The first line of treatment for Crohn’s is typically medication, but more people are also seeking natural treatments to ease their symptoms. Natural treatments are sometimes called alternative, complementary, or integrative medicine.
While all three terms generally refer to a treatment outside of typical mainstream medicine, the terms actually refer to different things.
- Alternative medicine means you’re using a non-mainstream, nontraditional approach to treat an illness rather than a conventional, evidence-based medicine.
- Complementary medicine means you’re using a non-mainstream approach along with conventional therapy.
- Integrative medicine means you’re using a non-mainstream treatment and a conventional treatment in a complementary way.
Here are six natural treatments for Crohn’s disease.
Your gastrointestinal tract contains “good” bacteria, which help with digestion and offer protection against “bad” bacteria. If you’ve taken antibiotics or have an illness, you may not have a sufficient supply of the good bacteria.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that you can consume. They are found in certain foods or you can take probiotic supplements. They act very much like the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics may be more or less beneficial depending on the location and stage of your disease. Some strains might work for one person but not others.
Although yogurt is one of the most common sources of probiotics, many people with Crohn’s disease are sensitive to dairy products. Other foods that contain probiotics include:
If you decide to try probiotics, talk to your doctor first.
Prebiotics are food for probiotics and for intestinal bacteria. Adding prebiotics to your diet might improve the function of your normal intestinal bacteria. Using prebiotics along with probiotics might make the probiotics more effective.
Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates found in things like:
- whole grains
Fish oil has long been used to promote cholesterol health, but its also been suggested that it has benefits for those with Crohn’s too. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, may have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce Crohn’s symptoms. One study found that patients taking fish oil were twice as likely to remain in remission as those who took a placebo.
Talk to your doctor before starting fish oil supplementation. Taking high doses of fish oil, or taking it in combination with blood thinning medication, may lead to bleeding problems.
Acupuncture is an ancient practice that uses thin needles inserted into specific points on your body. It’s believed that this stimulates your brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that block pain. They may also strengthen your immune system and help fight infection.
Biofeedback is a form of relaxation therapy. With the help of a machine, you’re able to see how your body responds to pain. You can also learn how to control your responses to:
- body temperature
- perspiration level
- blood flow
- brain waves
Overtime, you can learn to manage your muscle contractions and pain.
There are some herbal and botanical treatments that may help ease the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. These include:
- aloe vera juice
- slippery elm bark
Again, talk to you doctor before trying any herbal or botanical treatments. Some can interact dangerously with medications you might be taking. They may also have undesirable side effects.
As always, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any other therapies you’re considering. Some therapies may work well in conjunction with the medical treatments you currently use. Others may interact dangerously with your medical treatments.