Is a Cure for Crohn's Disease on the Way?
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in the lining of your digestive tract that spreads deep into the layers of the affected bowel tissue. Like ulcerative colitis (another common IBD), Crohn's disease can be both painful and debilitating—causing severe diarrhea, stomach pain, cramping, and even malnutrition.
Although there is no known medical cure for Crohn's disease yet, the discovery of a gene linked to a cellular receptor for interleukin-23 (IL-23), a protein involved in the immunity and the inflammatory process, may pave the way to help understand how to prevent the disease from occurring.
In the meantime, there are effective therapies available to reduce the signs and symptoms of the disease and even put it in long-term remission.
The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, but researchers believe that a number of factors, including heredity and a malfunctioning immune system, play a role in the development of the condition. And cigarette smoking has also been found to lead more severe bouts of the disease.
There are several categories of drugs that can control inflammation caused by Crohn's disease:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: Drugs such as sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), mesalamine (Asacol®, Rowasa®), and corticosteroids are often the first-line of defense in the treatment of Crohn's disease.
- Immune system suppressors: In addition to targeting your immune system, these drugs reduce inflammation. These immunosuppressants include asathioprine (Imuran®), infliximab (Remicade®), adalimumab (Humira®), certolizumab pegol (Cimzia®), methotrexate (Rheumatrex®), and cyclosporine (Gengraf®, Neoral®, Sandimmune®).
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can heal fistulas and abscesses. Some frequently prescribed antibiotics include metronidazole (Flagyl) and ciprofloxacin (Cipro®).
In addition to these drugs, there are many medications in clinical trials that help treat Crohn's disease.
If drug therapy doesn't work, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove a damaged portion of your digestive tract to close fistulas, or remove scar tissue to relieve your symptoms.
Making some dietary and lifestyle adjustments may also bring relief:
- Limit dairy consumption: Eliminating dairy products may help ease diarrhea, stomach pain, and gas.
- Eat low-fat foods: Fatty foods can make diarrhea worse. Eliminating butter, margarine, cream sauces, and fried foods can help.
- Experiment with fiber: Because some types of fiber can make symptoms like diarrhea and gas worse, introduce it to your diet little by little to see if you can safely tolerate it. Generally, foods like cauliflower, broccoli, nuts, seeds, corn, and popcorn may exacerbate symptoms. Talk with your doctor before trying a high-fiber diet.
- Eat smaller meals: Try eating five or six small meals a day instead of two or three larger ones.
- Drink plenty of liquids: Water is best. Avoid alcohol and carbonated drinks, which can make diarrhea and gas worse.
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