Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), does not have one standard treatment. Complementary and alternative medicines may help some people with the condition.

Several treatments for Crohn’s disease can help manage symptoms and prevent flares and complications. However, no standard treatment works for everyone. This means a person may need to try several approaches until they can manage the disease.

As part of the process of finding a reliable treatment, some people may turn to complementary and alternative medicines, including supplements, dietary changes, acupuncture, and more.

While these choices may not work for everyone, some evidence suggests they can work for at least some people. This article reviews complementary and alternative medicines that may help with Crohn’s disease.

Certain supplements may help a person feel some relief from Crohn’s disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids may help with preventing flares in Crohn’s disease. According to a 2020 review, 4 out of 6 studies reported evidence that omega-3 can help with the prevention of flares. However, the remaining two larger, high quality studies showed that they are probably ineffective for maintenance of Crohn’s disease.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D supplements may also be effective in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increase in flares, hospitalizations, and the need for steroid treatment.


Turmeric supplements may help with Crohn’s disease. It contains a compound called curcumin.

Some evidence suggests that curcumin, in high quantities, may also help reduce disease activity in people living with Crohn’s disease. In a 2022 study, researchers concluded that enough high quality evidence exists to suggest that it can help both treat and maintain remission in people living with IBD.

A person can add turmeric as a supplement or as part of their diet. It is a popular spice in many different cuisines.

Probiotics contain microorganisms that may provide support to the gut’s microbiome. Many experts believe the gut microbiome connects to several aspects of a person’s health, and researchers continue to look into the connection between keeping it healthy and conditions like Crohn’s disease.

In a 2020 review of studies, researchers looked at the relationship between prebiotics and probiotics and various conditions, including IBD.

Regarding Crohn’s disease, they noted that only a limited number of studies exist regarding the use of probiotics. Of those that exist, many are smaller or not well-designed.

They further stated that several studies have looked into the use of probiotics for the maintenance of Crohn’s disease. Though some have shown favorable results in keeping Crohn’s disease in remission, others have shown mixed results.

However, they noted that prebiotics may help improve Crohn’s disease symptoms and help reduce a person’s overall susceptibility to the disease. In other words, their use may help prevent the development of the condition in people.

Prebiotics are slightly different from probiotics. They provide nutrients to the bacteria and other organisms in the gut that get broken down. The compounds released when broken down enter the bloodstream and may provide beneficial effects to several areas of the body.

A person can find supplements of both prebiotics and probiotics at pharmacies, health food stores, or online. Before starting them, a person should consider asking a doctor about any possible interactions with current medications that they should be aware of.

Dietary changes may help with maintaining remission and reducing symptom severity when Crohn’s disease flares.

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, maintaining a balanced diet with enough nutrients and calories to prevent malnourishment can be challenging. Some foods can worsen symptoms, while others can help improve them.

The organization recommends working with a doctor, nutritionist, or other medical professional to help develop a diet that avoids triggering foods and maintains adequate nutrition for the person.

Current research supports the use of dietary interventions to help with the treatment of Crohn’s disease. A 2022 study notes that an adequate diet can help support gut microbiota and help prevent an immune system response in the intestines. The researchers recommend a person work with a medical professional to develop a dietary plan that helps prevent flares and reduce their symptom severity.

Anti-inflammatory foods

Certain foods may help boost anti-inflammatory effects. However, not everyone living with Crohn’s disease will benefit from eating every food that has these properties. For some, potentially beneficial foods may trigger flares.

Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • oily fish, such as tuna and salmon
  • fruits, such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and cherries
  • vegetables, including kale, spinach, and broccoli
  • nuts and seeds
  • fiber
  • beans
  • olives and olive oil

Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine that dates back thousands of years. The basic principle of the practice is to stimulate points throughout the body, known as acupoints. These points help carry vital energy — “qi” — throughout the body.

Research has shown that many of the points occur over nerve bundles, which may explain how it can help relieve pain associated with different conditions, such as Crohn’s disease.

Currently, evidence supporting the use of acupuncture for Crohn’s disease is limited. However, what evidence does exist is generally positive and suggests that it may help with managing Crohn’s disease. Additional larger studies are still needed to better show how acupuncture may help.

Mindfulness is a practice that helps a person focus their attention on their feelings and present moment without judgment. It may be done as part of meditation or as a way to reassess a person’s current mental state.

In a 2022 study, researchers examined the effect that mindfulness training has on people living with Crohn’s disease. They noted that many people living with Crohn’s disease have high levels of stress and depression and low levels of subjective well-being, which measures how participants feel about their life and how satisfied they are with it.

They found that mindfulness can help people living with Crohn’s disease improve their subjective well-being and maintain typical functioning.

Exercise may also help people with Crohn’s disease. However, existing evidence regarding its exact effects on the condition is relatively limited.

In a 2022 review of studies, researchers found several benefits that may occur with regular physical activity, such as reduced disease activity and improved energy levels, cardiovascular health, and mood. They noted that additional studies are still needed to fully understand the potential benefits associated with physical activity and Crohn’s disease.

Still, exercise and physical activity can have numerous benefits outside Crohn’s disease. Moderate physical activity can help with cardiovascular health, weight management, and prevention of several different conditions.

Several different complementary and alternative medicines may help with Crohn’s disease. A person may not benefit from every therapy. They should also consider speaking with a doctor before starting any supplements or making drastic changes to either diet or exercise.