An Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can feel like a curse. Limiting our diet and social life, causing at times terrible pain and inducing panic at the thought that currently there is no cure, life with an IBD is not easy.

Some time ago we talked about what’s in clinical trials for treating Ulcerative Colitis in hopes of presenting the most interesting ones of the promising treatments in development. As you can imagine JAK1 inhibitors used for the treatment of inflammation are the superstars of clinical research on RA, Crohn’s disease, UC and other autoimmune conditions.

But what if you have already made a choice about your treatment and instead you’re looking to supplement it, rather than change it altogether? In that case, we’d gladly acquaint you with some alternative treatments backed up by research or currently under investigation.

But first, a word of caution. We at FindMeCure support scientific progress and proven methods of treatment, so no matter what you decide to add to your treatment plan, consult your primary physician first and never swap medicine prescribed to you by doctors for ‘at-home remedies’ someone on the internet swears by.

In that blog post about UC clinical trials back then we mentioned a trial in India researching the anti-inflammatory powers of curcumin, an ingredient of turmeric. It’s not the only herb that is thought to fight inflammation – ginger, sage, thyme and rosemary are also on the list. However, don’t search for recipes just yet – when it comes to IBD a lot of foods and spices can trigger or worsen irritation, so make sure your body is okay with these first.

Probiotics, on the other hand, are as safe as can be – the chance of them causing irritation is very, very slim. Probiotics simply aid your healthy bacteria in their quest to keep your digestive system optimally functioning.

In fact, according to Girish Anand, a gastroenterologist with Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates, in cases of mild to moderate UC probiotics can make your remissions last longer. Research done on people with active UC shows that probiotics even increase remission rates. So there you go, add some spices to your cooking and take your probiotics regularly. Just don’t forget to tell your doctor about it.

Managing your stress levels as well as learning to regulate your thoughts and moods can prove to be an immense help in your fight against UC. We sure hope it’s not too New Age-y to point out the mind-body connection. ‘Stress’ is a very broad term to describe the nuanced psychological factors that are at play when our bodies get sick.

If you believe that it’s possible our ailments are pointing us towards our dysfunctional thought patterns and behaviours in order for us to sort them out and change them, mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might be the thing for you.

And if you vehemently deny the idea that there is an underlying emotional cause for illness, you can’t at least deny the stress a diagnosis can bring. Everyone can benefit from talk therapy in a situation like that. And if ‘mindfulness’ sounds too spiritual for you, try ‘learning to live in the present’ instead as a way to manage your stress.

And while we’re on the topic, if you’re open minded enough, try acupuncture. Research from 2013 suggests that acupuncture can show better efficacy than some pharmacological treatments for IBD.

However, the paper itself clearly states that the research done so far is not enough to draw definitive conclusions. This is reason enough for us at least to stress the role of acupuncture as a form of complementary treatment that doesn’t take the place of standard medicine. At the very least acupuncture relieves stress and it can prove to be a good way to manage the severity of symptoms, seeing as stress actually increases pain.

Aloe Vera is another remedy you should be careful with. On the one hand, aloe vera gel has been shown to decrease symptoms of UC in rats. It appears to do what some drugs in clinical trials are attempting to do: decrease the concentration of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), a protein involved in inflammation.

On the other hand, aloe vera has laxative properties – something especially unpleasant for people with UC. On top of that FDA doesn’t regulate aloe vera products, so it’s hard to tell if you’re really getting the gel or another part of the plant.

Fish oil has a special place in the diet of anyone living with UC. According to a 2014 paper reviewing studies done on animals and humans omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. Although the review asks the question of whether omega-3 fatty acids add real value to people trying to manage IBD symptoms, it also points out their therapeutic potential. So, eat your salmon or take your supplements, just make sure your doctor is on board with it.

Hopefully, some of the alternative treatments listed here will work for you and make a real difference in the way you experience the course of UC. If, however, you’re not looking for ways to complement your treatment plan and instead wish to break up with existing treatments altogether, check out some of the clinical trials that come up for UC.

We never know when and how the next breakthrough will happen but one thing’s for sure – taking our health in our hands is a way to not only help ourselves but also advance scientific understanding about the kind of care we and others like us need.

1 Comment

  1. Finally, the FDA has approved Pfizer’s Xeljanz (tofacitinib) for the treatment of moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis.

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