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Studies Show Medications for Crohns Disease Ineffective and Dangerous

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When a doctor prescribes a medication, most people assume it will benefit the condition at hand in some way. However, recent studies have uncovered that when it comes to Crohn's Disease, the opposite may be true. Find out the hidden truth about medications for Crohn's disease in the article below.

According to the National Institute of Health, Crohn’s disease is a disease of the digestive tract that causes inflammation, swelling, and irritation. In most cases, only the small intestine is affected.

Usually, Crohn’s disease causes pain and frequent bowel elimination due to swelling and irritation. Crohn’s is one of the several types of inflammatory bowel diseases. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America estimates that about 700,000 Americans suffer from Crohn’s specifically and that many others have some form of inflammatory bowel disease.

The Causes of Crohn’s Disease

The National Institute of Health states that the cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. However, researchers have a few ideas about what could possibly cause or link to the disease. According to research, usually, Crohn’s is caused by an abnormal reaction of the intestines as part of the immune system.

Crohn’s is identified as an autoimmune disease, which means that the body reacts to harmless and beneficial substances, foods, and bacteria as if they are invasive pathogens. This causes chronic inflammation, which leads to bowel trouble and pain.

Studies have shown that usually, Crohn’s patients have a high level of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) in the intestines. This could possibly lead to the inflammation in the intestines. Researchers also agree that a person’s genetics, immune system, and surrounding environment all contribute to the disease.

Treatments for Crohn’s Disease

Because Crohn’s disease is such a painful condition, there are a variety of treatment options available. However, since researchers are unsure of what causes Crohn’s most of the treatments for the disease are used to treat the symptoms of the disease. In some cases, the treatments could cause more harm than good. Find out more about each common treatment used for Crohn’s disease below:

Aminosalicylates (5-ASA)

These drugs are approved by the FDA for use with Crohn’s disease. The goal of 5-ASA medication is to decrease inflammation in the intestines. This form of medication is used to treat mild or moderate Crohn’s disease and is mainly effective if the disease is limited to the colon. If inflammation is present in the small intestines, this form of treatment is ineffective.

Drug Names: Sulfasalazine, Mesalamine, Olsalazine, Balsalazide

Side Effects: Side effects for these drugs are generally mild, and include headaches, body aches, fatigue, diarrhea, increased inflammation, rash, nausea, and sensitivity to sunlight.

Effectiveness Rate: A study conducted in 2011 by the Leeds Gastronomical Institute in the UK reviewed 6 studies that looked at the effectiveness of 5-ASA medications for relieving Crohn’s symptoms. The researchers found that sulfasalazine was slightly more effective than placebo at preventing remission but mesalamine was not. Neither drug tested was able to prevent quiescent CD relapse. Studies on olsalazine and balsalazide show similar results, although balsalazide may be slightly more effective.


Corticosteroids are another steroid-based inflammation fighter. These steroids are available orally and rectally. The steroids are a synthetic form of the stress hormone cortisol, which the body produces in times of stress. Basically, this hormone works by suppressing all non-essential functions of the body, which also includes the immune system. With a reduced immune system, the body does not react as strongly to invaders, which can reduce inflammation.

Usually, they are prescribed in mild to moderate cases of Crohn’s disease. Since these steroids suppress the entire immune system, they should not be used as a long-term solution or maintenance treatment for Crohn’s disease.

Drug Names: Prednisone, Methylprednisolone

Side Effects: Side effects for corticosteroids can be fairly severe due to their immune-suppressing nature. Side effects commonly include weight gain, mood swings, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, restlessness, glaucoma, swelling, acne, stomach irritation, adrenal insufficiency, and a reduced immune system.

Effectiveness Rate: According to a 2011 review published in the “Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology” steroids can be effective in about 80 percent of Crohn’s patients. However, due to the likelihood of dangerous side effects, steroids should only be used as a temporary treatment for Crohn’s disease.


Immunomodulators are another form of medication that suppresses the immune system. This form of medication is generally used when steroids and aminosalicylates are not effective. For the most part, immunomodulators are used to maintain remission. In some cases, it takes several months for these medications to start working.

Drug Names: Azathioprine, Methotrexate 6-mercaptopurine, Tacrolimus, Cyclosporine A

Side Effects: Side effects of immunomodulators are similar to that of steroids since they work to suppress the immune system. The side effects will vary by particular drug. Side effects include nausea, headaches, diarrhea, fatigue, decreased kidney function, hepatitis, diabetes, increased risk of lymphoma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lung inflammation, liver scarring, and low white blood cell count.

Effectiveness Rate: According to studies, immunomodulators are more effective than other treatment methods. According to a review of studies conducted by ‘L. Sacco’ University Hospital in 2010, immunomodulators are about 50 percent effective compared with an effectiveness rating of about 20 percent with other medications. However, a 2013 study conducted by a research hospital in Spain found that the medication Azathioprine was no more effective than placebo pills when given to patients newly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.


Usually, antibiotics are only used to treat Crohn’s related infections. Antibiotics are used to treat both internal and external infections. Antibiotics usually do nothing to actually control the disease, but rather fight infections sometimes caused by an overactive immune system.

Drug Names: Metronidazole, Ampicillin, Ciprofloxacin

Side Effects: Usually, side effects for antibiotics are mild, but can generally include symptoms like: rash, diarrhea, vomiting, yeast infections, kidney problems, hearing loss, headache, abdominal pain.

