[This piece was written by Robert Gianotti, MD, Gastroenterologist, with Albany Gastroenterology Consultants.]
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) but they require different treatments. Finding the right treatment or combination of treatments can reduce inflammation, heal the intestine, and help you live symptom free. The good news is there are a myriad of treatment options available.
Steroids – Steroids have been used for many years to quickly bring symptoms under control. However, steroids can have negative side effects that limit long-term use, including risk of infection, diabetes, cataracts and bone loss.
Mesalamine – A potent anti-inflammatory drug that comes in many forms (pills, enemas and suppositories), it is used to treat the various forms of ulcerative colitis. Side effects are generally limited but may include upset stomach, diarrhea, and headache.
Immunomodulators – Another class of drugs (including azathioprine and methotrexate) which may be used alone or in combination with other therapies. These drugs work by reducing immune system activity. These drugs require close monitoring by your gastroenterologist, as they can make patients more susceptible to infection, and blood and liver problems.
Biologics – These newer medications have revolutionized the treatment of IBD, particularly those patients with severe disease. Administered intravenously or by injection, these drugs target specific pathways of inflammation known to be active in IBD. If you are experiencing continued symptoms despite other treatments, you may benefit from discussing biologic therapy with your gastroenterologist.
Alternative and Natural Therapies
Probiotics – These may have some benefit, particularly in patients with colitis. Not all probiotics are created equal, though, so it is important to discuss use with your gastroenterologist.
Turmeric – For centuries this flavorful spice has also been used as an anti-inflammatory. Patients with colitis may benefit from using it along with prescribed medications.
While there is no routinely recommended diet to treat IBD, many patients find some changes to their diet to be beneficial.
In patients with Crohn’s, eating a low-roughage diet can often prevent pain, especially if there is narrowing of the bowel. Many patients with IBD have an intolerance to lactose, so reducing the amount of dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream) can often reduce symptoms. Celiac disease, a specific type of allergy to gluten protein found in wheat, rye and barley, is common in patients with IBD, so routine testing is recommended.
If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis you should speak with your gastroenterologist about all available treatment options to make sure you are doing everything that you can to live symptom free. My colleague, Dr. Joseph Choma, discusses the signs and symptoms of IBD HERE.
Albany Gastroenterology Consultants is located at 1375 Washington Ave. Suite 101, in Albany, directly across from the University at Albany SUNY campus. For more information, please call 518-438-4483.