Natural remedies to help Crohn’s disease
Inflammatory bowel disorders like colitis and Crohn’s disease might respond to natural treatments that have been studied. More clinical focus is needed to understand how natural remedies can help treat inflammatory bowel disorders and other diseases caused by autoimmunity. What has research found about natural Crohn's disease interventions?
Turmeric and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
The spice turmeric was reviewed in a 2011 analysis that appeared in the journal “Alternative Medicine Review”.
The study authors only found two studies that included 99 patients.
The results showed curumin, which is the active compound in turmeric, helped reduce the amount of “mainstream” medications taken by the participants, including steroids, sulfasalazine (SZ) and mesalamine used to treat the disease that is chronic and incurable.
Two people with IBD were able to stop taking corticosteroids or 5-ASA.
The study authors concluded turmeric could be an inexpensive alternative to help treat IBD, but they also recommended larger studies.
If you are looking for alternative therapies for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, speak, with your doctor before changing your medication regimen or adding an alternative treatment.
The herb Boswellia has also been studied as an alternative to traditional medications for inflammatory bowel disorders.
University of Maryland Medical Center warns the herb can interfere with other drugs, making it important to talk to your doctor about trying Boswellia serrata for colitis or Crohn’s disease.
A few small studies showed the herb calmed inflammation in the colon, at a dose of 1,200 mg 3 times per day for up to 8 weeks.
Boswellia has been used as an alternative medicine in Africa and India and has fewer side effects compared to traditional medications.
A study published in 2006 in the journal Planta Medica suggests the plant may affect the immune system to offer benefits by targeting interleukins and TNF-alpha that are also similar to drugs that are currently on the market for treating Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
Turmeric and Frankincense
Another finding published in 2011 in the Natural Medicine Journal helps explain why anti-inflammatory botanicals can be useful for treating a variety of diseases.
According to Jeremy Appleton, ND, who is a licensed naturopathic physician:
“Acute inflammation is a part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. It is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process. Thus, inflammation is required for the healing of wounds and infection.” He further explains ... “Inflammation must therefore be controlled to ameliorate symptoms and prevent chronic inflammatory disease.”
In his review, turmeric and frankincense are highlighted as two herbs that are being studied intensely for their medicinal properties. Both are anti-inflammatory and might help treat inflammatory diseases of bowel, cancer and other chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis because they target multiple pathways in the body, working synergistically to heal, compared to drugs that target a single enzyme or receptor in the body.
It’s hard to exercise when you’re not feeling well, but even low-level activity can help alleviate stress and release beneficial chemicals that can calm inflammation and ease pain.
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology in 2006, suggested larger studies to find out how exercise impacts quality of life for people with inflammatory bowel disease. The speculation is that exercise, that is not shown to promote flare-ups, would have psychological benefits.
Another study, published in 2009, also encourages exercise for those with Crohn’s disease, but again noted more studies were needed to discover what types of exercises are best.
Surveys of UK residents with IBD yielded positive results for exercise that were published this year, thanks to a renewed focus on colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Respondents reported they felt better from exercise activities. However many people said they could not participate in sports because of limitations from inflammatory bowel disease. The survey, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) was the largest of its kind that included 918 participants.
A simple internet search for articles and forums yields positive results from people suffering from Crohn’s disease and colitis who turn to juicing to get nutrients and prevent flare-ups. Anecdotally, but not proven scientifically, juicing might be an option that can also prevent dehydration.
Adding a bit of wheatgrass juice to your daily diet might be also be helpful, based on a small study published in 2002 that included just 21 people.
Wheatgrass juice reduced symptoms of rectal bleeding and disease activity for people studied who drank a little less than ½ cup a day.
It’s important to start slowly because wheatgrass can cause nausea. There is also a concern for allergy. Avoid wheatgrass if you know you are allergic or have been sensitive to any type of wheat products.
Cannabis might also be an alternative botanical, natural treatment for Crohn’s disease, based on several positive study results.
One study conducted at Meir Medical Center that included 11 participants found five people experienced complete remission of Crohn’s symptoms with no side effects. Smoking marijuana was compared to placebo. The study group smoked two joints a day for 8 weeks.
Before you try any natural treatments, even exercise for Crohn’s disease or other IBD, speak with your doctor for guidelines. Studies are promising, but not conclusive, that natural treatments might help quell symptoms of Crohn's and other inflammatory diseases.
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