Updated on December 22, 2022
Crohn’s disease is notoriously difficult to manage. Despite the fact that traditional pharmaceuticals and biologic therapies are available, for many sufferers, these options are insufficient for effectively reducing symptoms. Moreover, they often result in debilitating side effects—and carry a high price tag that makes them inaccessible.
For patients battling gastrointestinal ailments who are interested in alternatives in addition to traditional pharmaceuticals and therapies, one option to consider is nutritional supplementation for helping to manage Crohn’s disease. The effectiveness and bioavailability of several compounds used in the nutritional supplement format, such as vitamin D, is backed by a large body of rigorous research; for supplements that have only recently emerged as possible nutritional support for Crohn’s patients, such as creatine, the research is just getting underway. The following explores a few of the supplements that show promise as complementary therapies for Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease can prevent the absorption of vitamin D from food; up to 80 percent of patients become deficient in this important nutrient. Vitamin D deficiency can then lead to osteoporosis for many Crohn’s sufferers. However, multiple research studies show that supplementation can reduce this risk. For this reason, vitamin D, primarily known for its role in bone health, is one of the most commonly recommended complementary therapies for Crohn’s.
Moreover, the latest studies suggest that taking vitamin D supplements promote more normal bowel inflammation by exerting effects on two key inflammatory factors. Although the supporting research is still in its earliest stages, it indicates that vitamin D is beneficial for intestinal inflammatory response in animal models. There are also preliminary trials suggesting that high-dose, bioavailable vitamin D supplementation is beneficial for helping to maintain remission for Crohn’s disease patients.
Taking vitamin D might also be beneficial for a patient’s long-term health. Crohn’s disease patients are at higher risk of developing colon cancer than the general population. Scientists hypothesize that intestinal inflammation plays a role in the development of colon cancer, and there are epidemiological and animal model studies suggesting that vitamin D might resist some of the cancer-promoting effects of intestinal inflammation in Crohn’s disease patients.
Curcumin is best known for being a constituent of turmeric, a popular spice. Studies show that the nutritional support effects of curcumin, when taken in a bioavailable form, help mediate the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. In one study, researchers found that taking a curcumin supplement alone or in combination with Remicade (a common immunosuppressant taken by Crohn’s disease patients) can ameliorate symptoms by promoting normal intestinal inflammation.
Patients who take Remicade to address their symptoms are often frustrated because the therapy can lose its effectiveness over time. A recent study might provide Crohn’s sufferers hope, however. The research seems to indicate that taking curcumin as a supplemental therapy can promote Remicade’s efficacy by helping to better maintain the body’s inflammatory response. Thus, curcumin supplements can be an effective option for patients seeking complementary therapies for Crohn’s disease that support their current management strategy.
Creatine, traditionally used by athletes and body-builders to improve performance, is a substance that supports the production of ATP in muscle cells. However, creatine has recently been found to provide nutritional support for individuals with Crohn’s disease. The results of one rigorous case study indicate that a bioavailable form of creatine can be effective for helping to manage symptoms in some Crohn’s disease patients.
There is also a clinical trial underway that is examining the potential benefits of creatine for supporting patients with ulcerative colitis. Although this research is ongoing, the success of the trial could have significant positive implications for the use of creatine in the future for likewise supporting individuals with Crohn’s disease.
Although effective treatments for Crohn’s disease can be challenging to find, alternatives to traditional treatment options are on the rise. Patients who are searching for complementary therapies for Crohn’s that reduce gastrointestinal symptoms—and the risk of health problems associated with Crohn’s—can find relief by including bioavailable nutritional supplements in their treatment plans. The research shows that including a nutritional supplement in a patient’s diet can have supportive benefits that are not achieved by standard pharmaceuticals alone.
For patients seeking nutritional support for Crohn’s disease, bioavailable forms of vitamin D, curcumin, and creatine are appropriate options to consider. As researchers continue to explore complementary therapies for Crohn’s disease, doctors and patients alike are already seeing the benefits of these health solutions.
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