Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract, causing 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 range of treatments aimed at controlling inflammation and chronic symptoms.
Changes in your diet and nutrition can be the first step in managing this condition, as well as medication to suppress inflammatory reactions in your body. Medications that can help manage your symptoms, such as diarrhea, may also be added.
For more severe cases, surgery may be an option.
Reducing inflammation is a key strategy in treating Crohn’s.
Below are some of the medications that can be used. All of these drugs work in some way to reduce your body’s immune and inflammatory reactions. They can be given orally or by intravenous infusion and the most common side effects are the increased risk of infection from suppressing your immune system.
It is estimated that 60 percent of people with Crohn’s disease will need surgery for about two decades to treat complications such as fistulas, heavy bleeding or intestinal obstruction. Surgery is generally recommended when the symptoms become very severe or when there are sudden complications such as intestinal obstruction.
There are several types of surgery that can be used to manage Crohn’s disease.
- Small bowel resection. A small bowel resection involves the removal of a small portion of your small intestine.
- Colon resection. Colon resection is also called submucosal colectomy. A portion of the colon is removed during this procedure.
- Proctocolectomy and ileostomy. Proctocolectomy and ileostomy refer to surgeries that involve removing your entire colon and rectum and replacing them with an opening in your abdomen. The opening is created by a piece of intestine called the ileum, which passes feces through an orifice into a collection case on the outside of your body. This is a permanent replacement for the work usually done by the colon and rectum.
Dietary changes are usually one of the first things your doctor will recommend as a long-term way to manage Crohn’s disease along with other treatments. Some dietary changes you may need to consider include:
- follow a low fiber diet
- cooking fruits and vegetables to reduce fiber content
- remove the skin from the fruit before eating it or simply avoid peeled fruit
- choice of lactose-free or low-fat dairy products
- selection of proteins with lower fat content
- drinking plenty of water
- limiting or avoiding coffee, tea and carbonated beverages
- limiting or avoiding alcohol
- avoiding spicy foods
- addition of probiotics
- Talk to your doctor about vitamins and supplements
There are several natural remedies options that can help you manage your Crohn’s symptoms, but remember that these treatments are not therapeutic (treatment) or are intended to replace a treatment plan developed by you and your doctor. Home treatment options other than dietary changes may include:
- support the immune system with probiotics or prebiotics
- omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation
- alternative therapies such as acupuncture or reflexology
Be sure to talk to your doctor before adding herbal or alternative medicines. Some of them may interact with medications or treatments that have been prescribed for you.
Even with dietary changes and a good medication regimen, flare-ups of Crohn’s symptoms may occur. When this happens, you and your doctor may have a plan for treating the symptoms. This may include:
- over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs
- antidiarrheal drugs
- steroids (for acute flares)
If your flare-up is severe or you are dehydrated, you may still need to be treated for extra treatment or intravenous fluids.
Crohn’s disease management is a marathon, not a sprint. Even with careful meal planning and good medication, you can have flare-ups and disease progression. Be sure to talk to your doctor about how to manage Crohn’s disease and when to seek extra help.