Crohns Disease Symptoms

What is Crohn's Disease?

Crohns Disease is a disorder that causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) or digestive tract. This inflammation causes Crohns Disease symptoms and can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Most commonly the inflammation involves the lower part of the small intestine, which is known as the ileum.

Crohn's Disease Most Commonly Affects the Ileum

Crohn’s Disease and a related condition known as Ulcerative Colitis, are the main conditions belonging to a group of illnesses known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Crohns Disease symptoms can be similar to those of Ulcerative Colitis but the two are different illnesses.

The exact cause of both these conditions is presently not known but the consensus among many researchers is that digestive flora or gut micro flora play a significant role.

In the case of Crohn’s Disease, the most popular theory is that that a disease-causing agent, known as a pathogen, disrupts the immune system causing it to malfunction. It is thought that the immune system then inappropriately identifies the normal digestive flora as a threat and attacks it. This results in inflammation, which causes Crohns Disease symptoms.

Crohns Disease symptoms include weight loss, persistent diarrhea, cramping abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fatigue and vomiting. Many people with Crohn’s disease also have symptoms outside the gut affecting the joints, skin, liver and eyes.

Over time the ongoing inflammation of the digestive tract such as is present in Crohn’s Disease can cause additional complications such as tears (fissures) in the lining of the anus or fistulas – abnormal tunnels between two body cavities or organs, which are not usually connected.

Crohn’s Disease symptoms can be mild or severe. Patients usually experience peaks and troughs in terms of their symptoms with periods of flare-ups and episodes of remission.

Can Probiotics Help Crohns Disease?

The consensus that bacteria play a key role in Crohn’s Disease has led to the present-day Crohn’s Disease treatments. These aim to manipulate the digestive flora by means of suppression using immunosuppressant drugs to reduce the immune system response. Antibiotics may also be used to suppress the digestive flora.

Given that the manipulation of digestive flora appears to help alleviate or at least control Crohns Disease symptoms, the use of probiotics as a possible future treatment for Crohn’s Disease is now receiving increasing interest in the medical research community. It is thought that probiotics could offer hope in reducing the severity of flare-ups for Crohn’s Disease patients, whilst also lengthening the time that the disease stays in remission and strengthening the immune system. An additional appeal of probiotics is that they do not indiscriminately destroy the micro flora, as do antibiotics. Rather than disturbing the digestive flora therefore, it is thought that probiotics may be able to work with the gut microbiota to break the cycle of chronic inflammation, thereby relieving the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease1.

To date the evidence for the use of probiotics in Crohn’s Disease is inconclusive. A lack of funds means that research is limited, and comparisons between studies are hampered by the fact that the few studies undertaken use different probiotic strains, patient populations and dosages. Some of these studies have concluded that probiotics offer no benefit to Crohn’s Disease2,3,4,5. Other researchers however have concluded that probiotics do indeed help relieve and alleviate Crohns Disease symptoms. Have a look at our table below to learn how probiotics have been shown to benefit cases of Crohn’s Disease:

Probiotic UsedNumber of PatientsBeneficial EffectReference
E. Coli Nissle 1977, marketed as Mutaflor 24Maintaining remissionMalchow HA; 19976
Lactobacillus GG4Improved gut barrier function and clinical status Gupta et al; 20007
Lactobacillus GG14Improved mucosal barrierMalin, al; 19968
Saccharomyces boulardii20Reduction in number of daily bowel movements Plein, al; 19939
Saccharomyces boulardii32Decreased chance of relapse when used with mesalamineGuslandi, M. et al; 200010
VSL3 20Very similar to mesalamine in preventing recurrenceCampieri, M; 200011

Additionally, there is a good deal of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of probiotics for Crohn’s Disease, notably from patients themselves. Many report benefits from taking probiotics, notably a reduction in their Crohns Disease symptoms. Some who have responded poorly to conventional treatment report faring better on probiotics. A case in point is the story of Jordan Rubin, author of the book "Restoring Your Digestive Health".

Should I Try Probiotics?

Having read this page you may be wondering whether or not you should try probiotics. Could they help relieve or alleviate your Crohns Disease symptoms?

Well, the evidence demonstrating that probiotics are likely to be of benefit for people with Crohn’s Disease is certainly weaker than that regarding Ulcerative Colitis

That said, the initial evidence that probiotics may demonstrate some benefit for sufferers of Crohn’s Disease is exciting.

Also a great deal of anecdotal evidence exists demonstrating that probiotics are widely used, often with success, among Crohn’s Disease patients. The choice is yours though.... If you feel that this amounts to enough evidence to warrant trying probiotics for yourself, be sure to contact your physician before you start. Take care too to select the probiotic species and strains which have been shown to help Crohns Disease symptoms. Additionally make sure you select only the best quality products on the market. See our FREE buyer's guide for more help in this area!


1.Cartright, P; Probiotics for Crohn’s and Colitis,Prentice Publishing, Ilford, 2003

2.Prantera C. et al; Ineffectiveness of Probiotics in Preventing Recurrence after Curative Resection for Crohn’s Disease: a Randomized Controlled Trial with Lactobacillus GG ; Gut 2002;51:405-409

3.Prantera, C; Probiotics for Crohn’s Disease–What Have we Learned; Gut;2006;55:757-759

4.Bousvaros A. et al; A Randomized, Double-blind Trial of Lactobacillus GG Versus Placebo in Addition to Standard Maintenance Therapy for Children with Crohn's Disease; Inflamm Bowel Dis. ;2005, Sep;11(9):833-9

5.Schultz, M et al; Lactobacillus GG in Inducing and Maintaining Remission of Crohn's Disease, BMC Gastroenterol; 2004; 4:5.

6.Malchow HA.; Crohn's Disease and Escherichia coli. A New Approach in Therapy to Maintain Remission of Colonic Crohn's Disease?; Journal Clin. Gastroenterol.; 1997;25:653-658

7.Gupta P, Andrew H, Kirschner BS, Guandalini S.; Is Lactobacillus GG Helpful in Children with Crohn’s Disease? Results of a Preliminary, Open-Label Study.; Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterol Nutr; 2000;31:453-457

8.Malin M, Suomalainen H, Saxelin M, Isolauri E. Promotion of IgA Immune Response in Patients with Crohn’s Disease by Oral Bacteriotherapy with Lactobacillus GG.; Ann Nutr Metab 1996;40:137-145

9.Plein K, Hotz J; Therapeutic Effects of Saccharomyces Boulardii on Mild Residual Symptoms in a Stable Phase of Crohn’s Disease with Special Respect to Chronic Diarrhea - a Pilot Study.; Z Gastroenterol; 1993;31:129-134

10.Guslandi M, Mezzi G, Sorghi M, Testoni PA; Saccharomyces Boulardii in Maintenance Treatment of Crohn's Disease.; Dig Dis Sci; 2000;45:1462-1464

11.Campieri, M. et al; Combination of Antibiotic and Probiotic Treatment is Efficacious in Prophylaxis of Post-Operative Recurrence of Crohn's disease: a Randomized Controlled Study vs Mesalamine.; Gastroenterology; 2000;118

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