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Treatment Options for Crohn's Disease

written by: Michelle Kingston • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/1/2011

Research into finding the cause and a cure for Crohn's disease continues. In the meantime, are current Crohn's disease treatments doing patients any good? Read this guide to learn about treatment centers, medication, diet and other therapies.

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    The Massachusetts General Hospital Digestive Healthcare Center - The Crohn's and Colitis Center

    The Crohn's and Colitis Center provides advanced medical treatments to patients with Crohn's disease. The high-tech facility is staffed by a digestive health team which includes board certified specialists and surgeons. Joining this team are nurses, nutritionists and psychiatrists, and the Crohn's and Colitis Support Group to lend support to Crohn's patients.

    After patients have undergone thorough diagnostic testing, physicians will recommend treatment according to factors like the patients' age, severity of the disease and outcome of testing and screening. Breakthrough surgical procedures offered at the center are minimally invasive, such as bowel-sparing surgery and sphincter-sparing surgery. Drug therapy, intravenous feeding and diet may be included in the Crohn's disease treatments.

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    The Mayo Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic

    The Mayo Clinic offers treatment for Crohn's patients in three states: Arizona, Florida and Minnesota. The Rochester, Minnesota clinic earned top ranking for research and treatment of digestive diseases.

    The Mayo Clinic does not detail their Crohn's treatment except that it includes diet, prescription drugs and surgery. The programs offered at the Mayo Clinic, as well as sophisticated diagnostic tests, a renowned medical team and numerous available resources, are comparable to the services at Massachusetts General.

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    Traditional Treatments

    Prescription drugs:

    Anti-inflammatories - These drugs help reduce an inflamed gut (Crohn's disease), and control painful flare-ups.

    Antibiotics - Antibiotics are helpful to patients affected by abscesses, bacterial overgrowth and infections.

    Anti-diarrhea - Anti-diarrhea drugs, taken before meals, relieve pain and cramping caused by diarrhea.

    These prescription drugs can provide temporary to long-term relief of Crohn's symptoms. However, unpleasant symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, headaches and loss of appetite are common side effects of these drug therapies.

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    Diet

    According to the experts at The Crohn's and Colitis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, "No special diet has been proven effective for preventing or treating Crohn's disease. Some symptoms are made worse by milk, alcohol, hot spices, or fiber."

    Dr. Joshua Korzenik, from Harvard Medical School, agrees about the ineffectiveness of diet for Crohn's patients, "We don't have an ideal diet for Crohn's, but we do know that certain types of foods can make symptoms worse or better." There is no approved Crohn's diet, but the following advice may help:

    • eat bland foods
    • consume small meals regularly
    • eliminate red meat
    • cut out acidic drinks and foods
    • avoid fried and oily foods
    • monitor your fluid intake
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    Surgery

    Surgery may be necessary when medication fails to control debilitating pain. Patients who have blockages, or who experience heavy bleeding and intestinal abscess may also require surgery to manage their symptoms better. Surgery unfortunately does not cure Crohn's disease, and the disease may reoccur within a few years even though the earlier surgical procedures were successful.

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    Alternative Treatments

    Herbal teas (peppermint and ginger) - Both peppermint and ginger are useful for minimizing digestive upsets caused by prescription drugs. You can also use the teas to treat nausea associated with diarrhea.

    Hydrotherapy - Hydrotherapy is essentially water therapy. This type of treatment may be beneficial to promote well being, and to improve circulation in the digestive tract.

    Massage - Therapeutic massage can help Crohn's patients alleviate stresses caused by their health. Massage can also minimize inflammation in the gut, improve digestion and relax tight muscles in the intestines.

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    Current Crohn's disease treatments do not cure the patient, and there are no miracles. But a combination of any of the above treatments may get you through difficult times and may also help restore quality of life. Always consult your doctor about your treatment options.