Once diagnosed, the first question that many patients ask their doctor is, "Can Crohn's disease be cured?" Unfortunately, there is currently no known remedy for this disease. The only thing that you can do is to manage the symptoms, prevent flare-ups, and induce remission.
To do this, you must reduce or control the inflammation that triggers the symptoms. In children, treating Crohn's disease symptoms helps promote healthy physical growth and development.
Conventional Treatment for Crohn's Disease
If you're experiencing moderate or severe Crohn's disease symptoms, it means that you have an "active disease." In this case, you will be prescribed a combination of medications, including steroids, immunosuppressants and antibiotics.1 Surgery may also be done — as many as two-thirds to three-fourth of people with Crohn's disease undergo surgery at some point during their lives.
Crohn's disease surgery usually entails removing a damaged portion of the digestive tract, allowing healthy sections to be reconnected. Fistulas may also be closed and abscesses drained. Be warned, though, that conventional methods like drugs and surgery may only do further damage on your health. Prescription drugs cause side effects that are just as (if not more) debilitating than Crohn's disease symptoms.
For example, corticosteroids may cause thinning and weakening of the bones (osteoporosis and osteopenia), swelling of the face and increased risk of infections.2 Meanwhile, surgery may lead to complications and expose you to hospital-borne infections. The effects of surgery are also temporary, so the disease may recur (especially near the reconnected tissues).
Try These Safer Methods to Treat Crohn's Disease
At least 30 percent of patients who undergo surgery experience recurrence within three years, and 60 percent have recurrence within 10 years.3 This is why many people are now turning to safer natural techniques to treat or alleviate painful Crohn's disease symptoms, such as:
• Optimizing the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your gut. You can do this by consuming traditionally fermented foods regularly and/or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.
Research presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology found that people with IBD who took Bifidobacterium infantis for eight weeks had lower levels of inflammation than those who were given a placebo. The study was conducted by researchers from the University College Cork in Ireland.4
• Paying special attention to your diet. This also plays a role in treating or avoiding Crohn's disease symptoms, as consuming the right types of healthy foods may also replace lost nutrients and promote healing. Ideally, avoid all types of processed foods, as they contain additives like emulsifiers and sugars, which can wreak havoc on your health and promote inflammation.
Minimize or avoid consumption of grains as well, as these are converted to sugar in your body. You should also avoid artificial sweeteners that may exacerbate symptoms of Crohn's, as it inactivates digestive enzymes and alters gut bacteria.
• Increasing your omega-3 fatty acid intake. Omega-3 fatty acids may have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce Crohn's disease symptoms. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that patients who took fish oil were twice as likely to remain in remission compared those to who took a placebo.5 However, krill oil is more highly recommended than fish oil, as it is less prone to contamination and oxidation.
However, make sure you consult a physician before supplementing with omega-3, as high doses or taking it in combination with a blood thinning medication, may cause bleeding problems.
• Doing acupuncture. This ancient practice is believed to stimulate your brain to release endorphins, which are chemicals that block pain, help strengthen your immune system, and help fight infection. Aside from acupuncture, you can also try the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a non-invasive method that can help eliminate pains and aches through a combination of finger tapping and saying affirmations.
• Taking herbal treatments. Some herbal and botanical concoctions may help ease the symptoms of Crohn's disease. These include aloe vera juice, slippery elm bark, chamomile and peppermint. The spice turmeric, which has the polyphenol curcumin, has been found to have superior therapeutic properties that may be helpful in treating IBDs.6 The Ayurvedic herb boswellia is also considered safe for treating Crohn's disease symptoms.7
Another possible strategy to improve the bacteria makeup in your gut is through fecal microbiota transplant (FMT). This involves taking donor feces (ideally from your relative or spouse) and then transferring it to you during a colonoscopy.
FMT lets the patient receive a transplanted population of healthy gut flora that helps correct gastrointestinal and other health issues. Research has found the transplants showed promise in treating of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease — in some patients, symptoms have even improved in just days or weeks.