April 7, 2010

Colitis is essentially an inflammation of the large intestine, or colon. The term Colitis is used to cover several different conditions of the gastro-intestinal tract and can include:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease - a condition where the animal’s white blood cells invade the intestine and cause inflammation to occur. The result is that nutrient absorption is impaired and this causes weight loss and general GI disturbance
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which can be related to stress.
  • Pancreatitis in which the pancreas becomes inflamed.
  • Parasitic infections such as giardia, hookworms or whipworms.
  • Bacterial infection such as Campylobacter or salmonella.
  • Food allergies in which an animal is intolerant of certain ingredients.

The symptoms of colitis include diarrhea, which can sometimes alternate with constipation. Mucus or blood in the stool and excessive gasiness are also signs of Colitis. Stool volume may be reduced but there may be much straining and the frequency of defecation may increase.

A holistic approach to treatment

If a food intolerance is suspected as the cause of colitis, an elimination diet is a good starting point. This involves feeding a simple bland recipe, like turkey and sweet potatoes, for a period of several weeks. Once digestive issues settle down, other food ingredients can be added back into the diet one by one, with a period of several days between each new addition, to monitor for any adverse reactions such as a recurrence of diarrhea, or vomiting.

A Grain-free diet is recommended by most holistic veterinarians for pets with colitis or a sensitive GI tract. Grain can cause many adverse reactions especially when there is an excessively high grain content in the diet, or those grains are highly processed such as corn gluten meal or wheat middlings. Genetically modified grains may be more likely to cause inflammatory reactions in the GI tract than conventional or organic grains. Whole grains are less problematic, too.

Digestive enzymes are helpful. A good quality probiotic such as lactobacillus and acidophilus helps to improve intestinal absorption of the nutrients in your pet’s food. Plain yogurt with a live-culture may also do the job.

Some studies have shown that supplementation with Omega 3 fatty acids is helpful, since these have natural anti-inflammatory properties.

Herbs that are helpful for colitis include slippery elm and marshmallow, calendula and pumpkin seed. Pumpkin seed contains Omega 3 EFA’s, which have anti-inflammatory properties and also helps to stimulate appetite and relieve constipation. Plantain is an anti-inflammatory and emollient which soothes and protects internal mucus membranes. Slippery elm soothes and protects the internal mucus membranes and is a natural emollient and anti-inflammatory. Calendula can be used as an infusion or tincture, to treat ulceration and inflammation of the intestinal tract. Pectin, a soluble dietary fiber, is also recommended for various GI problems including Colitis as it helps to naturally regulate the digestive tract and combat diarrhea. Most of these are found in our supplement for digestion, Perfect Form.

Antibiotics are not recommended except for specific types of colitis which are caused by a bacterial infection.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from Colitis, consider a veterinary consultation to determine the cause and come up with a treatment plan. The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association web site www.ahvma.org has a directory of excellent holistic vets, nationwide.