, and he was ecstatic. He came back to see me and said, “This is amazing.”
Basically, what I told him is, “Well, it’s also common sense—we’re using evidence-based approaches that are built around this model of Functional Medicine.” I showed him how the timeline works. Here’s the timeline: you took antibiotics when you were a child, and then years later, you developed this problem. I think there’s a relationship.
I talked about the Functional Medicine Matrix: here is an imbalance in your immune system. You may have problems with detoxification, so toxic chemicals have built up in your system, and those two things can interact with each other. Here’s how we get that back into balance; here’s how we restore balance in your system … Ultimately, the long-term [goal] is to use these “adjunctive” therapies, to use diet, to use probiotics, to use anti-inflammatory chemicals from plants to try to get the situation under control.
How does the microbiome interact with the immune system, and how do these interactions help determine a state of health or disease in the body? In this article, Kara Fitzgerald, ND, and Romilly Hodges, CNS, discuss how cross-talk between the microbiome and cells in the intestinal mucosal immune system is important for immune system maturation and modulation across all developmental stages.Read More