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Understanding Crohn's Disease and Exploring Naturopathic Treatments

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on March 27, 2023


Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract, leading to a range of symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fatigue. This article aims to provide a brief overview of the pathophysiology of Crohn's disease and discuss some evidence-based naturopathic treatments that can help alleviate its symptoms and promote overall gut health.

Pathophysiology of Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in the digestive tract, causing inflammation. The exact cause of Crohn's disease remains unclear, but a combination of genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and imbalances in the gut microbiome are believed to play a role. The inflammation can involve any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus, but it most commonly affects the ileum (the end of the small intestine) and the colon. (1, 2)

The inflammation in Crohn's disease can penetrate multiple layers of the intestinal wall, leading to complications such as strictures (narrowing of the intestine), abscesses, and fistulas (abnormal connections between different parts of the intestine or other organs). These complications can further exacerbate the symptoms and contribute to malabsorption of nutrients, weight loss, and anemia.

Naturopathic Treatments for Crohn's Disease

Some evidence-based naturopathic treatments include:

  1. Dietary modifications: A personalized diet plan can help identify and eliminate potential triggers for inflammation. Common recommendations include a low-residue or low-FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet, which can help reduce gas, bloating, and diarrhea. (3)
  2. Probiotics: Imbalances in the gut microbiome are believed to contribute to the development and progression of Crohn's disease. Probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria, can help restore the balance of gut microbiota, reduce inflammation, and improve overall gut health. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains are the most commonly used probiotics for IBD. (4)
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may help reduce inflammation in individuals with Crohn's disease. Studies suggest that supplementation with fish oil can help maintain remission and reduce the reliance on corticosteroids. (5)
  4. Curcumin: Curcumin, an active compound found in turmeric, has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have demonstrated that curcumin supplementation can help reduce disease activity and improve overall quality of life in people with Crohn's disease. (6)
  5. Acupuncture: Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine technique, has been found to help alleviate symptoms such as abdominal pain and improve overall well-being in individuals with IBD. It is believed to work by stimulating the release of endorphins, which can help modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. (7)


Crohn's disease is a complex and chronic condition that requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. Naturopathic treatments can help manage symptoms, reduce inflammation, and improve overall gut health. It is essential to work with a qualified naturopathic doctor or integrative healthcare professional to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses the unique needs of each individual with Crohn's disease.


  1. Cushing K, Higgins PDR. Management of Crohn Disease: A Review. JAMA. 2021 Jan 5;325(1):69-80. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.18936. PMID: 33399844; PMCID: PMC9183209.
  2. Feuerstein JD, Cheifetz AS. Crohn Disease: Epidemiology, Diagnosis, and Management. Mayo Clin Proc. 2017 Jul;92(7):1088-1103. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2017.04.010. Epub 2017 Jun 7. PMID: 28601423.
  3. Popa SL, Pop C, Dumitrascu DL. Diet Advice for Crohn's Disease: FODMAP and Beyond. Nutrients. 2020 Dec 6;12(12):3751. doi: 10.3390/nu12123751. PMID: 33291329; PMCID: PMC7762196.
  4. Limketkai BN, Akobeng AK, Gordon M, Adepoju AA. Probiotics for induction of remission in Crohn's disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Jul 17;7(7):CD006634. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006634.pub3. PMID: 32678465; PMCID: PMC7389339.
  5. Marton LT, Goulart RA, Carvalho ACA, Barbalho SM. Omega Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: An Overview. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 30;20(19):4851. doi: 10.3390/ijms20194851. PMID: 31574900; PMCID: PMC6801729.
  6. Sugimoto K, Ikeya K, Bamba S, Andoh A, Yamasaki H, Mitsuyama K, Nasuno M, Tanaka H, Matsuura A, Kato M, Ishida N, Tamura S, Takano R, Tani S, Osawa S, Nishihira J, Hanai H. Highly Bioavailable Curcumin Derivative Ameliorates Crohn's Disease Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Multicenter Study. J Crohns Colitis. 2020 Dec 2;14(12):1693-1701. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjaa097. PMID: 32412598.
  7. Cao J, Yu Q, Sun M, He M, Liu R, Liu W, Wang F, Li T. Acupuncture for Crohn's disease: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Medicine (Baltimore). 2022 Dec 2;101(48):e32163. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000032163. PMID: 36482527; PMCID: PMC9726384.

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