Alternative treatment for Crohn's tested

LOS ANGELES For those dealing with Crohn's, an inflammation of the digestive tract that makes eating extremely uncomfortable, daily life is often a choice between the debilitating pain of the untreated disease or a battery of side effects from the traditional steroids used to keep it in check.

One mother of a young sufferer of the disease was worried about all of the side effects the traditional treatment could have on her son. Steroidal treatment usually succeeds in reducing the inflammation but it can cause an increased risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure and infections.

So Svetlana Smarduch decided to try a milkshake treatment, called enteral nutrition, that has been shown to be just as effective as steroids in a study conducted in Europe.

Her son Steven drinks the milkshake for every meal, every day of the week.

"There's an issue of taste, there's an issue of how the patient tolerates the formula," said Dr. Randolph McConnie, a pediatric gastroenterologist who recommends the treatment.

Steven said it was working out pretty well for him. "I drink it, I get the calories and proteins and I'm all set."

So far it has worked in controlling his symptoms, though he does miss eating solid food.


BACKGROUND: Crohn's disease is a chronic ongoing disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal tract. Although it can involve any area of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine or colon. The disease can affect people of all age groups but the most popular age group diagnosed is young adults. Common symptoms are pain in the abdomen and diarrhea. Bleeding from the rectum, weight loss, joint pain, skin problems and fever may also occur. (SOURCE: Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA))

LIFE WITH CROHN'S DISEASE: A diagnosis of Crohn's disease can mean different things to different people. If symptoms are severe, then it may mean certain lifestyle adjustments but if symptoms are mild, then certain changes to diet, along with proper treatment may be the best way to cope with the disease. The key to living life the way you want is to develop your own guidelines for health and wellness. Following your gastroenterologist's advice, taking medicines as scheduled, and keeping your gastroenterologist's appointments are the first steps toward staying healthy. Treatment may include medicines, nutrition supplements, surgery or a combination of these options. Some people have long periods of remission, when they are free of symptoms. (SOURCE: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2010)

LIQUID DIET: Normal digestion occurs when food is broken down in the stomach and then absorbed in the bowel. These absorbed products are then carried by the blood to all parts of the body. Sometimes a person who has Crohn's cannot eat any or enough food to keep their body full of nutrients. Enteral Nutrition is an alternative supplement for food and is the first choice for children in Canada and European countries suffering from Crohn's. It has also been an official treatment for Crohn's disease in the United States as well since 1960. The liquid is similar to nutritional energy drinks like Ensure or Boost. Like any other medicine, it does not work for every patient but when it does it can: induce remission, in some patients, in as little as two weeks, can restore normal growth in kids who have stopped growing because of the disease and promote healing in diseases area of the intestinal track. Studies found that this diet has fewer side effects than steroids. Enteral Nutrition must be given for six to eight weeks in order to induce remission and to maintain remission. The treatment must be continued for years. It's typically not covered by insurance and more research is needed because the mechanism by which Enteral Nutrition induces clinical remission in Crohn's disease still remains unclear.

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