Yes, We’re Aware of Crohn’s and Colitis … So What?

Over the weekend, I happened to catch this news segment while nursing my morning coffee. Take a look:

It’s nice that the Senate is encouraging more people to be “aware” of Crohn’s and colitis, but I was already aware of them. I used to suffer bouts of colitis as a teenager and young adult.

I wasn’t aware, however, that rates of Crohn’s and colitis are on the rise.  After viewing this segment, I did a little online searching and found some articles on the topic.  Here’s one:

Inflammatory bowel disease on the rise in kids

The reason more children being diagnosed with ‘adult’ disease is a mystery

For 10-year-old Jacob Krause, getting ready for the new school year wasn’t a simple matter of back-to-school shopping. It also involved working out logistics for getting to the bathroom as many as 20 times during a single school day.

The Clarksville Elementary School fifth-grader has severe ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that increasingly, and somewhat mysteriously, strikes children.

The number of children afflicted by colitis and another inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, has increased 50 percent in the past decade, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. About 1.5 million Americans suffer from colitis and Crohn’s, about 10 percent of them under the age of 18.

“We’re seeing younger and younger children getting it over time,” said Dr. Maria Oliva-Hemker, chief of the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine’s division of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition.

The reasons for the increase are not clear. But many researchers believe something in the environment must be behind the surge in pediatric colitis, Crohn’s and other autoimmune diseases, which have been on the rise generally.

Hmmm … environmental causes … has anything in our environment changed significantly over the past 20 to 30 years?

One theory is that as the developed world has become more hygienic, the body has become less practiced at fighting off bugs — and more vulnerable to autoimmune diseases, in which the body attacks its own cells or tissues.

“Since we know [inflammatory bowel disease] is found in more developed countries, it must be something about the exposures that we are seeing in our day-to-day lives,” Oliva-Hemker said. “Probably the fact that we are a more hygienic society, the fact that children, even at an early age, are kept in very clean environments — not necessarily outside, playing in the dirt, being exposed to very low levels of routine viruses.”

Ahhh, yes, that must be it! Children are getting digestive disorders because we’re too darned clean. Thank goodness we just moved to a farm where my girls like to run around outside and return home dirty. Now if I can just talk Chareva out of insisting that the girls take a bath afterwards, they can avoid ruining their digestive systems through excess hygiene.

Here’s another article on the recent rise of intestinal disorders:

Baffling Rise of Intestinal Disorder in the Young

Crohn’s disease, a serious disorder of the intestines, appears to be increasing sharply among children, a trend that may reflect some unknown influence of Western industrial civilization, a British scientist said yesterday at a scientific symposium in Houston.

”It’s almost as if the infection-free environment of modern Western society could be a factor,” said Dr. John Walker-Smith of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, an expert on intestinal diseases of children.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Ferguson said that the excellent health records compiled through the National Health Service in Britain had allowed her to chart a dramatic and unexplained increase in Crohn’s disease among children in Scotland over 15 years.

Dr. Walker-Smith said it was possible that the decline of many childhood infections might allow children in the West to grow up without the vigorous development of their immune defense systems that such infections would ordinarily promote.

Dr. Walker-Smith admitted that this is speculation, but he noted that the increase in the disease among children was real and there was evidence indicating that something in the modern Western environment or experience might be involved.

Once again, the possible explanation offered is that our kids are so clean and so free of infections, they’re no longer developing immunities early in life to whatever mysterious bugs cause Crohn’s and colitis.

Interesting hypothesis. Although I have to wonder: since Crohn’s and colitis are still rising in developed countries — where hygiene has been good and rates of childhood infections have low for many decades now –- doesn’t it seem likely that these digestive-tract diseases are caused by something kids in developed countries regularly digest … such as mutant wheat?

In Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis cites a study which showed that rates of celiac are four times higher now than 50 years ago. (That’s actual prevalence of the disease –- not diagnosis.) We also know that people who suffer from celiac are also more likely to suffer from other digestive ailments such as Crohn’s and colitis.  So we can reasonably speculate (but not conclude) that whatever causes celiac also causes or aggravates these other digestive issues.

Considering that kids are eating wheat products that contain both more gluten overall and mutant gluten with a protein sequence that never existed until around 40 years ago, I think it’s entirely possible that Crohn’s and colitis are on the rise because kids (and adults) are consuming glutens their bodies can’t handle.  These are, after all, auto-immune diseases.  It’s not unreasonable to suspect that when these strange glutens seep in our systems, our bodies attack them and end up attacking our own tissues at the same time.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard from quite a few people whose digestive ailments went away when they stopped eating grains – including the sound engineer for Fat Head, who told me watching the film changed his life.  He no longer needs a daily dose of Prilosec to get through the day.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to always keep a bottle of Pepto-Bismal in my medicine cabinet and carried the tablet version whenever I traveled. Now I haven’t had a dose of the stuff in years — not since cutting way back on grains.

