Currently, there’s no cure for Crohn’s, but treatments can significantly control or reduce the symptoms. Typically the first line of treatment is medication, but since they tend to bring along many uncomfortable side effects, you may want to consider trying alternative or complementary therapies.
We always recommend that you follow your doctor’s orders and consult them before trying any alternative treatment methods. Keep in mind that treatment is very individual and it can take some time to find the best combination of therapies for you. If you have Crohn’s, it’s important to keep in mind that you may react differently to foods, depending on your body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. However, there are many scientifically proven changes to diet and lifestyle that can help. Using Nori Health can help you discover which of the following therapies are right for you.
Dietary and Supplemental
Gut bacteria may be imbalanced in those suffering from Crohn’s. Restoring the balance may help improve symptoms. Some strains may work for some people while other strains may work for others so it’s helpful to aim for a variety of sources. Since many people suffering from Crohn’s are sensitive to dairy, its best to avoid yogurt. Some non-dairy sources of healthy bacteria include: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha. Prebiotics which feed the healthy bacteria you already have, include: artichokes, bananas, onions, garlic. Supplements can also be helpful but we recommend speaking to a doctor or dietitian to help you figure out which brand is trustworthy.
Omega-3 fatty acids help inflammation but it is not conclusive enough if it will directly help Crohn’s symptoms. Omega 3 is generally recognized as safe, just make sure to ask your doctor before starting, since it can interact with some medication. It is always safer to aim for whole foods versus supplements. If you eat fish, aim for 2-3 servings per week of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring. If you are vegetarian, you can get plant-based omega-3 from flax, chia, and walnuts.
Available evidence is not sufficient enough to recommend the use of curcumin in management of IBD. However, it can still be helpful to add curcumin to a well balanced diet as is has been proven to be an effective anti-inflammatory. It’s safer to take for a temporary period of time, for instance, while experiencing flare-ups. You can find it in tablets, capsules, teas, and extracts.
Learn more about how to get the most out of curcumin and its relation to IBD.
Peppermint tea has antioxidants that can be very helpful in the healing process within the body and preventing inflammation throughout the gut. For those suffering from Crohn’s disease, the pain can be intense, but peppermint can help soothe these issues, including taking peppermint oil in between meals to help decrease the spasmodic movements.
Glutamine is an amino acid, a building block of protein, that helps the intestine function properly. It can help improve intestinal permeability, or the strength of the intestinal lining. Since it’s good for overall intestinal health, it may offer help for Crohn’s. However, currently, there is insufficient evidence to allow solid conclusions regarding the effectiveness and treatment of active Crohn’s disease.
If you’re in the middle of a flare up, it can be helpful to temporarily eat a liquid diet to give your digestive system a chance to rest. This can take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. During this time, it’s important to drink fluids full of nutrients such as broth, coconut water, and non dairy smoothies, in order to make sure you get everything your body needs. Since calories are difficult to get, which can be dangerous, make sure you have your doctor’s guidance.
Since stress can trigger Crohn’s flare-ups and make symptoms worse, yoga and meditation are excellent ways to manage it. The practice focuses on movement and breath which can help you tune into your body and help decrease stress. Exercise in general can ease stress and help the intestines function better. If you are having a flare-up, take a break from exercise and allow your body to heal.
Sleep is essential for healing and regenerating, which are particularly important for Crohn’s disease. Sleep hygiene includes activities and exercises that prep your body for sleep. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine within a few hours of going to bed. Wind down by meditating, listening to soothing music, or reading a light hearted book. Dim or turn off lights and get off your computer, TV, and phone at least 30 minutes before bed to help activate the sleep hormone, melatonin.
Acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, can help manage certain pain conditions but evidence is uncertain about its value for health issues such as Crohn’s. Some people may find it makes them feel better. But it hasn’t been studied much, so it’s hard to say for certain. There are few risks, as long as you choose a certified practitioner.
Biofeedback helps you learn about physical reactions impacted by thoughts. Sensors will provide information about your physiological functions including heart rate, breathing, and brain waves. With a therapist’s help, this method can help you learn to manage these functions and keep stress-related Crohn’s symptoms at bay.
Consider psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy to work on deep rooted thoughts and emotional challenges, both which can exacerbate symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on helping you learn how thoughts can change feelings and behaviors. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) builds on the foundation of CBT. The goal of DBT is to transform negative thinking and destructive behaviors into more positive outcomes.
Having a network and sharing your experience with those who you trust and love, can build your resistance and support. Nori will be there, providing personalized support in addition to your social network and treatments determined best by you and your doctor. Nori will assist you in learning more about yourself and your condition, and suggesting treatment methods that are best suited for you.
This article has been written by Lisa Booth, registered dietician and nutritionist, and co-founder of Nori Health. Additional sources include: