What Supplements, Lifestyle and Home Remedies Should I Take for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

Your doctor may recommend certain supplements and may suggest a special diet to improve your symptoms and/or treat your Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  This article will help explain what the various supplemental, dietary, and lifestyle measures are and why they may be recommended for you by your doctor. 

Supplements

  • Iron supplements

If you have chronic intestinal bleeding, you may develop iron deficiency anemia and your doctor may suggest you need to take iron supplements.

  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements

Crohn’s disease and steroids used to treat it can increase your risk of osteoporosis, so you may need to take a calcium supplement with added vitamin D.

Nutritional support

This can improve your overall nutrition and allow the bowel to rest. Bowel rest can reduce inflammation in the short term.

Photo source: ucsfhealth.org

If you have stenosis or stricture in the bowel, your doctor may recommend a low-residue diet. 

This will help to minimize the chance that undigested food will get stuck in the narrowed part of the bowel and lead to a blockage.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Sometimes you may feel helpless when facing inflammatory bowel disease. 

But changes in your diet and lifestyle may help control your symptoms and lengthen the time between flare-ups.

Diet

There’s no firm evidence that what you eat actually causes inflammatory bowel disease. 

But certain foods and beverages can aggravate your signs and symptoms, especially during a flare-up.

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It can be helpful to keep a food diary to keep track of what you’re eating, as well as how you feel. 

If you discover some foods are causing your symptoms to flare, you can try eliminating those foods. Here are some suggestions that may help:

  • Limit dairy products

Many people with inflammatory bowel disease find that problems such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas improve by limiting or eliminating dairy products. 

Photo source: osu.edu

You may be lactose intolerant — that is, your body can’t digest the milk sugar (lactose) in dairy foods. 

Using an enzyme product such as Lactaid may help as well.

  • Try low-fat foods

If you have Crohn’s disease of the small intestine, you may not be able to digest or absorb fat normally. 

Instead, fat passes through your intestine, making your diarrhea worse. Try avoiding butter, margarine, cream sauces and fried foods.

Photo source: everdayhealth.com

  • Take care with fiber

If you have inflammatory bowel disease, high-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, may make your symptoms worse. 

If raw fruits and vegetables bother you, try steaming, baking or stewing them.

In general, you may have more problems with foods in the cabbage family, such as broccoli and cauliflower, and nuts, seeds, corn and popcorn.

  • Avoid other problem foods

Spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine may make your signs and symptoms worse.

Photo source: wholefoodsmagazine.com

Other dietary measures

  • Eat small meals

You may find you feel better eating five or six small meals a day rather than two or three larger ones.

  • Drink plenty of liquids

Try to drink plenty of fluids daily. Water is best. Alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine stimulate your intestines and can make diarrhea worse, while carbonated drinks frequently produce gas.

  • Consider multivitamins

Because Crohn’s disease can interfere with your ability to absorb nutrients and because your diet may be limited, multivitamin and mineral supplements are often helpful. Check with your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements.

Photo source: everydayhealth.com

  • Talk to a dietitian

If you begin to lose weight or your diet has become very limited, talk to a registered dietitian.

Smoking

Smoking increases your risk of developing Crohn’s disease, and once you have it, smoking can make it worse. 

People with Crohn’s disease who smoke are more likely to have relapses and need medications and repeat surgeries.

Photo source: verywellhealth.com

Smoking may help prevent ulcerative colitis. However, its harm to overall health outweighs any benefit, and quitting smoking can improve the general health of your digestive tract, as well as provide many other health benefits. 

Nicotine patches have been used to treat ulcerative colitis, but the results have been disappointing.

Photo source: verywellhealth.com

Stress

The association of stress with Crohn’s disease is controversial, but many people who have the disease report symptom flares during high-stress periods. 

If you have trouble managing stress, try one of these strategies:

  • Exercise

Even mild exercise can help reduce stress, relieve depression and normalize bowel function. Talk to your doctor about an exercise plan that’s right for you.

Photo source: verywellhealth.com

  • Biofeedback

This stress-reduction technique may train you to reduce muscle tension and slow your heart rate with the help of a feedback machine. 

The goal is to help you enter a relaxed state so that you can cope more easily with stress.

  • Regular relaxation and breathing exercises

One way to cope with stress is to regularly relax and use techniques such as deep, slow breathing to calm down. 

Photo source: everydayhealth.com

You can take classes in yoga and meditation or use books, CDs or DVDs at home.

Alternative medicine

Many people with digestive disorders have used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). However, there are few well-designed studies of their safety and effectiveness.

Some commonly used therapies include:

  • Probiotics

Researchers suspect that adding more of the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that are normally found in the digestive tract might help combat IBD. Although research is limited, there is some evidence that adding probiotics along with other medications may be helpful, but this has not been proved.

Photo source: everydayhealth.com

  • Fish oil

Fish oil acts as an anti-inflammatory, and there is a suggestion that it could relieve intestinal inflammation related to IBD, but this has not been proved.

  • Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel may have an anti-inflammatory effect for people with ulcerative colitis, but it can also cause diarrhea.

  • Turmeric

Curcumin, a compound found in the spice turmeric, has been combined with standard ulcerative colitis therapies in clinical trials. There is some evidence of benefit, but more research is needed.

Photo source: everydayhealth.com

  • Acupuncture

Only one clinical trial has been conducted regarding its benefit. The procedure involves the insertion of fine needles into the skin, which may stimulate the release of the body’s natural painkillers.

  • Prebiotics

Unlike probiotics — which are beneficial live bacteria that you consume — prebiotics are natural compounds found in plants, such as artichokes, that help fuel beneficial intestinal bacteria. 

Studies have not shown positive results of prebiotics for people with Crohn’s disease.

Was this article helpful? Other related articles:

Asacol – Prescription Medication for the Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis

Mesalamine for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease – one drug, many options

How Prednisone Works to Reduce Inflammation

Finding relief from Crohn’s disease with Entocort® EC

Prescription Relief and Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis

If you have questions about your prescription or non-prescription medication, please contact the team at Canada Online Health by calling toll free 1-800-399-DRUG (3784) or visit their website at www.canadaonlinehealth.ca.One of the friendly and discreet pharmacy representatives will be happy to answer your questions.

This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).

References:

  1. https://www.ibdunmasked.com/global/
  2. Sunanda V. Kane: IBD Self-Management
  3. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353315
  5. www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease
  6. www.healthline.com/health/inflammatory-bowel-diseas
  7. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/gastrointestinal-articles/combination-of-ibd-medications-offers-bridge-to-avoid-surgery

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