In the newsclip, Dr. Marion mentioned that new molecules and new medications are being developed to treat Crohn’s and colitis. Fine, but treating a disease isn’t the same as avoiding it in the first place.  It would be nice if some of the research dollars chasing new medications were directed towards determining if the mutant grain we now call “wheat” is behind the rise in digestive diseases.

But I don’t expect that happen, not in a country where grains are big business and the federal government subsidizes wheat farmers. Look at what happened when school-lunch guidelines called for fewer fried potatoes.  Politicians from potato-growing states rushed in and demanded changes in the guidelines.

The Senate may want us to all be aware of Crohn’s and colitis, but I seriously doubt farm-state senators will want us to also be aware that modern wheat may be causing them. We’ll have to spread that message ourselves.


59 thoughts on “Yes, We’re Aware of Crohn’s and Colitis … So What?

  1. MedPhyzz

    I found a really interesting website here:
    Gaps is Gut and Physiology (or Psychology) Syndrome.
    It deals with neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ ADHD, schizophrenia, dyslexia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other neurological and psychiatric problems PLUS digestive disorders such as Crohn’s and IBD.

  2. Curtis

    lets be fair about some things here, it is true that if you are too clean your body can get weaker.
    It’s why some diseases are on the rise that weren’t a problem.
    There are vaccine resistant strains of polio and some other diseases that for years we have been vaccinated for.
    I’m not convinced UC is because we are too clean, but if we aren’t exposed to different germs and sicknesses it’s possible for our immune system to dwindle.

    for the gamers out there, the quarians in mass effect are the extreme, they live in sterilized space ships, with new germs, no immune system, in evolution you Use it or lose it. So exercise every part of your body and mind.

  3. Dean

    I came down with colitis even though I had avoided high wheat intake. I doubt it’s just that. Too much starch, fructose, fiber from nuts and raw vegetables, O6, etc – I think these are all factors that contributed. But most of all I suspect it being of infectious nature, when the person/gut is susceptible and offers an environment for the pathogenic strain to flourish. SIBO may also be connected to it in some way, I developed it later. I can confirm that my colitis was at it’s worst in the early stages after I went on a “wheat only diet” for two and a half days, because the wise doctor suggested doing so due to it’s “easy digestibility”. I got a real diagnosis directly after… then it took me a while to arrive at a diet free of plants and carbs. Grains were easy, I dropped them right away after the diagnosis. It wasn’t enough. The last colitis symptoms went away after I stopped eating my last vegetable: spinach. I think it could take a few months before reintroducing some cooked vegetables is tolerable again.

    This is confirmed in Walter Voegtlin’s book “The Stone Age Diet”: We can’t digest raw plants well. The human digestive system is that of a carnivore. Fermentative gut flora is a problem, and I guess those that get away with it have a better gut flora and immune system. I could eat anything without apparent issues before I got problems. Now I know my diet was less than ideal, though it was “healthy” by common standards.

  4. louie

    I just finished reading Dr William Davis’s book, Wheatbelly.
    Could one of the possibilities in these increases be Wheat ?
    He presents a good case in that they’ve genetically re-engineered the current form of wheat and thereby have made it a poison for many of us.
    One out of the many possibilities to be sure.

    It’s speculation, but I think the increase in our consumption of mutant wheat is a real possibility.

  5. Ari

    You know, since giving up grains, my acid reflux pretty much went away.

    So, I stopped taking my prilosec.

    Know what happened? I was racked with nasty cramps, I felt dizzy all the time, especially when I would eat.

    when I went back on the prilosec, I felt better. Does that make me a drug addict?

    But seriously, I’d say that it’s probably best not to get started on the stuff.

    Any ideas what it could be? Anybody?

    This is purely an off-the-top-of-my-head guess, but the body can adapt to a daily dose of drugs in ways that provoke negative reactions when you abruptly stop taking the drug. Have you tried (if it’s possible) gradually reducing your prilosec dose?

  6. Douglas Seaburg

    Tom – you say that you had “bouts” of colitis as a child. Do you mean IBS? Some “old school” doctors still refer to IBS symptoms as “colitis” symptoms. But to be clear these are 2 completely different problems. Ulcerative colitis is a severe disease that can be fatal if not treated properly. There are rare cases of people going into remission for decades without any treatment but the vast majority of people require daily medication and sometimes surgery. If you weren’t diagnosed via a colonoscopy with biopsy’s taken than it’s highly unlikely you had UC.

    On another note I really enjoyed your documentary!

    That was a doctor’s opinion, but no colonoscopy, so he may have been guessing.

  7. Erika Stone-Bryant

    It all makes sense. Monsanto is in bed with the government, therefore their mutant wheat is crammed down our throats as part of the “healthy” diet approved by the FDA. I have Leaky Gut Syndrome (I know, it sounds gross) so I have totally eliminated wheat from my diet. Since gluten free is now becoming a “fad,” large food companies are jumping on the gluten free band wagon and are now producing gluten free junk food, high in sugar and carbs.


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