Is Crohn’s Disease Really “Incurable”?

I recently came across two different people who, diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, repeated the standard line that it “has no known cure”. Really? Never? The people who said this were just repeating what they had been told. Unlike twenty or thirty years ago, however, it is easy to do one’s own research. The people who said this gave no indication they had done any research. Because Crohn’s is so unpleasant, their passivity was curious.

I knew that calling Crohn’s disease “incurable” was an overstatement because I had written about Reid Kimball, who had found a way to eliminate via diet essentially all the symptoms. For practical purposes, he was cured.  (Reid objects to the word “cure”.) I knew he was hardly the only one. But what if I started from ignorance? How hard would it be to challenge the conventional “incurable” line?

Not hard at all. I googled “Crohn’s success” (without quotation marks in the search query). The top search result (titled “Crohn’s Disease: Success with Diet and Probiotics”) included this:

I learned of a pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. J. Rainer Poley, who had conducted extensive studies on the effect of certain sugars and starches on people with intestinal diseases. My husband and I decided to take our daughter to see this doctor for another opinion. When we asked him if there was any other treatment she could try besides medications, he explained that at a recent medical conference in Europe, he had learned of success medical doctors were having with probiotics. He instructed our daughter to eat plain yogurt every day and to take a specific probiotic capsule called Culturelle® containing Lactobacillus GG [Gorbach and Goldin] twice daily. Based on Dr. Poley’s research, he wanted her to limit the consumption of concentrated sugars (specifically table sugar, technically known as sucrose). The intent of the sucrose-restricted diet was to starve the harmful bacteria by taking away their major food source. The yogurt and Lactobacillus GG would help replenish the “good” bacteria. Since it has been well documented that an overgrowth of bacteria is prevalently seen in people with Crohn’s disease, this treatment sounded like a plausible solution.

Our daughter, feeling drained from the effects of Crohn’s disease, felt motivated to try the doctor’s recommendations. . . . After about two weeks, she began to feel better in general. At the follow-up doctor’s appointment three months later, she had gained six pounds and her lab work was ALL NORMAL! . . . She continues to remain well [over 7 years later] with normal lab work and without clinical symptoms.

I asked Ms. Kalichman how others had fared with this treatment. She replied:

Periodically, I hear from others who have tried the treatment that my daughter does, and it seems that many have been helped a lot. Unfortunately they don’t always continue to keep in touch, so I don’t have any idea how many are totally well. Our daughter continues to be well as she has been for almost 9 years now…no meds and no clinical symptoms.

That took about 5 minutes, including emailing Kalichman. She referred me to a video about it.

9 Replies to “Is Crohn’s Disease Really “Incurable”?”

  1. I often have digestive problems, sometimes including constipation, bloating, gas, and even a generalized discomfort all through my chest and abdomen.

    I don’t know what my medical diagnosis might be (celiac? IBS? Crohn’s? gluten sensitivity?), because I’ve never mentioned these problems to any doctors. Their solution to everything seems to be a bunch of drugs, and I can’t imagine how assaulting my gut bacteria with a lot of chemicals can possibly be a good idea.

    Instead of drugs, I’ve been eating a lot of bowls of high-fiber cereal-like concoctions of nuts, seeds, raisins, plain Greek yogurt, ground flax seed, powdered cinnamon, Sweetleaf Stevia with inulin, and whole milk. I get most of the ingredients from my local Whole Foods Market.

    I say “cereal-like,” because it tastes like a bowl of cold cereal, but there are no cereal grains involved.

    The mixture is delicious, and it seems to be really be helping my digestive problems.

  2. I have a niece with diabetes type 1. The parents, also, take the view that “it has no known cure” in spite of the fact that the internet has many, many cases of kids who have cured their diabetes with a change in diet (namely Dr. Natasha McBride’s GAPS protocol and even Robb Wolf’s Paleo Diet). I’ve sent many references to them – the latest response is that it’s just too hard to make these kinds of changes with a 12 year old! So, my niece will have to live with diabetes until she’s old enough to do something about it herself.

  3. My wife doesn’t have Crohn’s disease, but she has a history of idiopathic digestive problems — possibly irritable bowel syndrome. In any case, she’s been drinking kombucha daily for the past few years and has experienced considerable relief (though some problems remain). Prior to starting the kombucha, she tried various prescription drugs that either had no effect or actually made matters worse. She’s also tried other fermented foods (such as soy yogurt and miso) as well as several different probiotic supplements, but none of those had any effect.

    Seth: That’s very interesting that kombucha was more effective than other fermented foods. It’s hard to measure their general potency.

  4. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s about 4 years ago. My doctor prescribed Asacol which reduced the symptoms for about 6 months. However they then returned with a vengeance. I wasn’t thrilled with what came next on the treatment regimen so I did a lot of research, part of which first brought me to this blog, and stumbled across a YouTube video advocating the use of low doses of Naltrexone for the treatment of MS and other autoimmune conditions.

    Curiosity piqued, I found that it was also used successfully to treat Crohn’s. I decided to self-experiment and ordered some Naltrexone from an online pharmacy. Within a couple of weeks my symptoms were noticeably better and after several months I started to reduce my Asacol dosage ending up at roughly half the prescribed dosage.

    I am not ready to call myself cured but I have been without symptoms for at least a year and a half and have not had to be subjected to the escalation in treatment.

  5. This is more of the “blame the victim” bs that is rampant in our culture. It’s a huge part of the Tyranny of Positive Thinking that blames the patient and not the disease.

    It’s great that some people can remove their symptoms. However, all the diet changes and meditation and prayer and exercise and all of that did not change my symptoms one bit. Why? Because it’s an auto-immune disease. My body is wacky, not my attitude and not the way I take care of myself.

  6. Above commenter is right. Crohns and other forms of ibs ibd are highly individual. Some approaches work for some ppl, some don’t. Degree of intensity is also highly variable as are co-diseases.

  7. > “This is more of the “blame the victim” bs that is rampant in our culture. It’s a huge part of the Tyranny of Positive Thinking that blames the patient and not the disease.”

    Er, what? No one’s suggesting that people with Chrohn’s disease are to blame. What this article is saying, is that a few specific foods and supplements might help. That’s qualitatively the same sort of thing as saying that particular drugs might help, and I don’t think blame enters into the discussion, nor should it.

    Seth: Maybe he or she means I am “blaming the victim” because I note how easy it was to find Crohn’s success stories. Which the two people I refer to did not do. Let’s call it “educating the victim”.

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