Alternative and Complementary Treatment Options for Crohn’s Disease
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. Although the intestines are usually the most symptomatic, Crohn’s disease can produce symptoms anywhere in the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. The lower part of the small intestine is most commonly affected by Crohn’s disease. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, stomach pain, diarrhea, blood in the stool, fatigue, and weight loss.
Alternative and complementary treatments
In addition to conventional medical treatments for Crohn’s disease, such as medication, alternative and complementary treatments may also be beneficial. These treatments include acupuncture, biofeedback, cognitive therapy, dietary supplements, massage, and hypnotherapy.
Acupuncture is a treatment that involves the insertion of thin, fine needles into specific points on the body. This stimulates the brain to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain relievers. Because Crohn’s disease involves a strong mind-body connection, acupuncture may help reduce pain and other symptoms. It may be especially helpful when combined with moxibustion, which is a type of heat therapy that involves burning dried herbs close to the skin near acupuncture points.
Biofeedback involves the use of technology to provide information about physical reactions, such as heart rate, breathing, and brain waves. This information can help individuals learn to control these variables using techniques such as deep breathing or muscle relaxation. This practice can help reduce stress, which can reduce Crohn’s symptoms.
Several supplements may help reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
- Turmeric is a spice that contains curcumin, which is known to reduce inflammation. Consuming or supplementing with turmeric may improve symptoms of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the body. Taking a fish oil supplement may help increase the length of remission periods from the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
- Glutamine is an amino acid with anti-inflammatory properties that helps protect the lining of the intestinal tract. It can reduce Crohn’s symptoms and help in achieving remission or staying in remission.
Since supplements can interact with medications or other supplements, a medical professional should always be consulted before taking any new supplement.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
Although stress is not a direct cause of Crohn’s disease, it can worsen symptoms. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy combines cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises.
Soft-tissue massage techniques
Soft tissue massage or manipulation — performed by a trained physiotherapist — of the head, back, and abdomen may improve quality of life for people with Crohn’s disease. It can be beneficial regardless of whether the condition is in a flare or in remission.
This is a specific type of hypnotherapy in which deep relaxation is achieved with the help of a therapist. Control of gut function is realized through visualization. It may improve quality of life or reduce the amount of medication needed to treat Crohn’s disease symptoms.
Many of these alternative and complementary treatments can be used in conjunction with conventional medical treatments in order to reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and improve overall quality of life.