Crohn’s disease is a debilitating disorder that affects many aspects of a patient’s life. Traditional medicine offers a wide variety of medications, with side effects, and surgeries. Chiropractic could be an alternative or complementary treatment option.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is an IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease. It can affect the small intestine, in the lower part, called the ileum (it is sometimes called ileitis or enteritis), but it can affect the entire digestive tract “from the mouth to the anus”. It seems to run in families.1 Crohn’s was named after Dr. Burrill B. Crohn in 1932. While it is an IBD, it is not the same as ulcerative colitis, another type of inflammatory bowel disease, which affects only the colon. Crohn’s is more widespread in the digestive tract, and it can “affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall”. With Crohn’s, the inflammation can “skip” some areas and leave them normal. Because it can affect any part of the digestive tract, symptoms vary. The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are rectal bleeding, urgency of bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation/bowel obstruction, and abdominal cramps. Patients may experience weight loss, fever, night sweats, and menstrual and appetite irregularities. It can lead to fissures (tears) in the anus and fistula, which is a serious condition. Crohn’s is considered a “chronic disease”.2
Traditional Medicine for Crohn’s
Mainstream medical approaches to Crohn’s include dietary changes, as well as medications and possibly surgical repair/removal of parts of the GI tract. Dietary changes are needed because the lack of absorption of nutrients is a problem with patients. The medications are designed to suppress immune response so that inflammation doesn’t occur. The idea behind those medications is that there is also symptom relief for pain, diarrhea, and fever as well. Immune suppression, theoretically, gives the digestive tract time to heal. Some medication is designed to prevent “flare-ups”, while others are for maintenance. Even with the many medications, “two-thirds to three-quarters of people with Crohn’s disease will require surgery”, especially in the cases of “fistula, fissure, or intestinal obstruction”. Surgery may only have success for several years. Symptoms often return for most of the patients.3 Before and after surgery, medications can be serious, and there are often side effects. The five most common medications used to manage (but not cure) Crohn’s disease are: Aminosalicylates (5-ASA), which treat inflammation, especially in the colon; Corticosteroids, to suppress the entire immune response; Immunomodulators, for those who have not responded to the prior two medications; Antibiotics, to treat infections and abscesses; Biologic Therapies (anti-TNF agents), to help certain types of patients with inflammation.4
Chiropractors work to help the body heal itself. Instead of serious medications and surgeries, or perhaps as a complementary treatment to them, chiropractic may be a useful option for those suffering from Crohn’s disease. A recent study has shown the effectiveness of chiropractic care for Crohn’s disease and allergies. There was “long term remission and alleviation of symptoms”. Patients with Crohn’s and allergies both had vertebral subluxations, which seemed to affect the immune functionality. Spinal adjustments caused alleviation in many of the patients, and stable remission in most who participated in the study.5
Find out more about chiropractic care and digestive problems.