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Alternative therapies for Crohn's disease

Updated on May 5, 2012

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease characterized by the presence of inflammation, which can extend into all layers of the bowel wall, and clustered patches of ulcers. It can cause severe morbidity in the affected individuals and in most instances, patients suffering from Crohn’s disease are below the age of 35 years. Even at present, scientists are unable to explain the exact cause of the disease althoughgenetic predisposition, food habits as well as certain environmental factors have been linked with this disease. However, the side effects and the inability to maintain the symptoms consistently have made people try out alternative therapies for Crohn’s disease and this article hopes to describe several of these methods briefly.

A word of caution

Before discussing the alternative therapies for Crohn’s disease, it should be emphasized that not all alternative treatment methods are safe and that some could even make the condition worse. At the same time, certain alternative medications may interact with the usual treatment of Crohn’s disease and therefore the doctor should be informed of such medications beforehand. Furthermore, one should realize that none of these methods are scientifically proven to be effective against Crohn’s disease although some research has shown mixed results in relation to several of these methods.


For many decades if not for centuries, acupuncture therapy has been used to treat bowel inflammations and from recent times as a specific treatment for Crohn’s disease. In a recent study conducted by the researchers of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Shanghai Research Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion concluded that acupuncture could bring relief from the symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease while minimizing the inflammation that is going on in the bowel. However, expert acupuncture therapists should perform the technique, as they have to reach for the exact acupuncture points in order to achieve the best results.

Fish oils

The use of fish oils have long been known to physicians as anti-inflammatory although its effect on inflammatory bowel diseases remains controversial. One reason for this may be the inconsistent absorption of omega-3-fatty acids present in fish oils, which are considered to be the sources of anti-inflammatory effect. However, a team of Italian scientists was able to develop a tablet containing a unique formulation of omega-3-fatty acids that would increase the absorption and therefore the anti-inflammatory effect of fish oil. While the researchers believe that this product can bring relief to many patients suffering from Crohn’s disease, it would take several more years before they can generate scientific evidence to back their claims.

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria consumed through foods and other supplements while prebiotics are the natural ingredients found in high-fiber plant based foods. When combined, prebiotics have shown to increase the potential of the probiotics and therefore help replenish the normal bacterial flora in the gut more effectively. Once established, the normal bacterial flora could lessen the risk of inflammation taking place in the gut. According to experts, this could improve the symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease although as with many other methods, this also lacks sufficient scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness.

Plant based therapies (Herbs)

Among the herbs that have shown to relieve symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease Boswellia, Cat’s claw, Tumeric, Slippery elm and Marshmallow are frequently used. While all these herbs have shown anti-inflammatory properties, there exact action remains mysterious than with any synthetic ingredient.

When looking at the above list, it is apparent that there are many varieties of alternative therapies, which can be used to treat Crohn’s disease although scientific evidence for their effectiveness is lacking in almost all instances.


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    • profile image

      Brianna Sisson 3 years ago

      I appreciate this page and what I learned. Thank you for researching the illness and helping me.

    • profile image

      Roxann 3 years ago

      Thanks for this post I've been suffering from this for so long nice to see people care :)

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 4 years ago from Norway

      Thanks Barbara for the comments and for sharing your experience. I agree that the medications used by doctors does lower your immunity to a certain extent. Unfortunately, science does not provide anything absolute as a cure for such diseases.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 4 years ago from USA

      I have Crohns myself and have tried two of your ideas to no avail. I think I'll try the tumeric next and see what happens. Thank you for your suggestions. One of these days I might try acupuncture.

      Most of the medications that doctors prescribe for this disease lower the immune system. That makes trying some natural cures much more enticing. Thanks for the ideas.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      Voting up and interesting. It's also important, I think, to mention that celiac disease is often misdiagnosed as Crohn's.

      Great hub. I always enjoy your hubs.

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 5 years ago from Norway

      @KrystalD : Thanks for the comments and yes you're absolutely right in that having a better knowledge means more support that we can give to Crohn's victims.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Crohn's disease affects several people I love and I appreciate you taking the time to tell us all more about it. The fact is that many people suffer from it and the more we all know about it, the more we can support others. Thanks and voting up!

    • pandula77 profile image

      Dr Pandula 5 years ago from Norway

      @aviannovice: Thanks for the vote and the comment! You are absolutely right in that no two individuals are the same and therefore one needs to experience these alternatives to select the best practices for his or her symptoms.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted useful and interesting. I believe that these varied treatments would have to be measured on a case by case basis, especially with the omega-3 fatty acids. No two individuals are the same regarding absorbtive active.