The latest Crohn’s disease research has focused primarily on new treatments. The causes of Crohn’s remain unclear, although it is known that the immune system is malfunctioning to cause inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract.
Dozens of studies have been finished up and the findings published in just the last few months. Here are the highlights of some of those studies.
Vitamin D and Crohn's Disease
In April, researchers in Pennsylvania concluded a 6 month study concerning the benefits of vitamin D supplementation for Crohn’s patients. Low blood levels of vitamin D are common in people with the condition. Whether this is a cause or a symptom is unknown. Vitamin D is involved in normal immune system function.
Patients participating in the Pennsylvania study received vitamin D supplements at a dosage high enough to raise their circulating blood levels of the vitamin. After 24 weeks of supplementation, the patient-reported quality of life increased and severity of their symptoms decreased.
If you have Crohn’s disease, you should talk to your doctor before taking vitamin D supplements. Large doses can be toxic and supplementation is not appropriate for everyone. Supplements also vary greatly in quality.
This was not the first study to indicate there is a link between inflammatory bowel diseases and vitamin D deficiency. Your doctor is likely aware of the connection.
Anti-inflammatory Drugs Vs. Alternative Treatments
In February, researchers in China concluded a year-long study comparing the benefits of an inflammatory drug with the benefits of an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. The herb is called lei gong teng or sometimes Thunder God Vine.
The results of the study indicate that lei gong teng is actually superior to modern anti-inflammatory drugs in controlling the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. In previous studies, the herb has been used to suppress auto-immune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Apparently, some component of the plant disrupts the process involved in Crohn’s and other auto-immune disorders. Researchers believe they have identified the effective molecule. There may soon be a new drug treatment based on that research.
Enteral Nutrition and Normal Diet
Numerous diets have been used to control symptoms, especially in young people with the disease. Enteral nutrition, which involves the use of a feeding tube, is one of the approaches that is sometimes used on a temporary basis to allow the bowel to rest.
A new study focused on using a combination diet in which most, but not all calories are derived through enteral nutrition. 10-20% of the children’s caloric needs came from a normal diet. The researchers in this study found that allowing the children to eat some regular foods helped them to gain weight and still put the disease into emission.
A preliminary study indicated that dietary gluten may be involved in triggering the inflammation. The researchers suggest that eliminating gluten early in the course of treatment might actually prevent the disease from progressing.
The Future of Crohns Research
While new medications may be unavailable currently, there are a number of clinical trials underway. If you have the condition, you may ask your doctor about participating in some of the new trials.
More Crohn’s disease research is ongoing. If you have the condition, don’t give up hope. Researchers are working hard to develop new and more effective treatments.