You’re on the path to getting better. Your doctor prescribed you a medication routine to control your condition and get you feeling better. You pick it up from the pharmacy and your local pharmacist tells you a bit about it, encouraging you to read the instructions. But you’re left having no idea what exactly you’re taking. Learn about the most common Crohn’s disease medications and what they do.
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to fighting against things that will harm it. When it comes to Crohn’s disease, it refers to inflammation that can occur anywhere along the digestive tract, but most commonly in the colon and ileum. Anti-inflammatory drugs help decrease the inflammation and swelling in the lining of your intestine. The most common ones that work for Crohn’s disease are Aminosalicylates (5-ASAs).
-Mesalamine (Pentasa, Delzicol, Lialda, Apriso)
-Balsalazide (Giazo, Colazal)
What do they do?
As mentioned above, these decrease excess inflammation in your body so damaged tissues (especially your intestines) can heal. They work by blocking your body from making prostaglandins, or on-off switches in your cells that regulate pain and inflammation. Recent research also suggests that they decrease damaging molecules (reactive oxygen species) in your body.
Steroids, or corticosteroids, also help reduce the inflammatory response in your gut lining. They also reduce the activity of your immune system. This helps tame the body’s response to working against the body’s tissues, which is what causes your gut lining damage. These medications are taken for a while, for 3-4 months, in order to manage symptoms and put Crohn’s disease into remission.
-Prednisone (Deltasone, Rayos)
-Prednisolone (Veripred, Orapred, Omnipred)
-Hydrocortisone (Aquacort, Hydrocort, Cortenema)
-Methylprednisolone (Duralone, Medrol)
-Beclomethasone dipropionate (QNASL, Qvar)
How do they work?
Steroids reduce the amount of chemicals your body makes, which cause inflammation. Almost like turning the volume down on the processes in your body that cause inflammation. They also reduce the activity of your immune system by interfering with the way that white blood cells (your body’s main “troops”) work.
Just like the name describes, these medications suppress your immune system. They hold back the body’s disease-fighting immune response. You may have a combination in order for them to work better together.
-Azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran)
-Mercaptopurine (Purinethol, Purixan)
-Cyclosporin (Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune)
How do they work?
When your body has a normal immune response, it flags harmful substances, such as viruses or bacteria. The next time this foreign object comes into your body, your immune system will be prepared to attack and keep you safe. In IBD, your immune system mistakes healthy cells and tissue for these dangerous foreign objects. Immunosuppressive medications remove or slow down these overactive “troops” (such as C or T cells).
An antibacterial is anything that kills bacteria or suppresses its growth. When it comes to Crohn’s disease, antibacterials help treat infections that happen in the digestive tracts, such as with a fistula.
-Ciprofloxacin (Cipro, Proquin)
-Metronidazole (Metrogrel, Nuvessa)
How do they work?
Antibacterials work by blocking the function of bacteria or by stopping them from multiplying. This allows your immune system to have a one-up in the situation and fight the bacterial infection. Different types of antibiotics work on different bacteria. However, since many also kill healthy gut bacteria, it’s important to replenish them with a healthy diet and probiotics.
These are called biologics because, unlike chemical medications, they are made from natural materials. They help stop some proteins in the body from leading to inflammation. These are more selective, in terms of focusing on a specific part of the body.
Anti-tumor necrosis factor agents (anti-TNF) bind to a protein that promotes inflammation in the intestines. All anti-TNF medications have been shown to reduce the symptoms of IBD but also help heal the inflamed intestine. Although they aren’t effective for every person.
-Certolizumab pegol (Cimzia)
How do they work?
These medications reduce inflammation in the intestines by targeting specific proteins that your immune system uses to create inflammation. They block the receptors (almost like blocking a key from unlocking a door) and tell your cells what to do. This way you don’t have as much inflammation “coming into the door” and causing pain to your intestines.
Over-the-counter medications are the ones you can get for free. Before giving them a try, make sure to consult your physician. That’s because some may interfere with other medications you’re taking.
These help slow down how fast things move through your intestines, allowing more fluid to be absorbed in the body. Some also help balance and reduce inflammation in the intestines.
-Loperamide (Diamode, Imodium)
Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), don’t help reduce swelling or inflammation, instead, they block your brain from releasing the signals that cause the feeling of pain. It’s best to avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen. That’s because these have side effects that can irritate the gut lining. Meaning, it could trigger flare-ups.
Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition and requires lifelong adaptations. As your circumstances such as stressors and conditions change, so will your condition. That’s why it’s essential to continually communicate with your physician about how your medications are working. One of the best ways to track your medication impact, in relation to your lifestyle habits, is through a credible digital therapeutics app like Nori Health. Learn what ways you can take control of your condition and start feeling better.