Health Crush Contributor
As of today, there is no cure for Crohn's disease. And doctors do not fully understand what causes the condition. Keep reading on below to find out the current research into a cure for Crohn's disease, as well as the best treatment options that are available at present!
Chronic diarrhea? Intense abdominal pain? Persistent need to use the bathroom? It’s no wonder you’re looking for Crohn’s disease relief. While you might feel like you’ve tried everything out there, we’ve got some good news: there’s been some progress in the treatment of Crohn’s disease over the last few years, and things are looking up!
A little background on Crohn’s disease
If you’re reading this article for a friend or family member, or just starting the Crohn’s disease journey yourself, you might want a little background on the condition. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, Crohn’s disease was first described way back in 1932 and belongs to a group of conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD).
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract, typically affecting the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine. Any part of the digestive system can be affected by Crohn’s disease, however, and while there is no known specific cause for this condition, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) notes autoimmunity, genetics, lifestyle (smoking, use of medications), and a high-fat diet may all contribute to a risk for Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease
If you’re one of the 500,000 people looking for Crohn’s disease relief, you know all too well symptoms often include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Constant urge to use the bathroom
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Abnormal menstrual cycle
Crohn’s disease can also result in a number of complications, including intestinal obstruction, abscesses, ulcers, and anal fissures, among other things.
What’s new in Crohn’s disease relief
Back in 2001, the first gene linked to Crohn’s disease was discovered, but since that time more than 150 genes linked to the condition have been identified. This has shifted some Crohn’s disease research away from genetics, toward something growing in importance in almost every aspect of health–the microbiome.
(The microbiome is the term used to describe all the microorganisms naturally living in and on the human body.)
“We used to think that the microbiome was always the same, and it’s just that the way your body’s immune system was reacting to it that was different. That still may be part of it, but it may actually be that the microbiome either initially, or maybe even as a response to your body’s immune system, changes, and perhaps more insidious creepy-crawlies begin to thrive inside you,” Russell Cohen, MD, Director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at the University of Chicago Medicine, said in an interview.
“Just like everything else in biology, biological diversity sometimes leads these creatures to change how they express their own genes based on what your body is doing to them. So it may be shaped in part by the type of stuff that’s already inside you.”
Your microbiome may predisposing you to Crohn’s
Cohen and an increasing number of Crohn’s disease experts believe changes in the microbiome as a result of diet, exposure, and environmental factors may have something to do with why people develop the condition. In short, people with certain microbiomes may be predisposed to the condition compared to others.
Research in 2016 from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine supported the link between the microbiome and Crohn’s disease. Lead researcher Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western, found fungi, not just bacteria, in the microbiome may have an impact on Crohn’s disease.
In Ghannoum’s data, a strong link between bacteria and fungi was found, and individuals with Crohn’s disease had abnormally high levels of two bacteria – E. coli and Serratia marcescens – and one fungus called Candida Tropicalis.
What does all that mean for the future of Crohn’s disease relief? Researchers suggest dietary changes and the use of probiotics to encourage healthy microbiome balance, could, in the next few years, prove to be very important in the treatment of Crohn’s disease.
While researchers are trying to uncover the cause of IBD disease, Crohn’s disease relief is still being sought in the form of medications. Materials from the University of Chicago note new breakthroughs in the science of the body’s inflammatory process may help people with Crohn’s disease.
For example, in 2014, a new drug (Entyvio (vedolizumab)) which blocks white blood cells from attacking the bowel emerged, and yet another drug (Stelara (ustekinumab)), developed for the inflammation of psoriasis, might one day also be used to treat Crohn’s. These drugs target inflammation in a new way, and that process might help people find Crohn’s disease relief.
As our knowledge of genetics grows, so, too, does our ability to manipulate human DNA. In 2016, researchers from the University of British Colombia found a genetic mutation in mice effectively switched off certain immune system responses, particularly those linked to chronic inflammation in conditions like Crohn’s disease. If experts can one day harness this ability to “switch off” the genes responsible for inflammation in people, it could be a viable treatment for IBD diseases.
Stimulating specific protein
Healthy cells are essential to finding Crohn’s disease relief, and in 2016, experts from Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) found people with Crohn’s disease saw the condition get worse the lower their numbers of protein kinase C. Protein kinase C is needed by special cells in the intestinal lining that secrete antimicrobial peptides. Experts hope that by targeting protein kinase C levels, Crohn’s disease and its severity can be controlled.
If you didn’t know smoking was bad for your health, you can now add Crohn’s disease relapse to the list of reasons to put down that cigarette. According to research from the University of Edinburgh, people with Crohn’s disease are more likely to suffer relapses of symptoms if the smoke.
“Our study confirms that the most important thing somebody with Crohn’s disease can do for their health is not to smoke,” said Professor Jack Satsangi, in a statement. “People who are unable to quit smoking are at high risk of relapse after surgery…”
Crohn’s disease resources
Crohn’s disease can be a painful, frightening condition to live with, but remember you are not alone. If you’re having difficulty coping with your diagnosis, consider contacting a counselor, a support group, or join the Crohn’s & Colitis Association of America’s online community HERE.
You can find Crohn’s disease relief, and maybe one day, Crohn’s disease will be a thing of the past.