Can certain vitamins and supplements help Crohn's or colitis?
Can certain supplements help manage Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis? There is promising research about some vitamins and supplements that are worth noting. Here is what you should know if you are diagnosed with IBD about supplements that could help or potentially harm.
If you have been diagnosed with Crohn's disease your doctor might recommend you supplement with certain vitamins and minerals. Some vitamins or supplements are more important than others for anyone diagnosed with a type of inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) that might also include ulcerative colitis.
L-glutamine has even been proposed as a treatment for Crohn's disease because it can help with symptom control, but may be best combined with the amino acid arginine.
The reason glutamine and arginine might be important is because they help calm harmful chemicals known as cytokines. Glutamine and arginine also reduces the expression of TNf-alpha, which is what medications such as Humira are designed for.
The amino acids also modulate the immune system.
One study, published in 2008 in the Journal of Nutrition, looked at biopsies from Crohn's disease patients given the amino acids, leading to the suggestion that they should also be considered as a part of liquid, or enteral therapy.
The amino acids were also found to alter gene pathways that go awry and implicated for Crohn's disease.
No studies have shown glutamine alone benefits Crohn's disease. The authors of the mentioned study found some benefit, but combined with arginine the effect was most significant.
It's important to note that the study was small. As is often the case, larger studies may not confirm the finding.
You can also get too much glutamine that ultimately converts to arginine and then helps produces nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide can actually damage the gut. Too much glutamine, given to rats in one study also increased harmful cytokines and inflammation, making it difficult to recommend glutamine.
Research is continually exploring how to make gut bacteria more 'friendly' to help treat Crohn's disease. What causes so-called bad bacteria to predominate in the gut in patients with IBD isn't yet fully understood.
One probiotic that could help manage Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is Saccharomyces boulardii (Sb). Specifically, the bacteria could help with diarrhea that is a constant concern for people with IBD.
One study showed the probiotic, combined with mesalamine helped prevent Crohn's symptom relapse.
Lactobacillus GG has been shown to boost immune response in a small study. The probiotic also improved health of the lining of the intestines.
Zinc is a natural mineral that is found in the environment and our bodies. It is important for healing and is specifically used by the body to repair damaged cells in the intestines.
Drugs used for treating Crohn's disease including sulfasalazine can cause zinc levels to decline, meaning you may need a supplement.
Though zinc is not a cure for Crohn's symptoms, if your levels are low you're likely to have more problems with inflammation and intestinal healing. Ask your doctor if you need a supplement.
It's important to know you can also get too much zinc that can suppress the immune system. Zinc is an immune system booster, but only in the right amounts.
Omega-3 fatty acids
It makes sense to try to eat food that contain omega-3 fatty acids because they are anti-inflammatory. Omega-3s are especially found in fish and fish-oil supplements. Studies however are mixed about whether fish oil can help with Crohn's disease.