Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term that encompasses chronic inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. The two main types of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. These conditions involve inflammation of the digestive tract lining, leading to various symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss, and fatigue.
Causes of IBD
The exact cause of IBD isn’t confirmed, but experts agree it’s the culmination of a weakened immune system. They suggest IBD is triggered by your immune system incorrectly responding to environmental hazards and triggers, including bacteria, viruses, and other toxins that can cause gastrointestinal distress or inflammation.
Symptoms of IBD
Those diagnosed with IBD have the following symptoms:
- Bloody or recurring diarrhoea
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic fatigue
- Belly aches and/or swelling with cramps
The Science Behind IBD and Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is a condition that occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free radicals, and the body's ability to neutralise or repair the damage caused by these harmful molecules. This imbalance can lead to cellular damage and trigger inflammatory responses, which can worsen IBD.
The relationship between IBD and oxidative stress is complex. In the context of IBD, the relationship between inflammation, IBD, and oxidative stress creates a vicious cycle where each component feeds into and aggravates the others, contributing to the chronic and self-sustaining nature of these conditions.
Here is a breakdown of the cycle:
- Initiation of Inflammation: Abnormal immune response triggers chronic inflammation in the gut.
- Oxidative Stress Resulting from Inflammation: Chronic inflammation produces harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS).
- Tissue Damage and Inflammatory Pathways: ROS damage cells and activate pathways that enhance inflammation.
- Chronic Inflammation Sustains Oxidative Stress: Inflammatory signals keep producing ROS, creating a self-sustaining loop.
- Cellular Damage and Dysfunction: Continuous oxidative stress and inflammation lead to cellular damage and immune dysfunction.
- Vicious Cycle and Disease Progression: The interplay of inflammation and oxidative stress forms a cycle that fuels the progression of IBD.
Breaking this cycle involves managing inflammation and oxidative stress through medications, lifestyle changes, and, sometimes, antioxidant supplementation. Addressing one aspect can positively impact the others, underscoring the need for a comprehensive approach to IBD treatment.
Chaga for IBD
There’s currently no cure for either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, but…
There are various treatment options. Treatment options for IBD include specific diets, lifestyle changes, prescription pills, and sometimes even surgery.
Science has recently looked at mushrooms as potential IBD treatments, and in particular Chaga has shown potential to help manage IBD.
In the context of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a 2007 study demonstrated Chaga's efficacy in reducing oxidative stress observed in patients with IBD. The participants in this study encompassed individuals diagnosed with both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. However, experts emphasise that Chaga appears to yield optimal results for those with Crohn’s disease, primarily due to the higher levels of basic DNA damage observed in Crohn’s disease compared to ulcerative colitis .
Chaga's potential benefits in managing IBD, especially Crohn's disease, can be attributed to its ability to address oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a significant contributor to the inflammation and tissue damage seen in IBD. Chaga's bioactive compounds, including terpenes, beta-glucans, chitin, and melanin, are believed to exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In the mentioned study, the reduction of oxidative stress observed in participants with IBD suggests that Chaga may help mitigate the cellular damage caused by free radicals in the gastrointestinal tract. By neutralising free radicals, Chaga contributes to breaking the cycle of oxidative stress, which, in turn, can alleviate inflammation and promote the preservation of DNA health within the affected tissues.
The emphasis on Crohn's disease in the study implies that Chaga's specific benefits may be more pronounced in this particular form of IBD, possibly due to the higher baseline levels of DNA damage associated with Crohn's disease.
- Najafzadeh M, Reynolds PD, Baumgartner A, Jerwood D, Anderson D. Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in lymphocytes of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Biofactors. 2007;31(3-4):191-200. doi: 10.1002/biof.5520310306. PMID: 18997282.