If you’ve been dealing with Crohn’s Disease, you’re not alone. It’s a common disorder affecting around 4.9 million people worldwide. Beyond abdominal pain and diarrhea, you may be experiencing other symptoms such as eye and joint pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. In children, Crohn’s can result in a failure to grow.
But now there’s some good news. Patients with moderate to severe Crohn’s have a new treatment option. It’s an oral medication in pill form called upadacitinib — and it was just approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).
What makes this drug different from other approved medications? The results from a large Mount Sinai clinical trial that was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that it helps patients achieve, and even maintain, clinical and endoscopic remission. This means that when patients took upadacitinib during the trial, there was no longer any appearance of inflammation in their intestines or bowel during a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy.
Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Lasting remission has been difficult to achieve.
The study spanned 43 countries and 277 sites and enrolled a diverse group of patients aged 18 to 75 years of age who had had moderate to severe Crohn’s disease for at least three months. The medication was taken once daily for 12 weeks. Participants were randomly assigned to take either upadacitinib or a placebo — a substance such as a sugar pill that has no therapeutic effect and is used as a control when testing new drugs.
Those patients given the new drug who had a positive clinical response to the medication were then randomly assigned to a maintenance trial and again received upadacitnib once daily, this time for 52 weeks. The purpose of this phase was to evaluate the drug’s ability to sustain remission and prevent a relapse.
The results were successful. The therapy substantially reduced the rate of disease relapse and illustrated its potential as a long-term treatment option for Crohn’s disease.
Beyond medication, there are also dietary and lifestyle changes that can help. They won’t bring your disease into remission, but they can help manage Crohn’s flare-ups. Here are suggestions from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation [pdf]:
- Avoid NSAIDS. Stay away from aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, as these drugs can trigger GI symptoms in IBS patients.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine results in an over-production of stomach acid and decreases the production of sodium bicarbonate, causing a significant worsening of certain IBS symptoms.
- Reduce stress. Anxiety and stress can activate the central nervous system, which in turn releases hormones that affect digestive processes in your gut and may cause diarrhea, constipation, gas or discomfort.
- Try a low-fat diet. Doctors commonly recommend a low-fat diet for IBS which may involve eating fewer than 27 grams of fat per day.
- Minimize caffeine. Caffeine can increase diarrhea, which is a major symptom of IBS. Common sources of caffeine include coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate.