For Crohn’s patients, diarrhea can be one of the more unsettling side effects of the disease. Often striking at the most inconvenient times, diarrhea can be disruptive to the daily life for those battling Crohn’s disease, and can cause serious negative health effects. The key to getting control of this particular side effect is to first understanding why it is happening.
Crohn’s Disease causes swelling in a patient’s digestive tract, often leading to a variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and diarrhea. While there’s no cure and no known cause of Crohn's disease, some experts theorize that Crohn’s disease occurs when the body sees any foreign substance as an antibody and attempts to fight it off. As the body battles these foreign substances (usually foods and bacteria), white blood cells accumulate in the patient’s intestines, causing the swelling that leads to diarrhea.
Since a cure isn’t currently available, for many Crohn’s patients the key to manage diarrhea is to minimize symptoms. Luckily, a variety of medications are available that will allow patients to lead as symptom-free a life as possible.
This drug is better known as its over-the-counter name: Imodium, which is probably the best-known anti-diarrheal medicine among the general population. Loperamide is not exclusive to Crohn's Disease. In fact, it is often used to treat diarrhea from a variety of causes. Taken orally, Loperamide is usually taken after a diarrheal episode, but when diarrhea occurs frequently, your doctor may prescribe it on a regular basis—usually at least once a day.
Loperamide slows down the digestive process in your bowels, which allows food to stay in your system longer. This gives food a chance to be absorbed, thereby reducing the number of bowel movements you have each day.
Often prescribed as Questran, Cholestyramine works to remove bile acids from the body. In Crohn’s patients, Cholestyramine works to normalize the body’s bile acid levels. It is normally prescribed to Crohn’s patients who have had a section of the small bowel removed in a medical intervention process called ileal ?resection.
Like the other anti-diarrheal medications prescribed to Crohn’s patients, Diphenoxylate slows down bowel activity to lessen diarrhea attacks in patients. Diphenoxylate is an oral medication that can be taken up to four times daily. Because it can be addictive, your doctor will likely only put you on Diphenoxylate short-term, with symptoms expected to improve within two days after beginning the medication.
Codeine is often prescribed to relieve pain, but when taken in a codeine sulfate form, the drug can act as an anti-diarrheal agent. Too addictive for daily use, codeine sulfate will likely be prescribed short-term for more severe cases of diarrhea in Crohn's patients. Some Crohn's patients have found relief in Tylenol with Codeine.
An over-the-counter remedy that has been popular for decades, Pepto-Bismol is bismuth subsalicylate, an antacid that also is an anti-inflammatory drug. While Pepto-Bismol is very effective for temporary cases of diarrhea, if you have a chronic diarrhea, you’ll likely need something more heavy-duty. Side effects of Pepto-Bismol include a temporary darkening of the tongue and/or stool and constipation (especially in children). Children recovering from the flu or chickenpox are advised not to take Pepto-Bismol because of its possible connection to Reye’s Syndrome.
For those Crohn's sufferers who prefer natural remedies, blackberry or ginger tea, cayenne in capsule form, and charcoal have been used to treat diarrhea symptoms. To minimize symptoms, it might be best to avoid dairy products and stick with as many clear, liquid-like foods as possible. This can include foods like soup and Jell-O. While this is certainly not a cure, it may minimize attacks.
If you’re suffering diarrhea for any reason, including Crohn's disease, it’s imperative that you drink plenty of fluids. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which can become a serious medical condition when not properly treated. Experts advise adding a teaspoon of salt and sugar to a quart of water, which will help replenish the glucose and electrolytes lost from ?diarrhea.
For Crohn's patients dealing with the discomfort of regular diarrhea, several forms of medication are available to help alleviate symptoms. When taking anti-diarrheal medication, be aware that constipation and other symptoms can result. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids while taking these medications to make sure you’re as hydrated as possible.
As with any medication, choose treatment only under the supervision of your doctor. Your doctor will likely want to monitor your progress as you begin treatment for your Crohn's disease symptoms to make sure your treatment is not adversely affecting your condition in any way.