Crab, shrimp and lobster could offer Crohn's disease help

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
How crab and other shellfish could help treat IBD

Our crustacean friends might be able to help with prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases including Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. Researchers recently discovered the shells of shrimp, crab and lobster contain microparticles with anti-inflammatory properties that could provide new and inexpensive IBD treatment.


Yoshimi Shibata, Ph.D., professor of biomedical science in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University are studying how chitin and shellfish could bring new treatments for IBD, thanks to a grant from the National Institute of Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Seafood shells contain anti-inflammatory compound that could alter gut bacteria

Though the cause of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis isn't known, scientists do known that inflammation underlies most chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and asthma.

Under normal conditions, inflammation is a process that actually protects health and promotes healing by mobilizing the immune system to attack invading bacteria and kill them through the immune system reaction," said Shibata in a June, 2014 press release. "Chronic inflammation on the other hand harms instead of heals because the immune system attack never stops."

The researchers started by removing the calcium and protein in crab, lobster and shrimp shells.


Next they took the carbohydrate that remained in the shellfish and developed it into small particles that are known as mimetic microbes (similar to bacteria) and formulated an oral supplement that has successfully treated allergic asthma, food allergies, colitis and food borne infections in animal models.

Chitin microparticles has also been used to treat seasonal allergies in humans.

The shells of seafood are inexpensive to prepare and readily available as a waste of the seafood industry. The microparticles are also microparticles non-allergenic and biodegradable.

The focus of the research is on intestinal macrophages. Dr. Shibata is an immunologist who focuses on the blood cells that normally seek out and destroy foreign substances in the body to keep inflammatory processes at bay.The scientists are exploring whether chitin microparticles can normalize gut bacteria and act as an anti-inflammatory to treat symptoms of IBD.

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Image credit: Pixabay



Reading about the seafood shells is very interesting. I was diagnosed with Crohn's over 40 years ago. After being on Remicade for 15 years, I have developed leukocytoclastic vasculitis, After changing to Cimzia for only a couple of got worse. My GI dr., rheumatologist, and dermatologist determined that it is apparently the "TFN" factor that is the same in both...I am no longer taking either, trying to get this under control taking dapsone and prednisone...What is your input on this? Have you seen this before? I would love to know if you have any info regarding this! Just hope the Crohn's stays at bay! Thank you so very much! Has the "shellfish" been approved yet?
Hi Sheila: I'm not a doctor, of course, so wouldn't be able to give you any expertise about treatment 'trends' if you will. I have read about this and it isn't common it seems, but it does happen. And yes, there are case studies that in some people it can recur with the same type of therapy - the anti-TNF agents. It hasn't been approved for Crohn's treatment. But it is available. I am not recommending this, which is something we would never do here - but sharing this link only so you can read and then discuss it with your doctor if you wish; to see if supplements might be a safe option for you to try: