Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract and cause problems ranging from cramps to bloody diarrhea. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but this inflammatory bowel disease can be treated with a number of treatments that aim to control inflammation and chronic symptoms.
Changes in your diet and diet can be the first step in treating this condition, as can drugs to suppress the inflammatory response in your body. Medications that can help manage your symptoms, such as diarrhea, can also be added.
In more severe cases, surgery may be an option.
Reducing inflammation is a key strategy in treating Crohn’s disease.
Below are some of the medications that can be used. These drugs all work in some way to reduce your body’s immune and inflammatory responses. They can be given orally or by intravenous infusion, and the most typical side effects are an increased risk of infection due to the suppression of your immune system.
The drugs include:
An estimated 60 percent of people with Crohn’s disease need surgery to treat complications such as fistulas, severe bleeding, or intestinal obstruction approximately two decades after they have the disease. Surgery is generally recommended if symptoms become too severe or if there are sudden complications such as an obstruction in the intestine.
There are several types of surgery that can be used to treat Crohn’s disease.
- Small bowel resection. A small bowel resection involves removing a small part of your small intestine.
- Colon Resection. The colon resection is also known as a subtotal colectomy. During this procedure, part of your colon is removed.
- Proctocolectomy and ileostomy. Proctocolectomy and ileostomy refer to surgical procedures in which the entire colon and rectum are removed and replaced with an opening in your abdomen. The opening is made up of a piece of intestine called the ileum that directs the stool through a stoma to a collection bag on the outside of your body. This is a permanent replacement for the work normally done by the colon and rectum.
Changing your diet is usually one of the first things your doctor recommends as a long-term measure for treating your Crohn’s disease, along with other therapies. Some dietary changes you may need to consider include:
- a low-fiber diet
- Cooking fruits and vegetables to limit fiber
- Removing the peel from fruit before consuming it or simply avoiding fruit with peel
- Choose lactose-free or low-fat dairy products
- Selection of proteins with a lower fat content
- Drink plenty of water
- Limiting or avoiding coffee, tea, and carbonated drinks
- Limit or avoid alcohol
- Avoid spicy foods
- Adding probiotics
- Talk to your doctor about vitamins and supplements
There are a few options for natural remedies that can help manage your Crohn’s symptoms, but keep in mind that these treatments are not curative (a cure) or are intended to replace a treatment plan that you and your doctor have developed. Home remedy options outside of diet change may include:
- Support the immune system with probiotics or prebiotics
- Omega-3 fatty acids for reducing inflammation
- Alternative medical therapies such as acupuncture or reflexology
Be sure to speak to your doctor before adding any herbal or alternative remedies. Some of these may interact with medications or treatments that you are prescribed.
Even with a change in diet and good medication, Crohn’s disease symptoms can flare up. If so, you and your doctor may have a plan to manage the symptoms. This can include:
- over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs
- Medication for diarrhea
- Steroids (for acute flare-ups)
If your flare-up is severe or you are dehydrated, you may even need to be hospitalized for additional treatment or intravenous fluids.
Treatment for Crohn’s disease is a marathon, not a sprint. Even with careful meal planning and good medication adherence, flare-ups and disease progression can occur. Be sure to talk to your doctor about how you can manage Crohn’s disease and when to get additional help.