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6 Natural Treatments for IBD

There’s a rising interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for Inflammatory Bowel Disease from patients and clinical researchers–and for good reason. 

CAM is the integration of herbal treatments, dietary supplements, medical foods, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and mind-body techniques along with conventional therapies. These natural treatments can offer much-needed support and relief to patients with IBD by addressing underlying mechanisms not targeted by current drug therapies. 

Studies show that certain herbs, lifestyle changes, and dietary adjustments can significantly improve symptoms, speed up remission, and address malnutrition when used alongside standard medication. Some of these natural treatments have even allowed patients to discontinue their medication for good, so it’s worth knowing your options. 

Here are 6 promising natural treatments for IBD to support your body through recovery: 

1. Elimination Diets 

There’s increasing evidence that diet plays a pivotal role in both the development and treatment of IBD. Certain diets have proven immensely beneficial in addressing some of the underlying causes of IBD flares, which include low microbial diversity and impaired gut barrier function. 

There are several diets popular among IBD patients, but the most promising is the IBD-Anti-Inflammatory Diet (IBD-AID).

The IBD-AID diet consists of 3 phases: 

  • Eliminating foods that trigger inflammation (E.g. carbohydrates, saturated fats, processed foods, etc.) 
  • Increasing microbial diversity and ‘good’ bacteria through pro & prebiotics to maintain remission (E.g. fermented foods and specific soluble fibers) 
  • Enhancing nutritional absorption to fortify overall health while expanding food options to include more micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  

Developed over 15 years, IBD-AID has shown highly promising results in clinical trials. One study saw 61.3% of participants experience a decrease in symptom severity, and all participants reported symptom relief. Researchers also found that patients who maintained the diet showed higher levels of good bacteria, raising the likelihood of remission.  

Different diets will work for different patients, depending on their constitution and the stage of their condition. We strongly recommend consulting with your physician, nutritionist, or dietitian to find the best diet plan for you. 

2. Herbal Remedies for IBD  

Of the many herbal treatments under clinical scrutiny for IBD, curcumin has garnered the most excitement. Curcumin is the active ingredient of turmeric and has been used widely in TMC and Ayurveda to treat digestive disorders. 

Early animal studies found the compound contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties believed to help induce and maintain remission in patients with IBD. A subsequent human trial found that patients who did not respond to 5-ASA medication achieved remission within weeks of adding curcumin to their conventional drug therapies. A third trial tested the ability of curcumin to maintain remission in patients with inactive IBD and found that fewer patients relapsed while taking curcumin. 

Though highly promising, curcumin should be integrated into your current treatment, and it’s important to get the right concentration and dosage for your specific condition. 

3. Acupuncture & Moxibustion

Acupuncture has been widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat inflammatory bowel disease. The practice consists of placing fine needles into the skin at certain pressure points. These points are viewed as channels of ‘qi’, or life force, within the body. The idea is that when these channels are blocked, our ‘qi’ becomes stagnant, causing pain and illness. 

Acupuncture can increase blood flow and reduce inflammation to help manage or relieve symptoms of IBD. Many practitioners combine the practice with moxibustion–a process of burning dried mugwort cones to pressure points to enhance healing during acupuncture. 

Studies show that regular sessions of acupuncture & moxibustion can offer therapeutic benefits to CD patients. One study, in particular, showed significant improvements in several markers of disease activity in patients with CD. 

Acupuncture may also be helpful in providing relief from depression and anxiety, which Crohn’s disease patients are 20-30% more likely to experience. And since both conditions are known to worsen Crohn’s disease activity, acupuncture could definitely offer needed support for the body and mind. 

4. Vitamin D 


Around 68% of patients with active Crohn’s disease suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Researchers have noted the association, prompting a number of trials examining the relationship between IBD and low levels of vitamin D.   

One study found that improving vitamin D intake decreased disease activity scores in a number of Crohn’s patients. More research is needed, but the results indicate that elevated vitamin D levels may offer therapeutic benefits for IBD patients. This could be for a number of reasons. 

Increasing vitamin D levels actively fights inflammation, and helps stabilize the integrity of your intestinal lining. An extra bonus is that vitamin D plays an important role in serotonin production, so the boost will improve conditions like stress and depression, which exacerbate flare-ups. 

Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, but in the winter, supplements can be hugely beneficial. You can also boost your vitamin D levels through:

  • Fatty fish
  • Beef
  • Chicken liver
  • Fish oils
  • Butter
  • Fortified milk
  • Soy milk

5. Soluble Fiber & Short Chain Fatty Acids

Soluble fiber absorbs moisture from your intestines, which can relieve symptoms like diarrhea. But the benefits don’t stop there. During digestion, soluble fiber is converted into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), known to maintain intestinal barrier integrity and protect the gut from inflammation.

This is important because IBD is characterized by impaired gut barrier function, which is initially caused by inflammation. So increasing your soluble fiber intake addresses two of the root causes of IBD flare-ups, helping maintain long-lasting remission. 

Soluble fiber is found in: 

  • Oatmeal
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Whole grains. 

Please be advised that this is recommended for patients already in remission, as too much fiber during a flare-up can do more harm than good. We recommend consulting with your doctor, nutritionist, or dietician. 

6. Stress Relief

Studies indicate a clear link between stress and heightened symptom severity. Many patients report stressful periods before flare-ups, which lines up with the latest research on the brain-gut axis. We now know that stress takes a terrible toll on our immune health, and vice versa. 

Poor gut health may very well be the underlying cause of stress, depression, and anxiety. This is because the gut, brain, and immune system are all intricately connected and interdependent. A disturbance in one system can throw all the other systems off balance. 

It appears we need a healthy gut for a healthy mind and a calm nervous system for a healthy gut. So it’s important to have a handful of stress relief tools at hand. 

This could be through meditation, calming herbs, gentle movement, listening to music you love (scientifically proven to reduce stress), walks in nature (great for stress and microbial diversity), self-care, or simply giving yourself time to do absolutely nothing. The body needs rest as much as movement to support recovery. 

A Natural Path to Recovery 

The science is out. Conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Disease are largely driven by environmental stressors. This has become evident as more and more developing countries show a steep rise in cases of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis as they adapt to Western culture. 

The highly processed food and fast-paced culture of the West has overly distanced our physiological system from the natural world, causing gut imbalances, inflammation, and weakened immunity that can result in lifelong disease. 

But by adjusting our diet and lifestyle, and integrating the use of natural treatments, we can better support the body’s return to health and homeostasis. 


Tessa Eskin


This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.


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