Effectiveness Rating: The effectiveness of other antibiotic treatments for Crohn’s disease is around 25 to 75 percent, depending on if the patient has an active or inactive form of the disease.

Biologic Therapies

Biologic treatments are the newest form of therapy. The medications are designed to prevent the chemical Tumor Necrosis factor (TNF) from causing inflammation. Anti-Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha medications are commonly used to treat inflammatory bowel diseases. The newest drug under research is vedolizumab, which binds with α4β7 integrin, which is responsible for causing inflammation in the intestines. Vedolizumab is one of the first treatments specifically designed to treat inflammatory bowel disease and is generally considered more effective than many of the other treatments available.

Drug Names: Vedolizumab, Metronidazole, Infliximab, Adalimumab, Certolizumab-pegol, Natalizumab

Side Effects: Side effects for biologic agents include increased infections, a reduced immune system, joint pain, fatigue, liver damage, fever, and respiratory infections. Researchers estimate that there is about a three percent chance of developing PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy) after taking biologic therapies, which is a rare, usually-fatal viral disease. There is also a small chance of developing histoplasmosis, lymphoma, tumors, and tuberculosis on these medical treatments.

Effectiveness Rating: According to clinical studies, published in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” the effectiveness rating of vedolizumab in patients with Crohn’s disease is up to 64 percent after one year of treatment. As of January 2014, vedolizumab is not yet available for prescription. Most other biologic treatments have about a 60 percent effectiveness rating, which is the highest of any Crohn’s medication.

Combo Treatments More Effective

According to studies, one treatment alone usually is not effective in preventing Crohn’s flare-ups. Instead, combination treatments are more effective. A study published in the “New England Journal of Medicine” in 2010 found that patients were more likely to recover from symptoms if a combination of biologic and immune-suppressing medication is used. With this combo of treatments, 57 percent of patients were able to have remission from the disease. Normally, biologic treatment effectiveness rates are around 40 to 50 percent, and immune-suppressing medication effectiveness rates are around 30 percent.

Natural Treatments for Crohn’s: More Effective?

Since the majority of commonly-used treatments for Crohn’s disease are about 50 percent effective at best with a variety of unwanted side effects, there is no reason why you shouldn’t try more natural methods to clear the disease without the unwanted side effects. As long as the treatment methods are at least 50 percent effective, they work better than most medications for the disease. The following treatment methods show some effectiveness in treating Crohn’s disease without side effects:


One of the common problems with individuals with Crohn’s disease is that they cannot absorb nutrients. Your body sees nutrients as invaders and works to kill them. This means that you are likely lacking in many essential nutrients. While you should try to consume as many vitamins as possible, the following vitamins are the most effective in fighting Crohn’s symptoms:

Essential  Vitamins for Intestinal Healing

According to numerous studies, individuals with Crohn’s disease are often lacking in vitamins. A 2013 study conducted by the Center for Molecular Immunology and Infectious Disease found that supplementing with vitamin D3 for 24 weeks was able to significantly reduce Crohn’s symptoms.

A study from 1983 published in the journal “GUT” found that Crohn’s patients are severely lacking in vitamin A. The other vitamins listed above are necessary for supporting a healthy immune system.


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria present in the intestines that help digest food and absorb nutrients. Some studies have suggested that this could benefit Crohn’s patients. Recent studies have found that supplementing with probiotics was not beneficial in stopping Crohn’s symptoms except in one case. If a Crohn’s patient has a high amount of e.coli bacteria in the intestines, probiotics can be effective at healing the symptoms.

According to a 2011 study published in “Applied and Environmental Microbiology,” about 36 percent of Crohn’s patients have a high amount of e.coli bacteria in their intestines. Giving probiotics to these patients was able to control the production of immune proteins in the intestines that cause inflammation.


According to studies, deficiencies in zinc and magnesium can lead to an increase in intestinal problems. Unfortunately, Crohn’s disease makes it difficult to absorb minerals of any kind, leading to deficiencies that can make the condition worse. You can counteract some mineral deficiencies by adding these minerals to your diet in supplement form.

Essential Minerals
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

Omega-3 Fats

Studies about the effectiveness of omega-3 oils for Crohn’s disease are mixed. Some studies state that the oil is highly effective, while others state no benefit. Most beneficial studies used “enteric-coated free fatty acid form” omega-3s. However, omega-3s do fight inflammation and could be used to restore the balance of inflammation in the body by eliminating excess inflammation from sources like vegetable oils and high cholesterol.


Diet is one simple way to manage Crohn’s symptoms. Avoiding inflammatory triggers may help prevent the onset of Crohn’s symptoms. In general, avoiding inflaming foods (vegetable oils, hydrogenated oil, sugar, processed grains) will help prevent inflammation in the intestines. Spicy foods may also aggravate symptoms. Eat foods that are easy to digest and provide maximum nutritional value to ensure you are protected from symptoms and absorb as many nutrients as possible during meals.

Curing Crohn’s Without Drugs

Is it possible to cure Crohn’s disease without the use of drugs? Since it is hardly possible to cure Crohn’s even with the use of drugs, there are practically no advantages to going the medical route over the natural one. Each case is individual, and different people will have different results. However, there is some strong research that suggests that natural treatment options can be used to reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. It may not be possible to cure the disease entirely, but you can keep it under control without the crazy side effects of many of the most popular treatments for the condition.





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