Evidence shows that Crohn's disease natural treatment can be effective and a complementary and/or alternative treatment to medication.
·September 2nd, 2021
Crohn’s disease, one form of inflammatory bowel disease, can bring significant pain and digestive challenges with flare-ups. Medical treatment is often helpful, and natural treatments may be able to complement a care regimen.
A dietitian or nutritionist can advise you on diets that avoid food triggers and dietary supplements that can further support your health.
Homeopathic and naturopathic remedies work to address some of the underlying causes of flare-ups through lifestyle modification, anti-inflammatory foods, and supplements.
Physical treatments like acupuncture and biofeedback may also help manage symptoms and reduce pain, and behavioral therapy can give you the emotional support you need.
What is Crohn’s disease and how is it treated?
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease. Crohn’s is typically treated with pharmaceutical medication, particularly during flares. However natural treatment of Crohn’s disease is also effective and improves outcomes, soothes symptoms, and manages flares.
Crohn’s varies in severity from mild to severe, and typically presents in a flare/remission cycle. There is no known cause of Crohn’s, but researchers speculate that it may be the result of an autoimmune reaction to food or bacteria in the lower digestive system.
An acupuncturist, homeopathic or naturopathic practitioner can help guide you through when and how to implement them. Let’s take a look at some of these Crohn’s disease natural treatment options as well as answer some other questions about the disease.
How is Crohn’s disease different than ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis (or UC) is often mistaken for other, similar digestive and gastrointestinal tract disorders, including Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These conditions all belong to a group of disorders known as inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, but that doesn’t mean Crohn’s is the same as UC.
UC is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract (the path food travels from the mouth to the anus). Specifically, this inflammation can be found in the large intestine (also called the colon), causing irritation and open sores, or ulcers.
One of the main differences between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is that UC impacts the colon while Crohn’s disease can occur anywhere along the whole digestive tract.
Diet for Crohn’s disease
Having a diet that is low in harmful foods (like refined sugar and trans fats) is the first important step to supporting your overall health and gastrointestinal tract. Beyond that basic foundation, some people with Crohn’s find relief from both the severity and the frequency of their disease symptoms and flares by following a specific diet.
Though formal research with clinical trials is limited, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that supports the effectiveness of category-restrictive diets for Crohn’s.
In particular, people have found relief by cutting out gluten and by following diets like the Mediterranean Diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (a grain-free diet that restricts carbohydrates containing disaccharides and polysaccharides) and the low-FODMAP diet (which eliminates all fermentable carbohydrates).
Supplements for natural treatment of Crohn’s disease
Supplements can augment pharmaceutical treatments, as well as mitigate their side effects. A naturopathic doctor can help you decide exactly what to supplement with, and here are some basics that anyone with Crohn’s disease should consider:
Vitamin D, which can help with intestinal inflammation.
Vitamins K and E, which are necessary for immunity, bone health, and cell health. Because they are fat-soluble, people who don’t absorb fat well (which is common with Crohn’s) can end up with low levels.
If you’re taking corticosteroids for your Crohn’s, taking calcium (paired with Vitamin D for maximum effectiveness) can offset the side effect of impaired bone density.
Some Crohn’s drugs (like sulfasalazine and methotrexate) make your body less able to absorb folic acid, which helps your body create new cells, so supplementing folic acid can be beneficial.
If you have a type of Crohn’s that affects your ileum, your body may not absorb B12 from food very well, so supplementing B12 can help keep your levels where you want them.
Crohn’s causes anemia (a disease of low red blood cells) in about one third of patients; adding iron can help.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine treatment in which a practitioner inserts thin needles into specific points on the body that correspond to different systems and organs. It can be highly effective for pain relief, and is promising in treating Crohn’s flares.
Homeopathic remedies for Crohn’s disease
Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine. It is based on a principle called “like cures like,” which means that practitioners develop remedies from highly diluted molecules that, at full strength, would cause symptoms of the illness or condition they are treating.
Naturopathic doctors are primary care providers who combine Western medicine with holistic natural practices. They focus on health promotion as well as disease prevention, and look for underlying causes of diseases and conditions.
Crohn’s disease natural treatment options include anti-inflammatory foods, an herbal remedy called wormwood, and lifestyle interventions like lowering stress levels. If you’re looking for a naturopath, check out the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians for credentialed practitioners in your area.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that you consume in food or supplement form in order to seed your gut biome with good bacteria. You can find probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir (as well as in pill form).
Prebiotics are like food for your good bacteria. They contain indigestible carbohydrates that pass through your system and end up in your lower GI tract, where they feed those good bacteria and thereby help maintain healthy bacterial balance in your gut.
Many common fruits, vegetables, and grains (such as flaxseed, apples, greens, oatmeal, and bananas, to name but a few) are potent prebiotics, so eating a whole-foods diet goes a long way toward keeping those friendly “gut buddies” well-fed.
In other words, consider replacing that white bread with some whole grains. And of course, the health benefits of these foods are not just limited to your intestinal tract but your entire body as well.
Biofeedback for natural treatment of Crohn’s disease
Practitioners use devices with sensors to measure your body’s physiological states (like temperature, heart rate, breathing, and muscle contractions), and teach you how to turn that information into greater bodily awareness and control.
Therapy & group support
Crohn’s can be isolating and frightening, and can thus impact your mental health. Support from a peer group or individual talk therapy can help as you manage your symptoms. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation has a searchable database of support groups you can access, both in-person and virtually.
As you walk the path of managing your Crohn’s, exploring natural and complementary treatments as well as alternative therapy can be key to finding the tactics that work well with your particular case. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to treating inflammatory bowel disease, so doing your own research is important.
As with any addition to your health protocols, it’s a good idea to consult a professional before starting. Check out Bright Belly’s list of providers who can meet your needs.