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Conventional Treatments

Nonbiologic Treatments for Crohn's Disease

Aminosalicylates, also known as 5-ASAs or anti-inflammatories

These medicines can be effective in achieving and maintaining remission for people with mild to moderate Crohn's disease. You can take 5-ASAs in tablet form or in the form of an enema or suppository, depending on which part of your colon is affected.

Remember that Crohn's patients who stop their 5-ASAs are likely to suffer a relapse, so only stop your medication if your doctor gives you the okay.

Antibiotics

Researchers also believe that antibiotics help reduce harmful intestinal bacteria and suppress the intestine's immune response, which can trigger symptoms of Crohn's disease. Antibiotics are also prescribed to help heal fistulas and abscesses in Crohn's patients.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are treatments for Crohn’s disease that help reduce inflammation and are valuable during acute situations. Doctors generally use them only if you have moderate to severe Crohn’s that doesn't respond to other treatments. Because of their side effects, corticosteroids are generally given in the lowest possible dosage for the shortest amount of time.

Immunomodulators

These treatments for Crohn’s disease are used to reduce inflammation, treat fistulas, and allow your physician to prescribe you a lower dosage of corticosteroids.

Your doctor may pair an immunomodulator with a corticosteroid to speed up response during active flares of Crohn’s disease. This combination requires lower doses of the steroid, which produces fewer side effects. Corticosteroids also may be withdrawn more rapidly when combined with immunomodulators. That’s why you may hear immunomodulators referred to as "steroid-sparing" drugs.

Over-the-counter Crohn’s medications and supplements

Your doctor may prescribe antidiarrheals, laxatives, and pain relievers to help you manage Crohn's symptoms during flare-ups.

If you have chronic bleeding in your intestines, an iron supplement may be used to bring your iron levels back up to normal levels. Iron supplements can also help to lessen iron-deficiency anemia once your bleeding has stopped or lessened.

A vitamin B12 shot may also be used to help stop anemia from occurring, aid normal growth and development, and keep your nerves working properly.

Finally, your doctor may want you to take a calcium supplement with vitamin D. This can help counteract the increased risk of osteoporosis that can come from Crohn’s disease and the steroids used to treat it.

Most alternative therapies such as supplements and probiotics aren't regulated by the FDA, meaning that they have not been determined as safe and effective by the FDA. That's why it's so important to talk to your doctor before trying these types of treatments for your Crohn's. (Read more about talking with your doctor about Crohn's in the Winter 2010 issue of Crohn’sAdvocate magazine.)

Nutrition therapies

Your doctor may prescribe enteral nutrition, which is a special diet given through a feeding tube, as a treatment for your Crohn’'s. He or she may also prescribe parenteral nutrition, which means nutrients injected directly into a vein. Both of these help boost your nutrition and parenteral nutrition gives your bowel a break, which can help bring inflammation under control in the short term. These 2 methods of nutrition are usually used to improve the health of patients before surgery or when other treatments aren't working. (Read more about the impact of nutrition on Crohn's in the Summer 2010 issue of Crohn’sAdvocate magazine.)

All medications carry serious safety risks such as significant infections, please be sure to discuss all risks and benefits with your doctor.

See also: Your body image and Crohn's, Registered dietitians: your new best friend, Feel-good recipes

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