Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements
If you have Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, vitamin and mineral supplements may be recommended, especially if you are at risk for nutritional deficiencies. Deficiencies can be caused by certain medications, surgeries, or active inflammation from IBD, which can affect your body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals.
For many with IBD, eating a healthy diet rich in foods with vitamins and minerals may be all that you need. However, some patients may have trouble absorbing enough vitamins and minerals from food alone.
There are some supplements currently under investigation that may provide additional benefits for IBD patients:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, often found in fish oil, are known to have anti-inflammatory properties and several other health benefits. Some people use omega-3 fatty acids to help relieve intestinal inflammation from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. But, based on current research, the benefits remain unclear.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring
- Some green vegetables
Curcumin is the naturally occurring chemical found in the spice turmeric – which is derived from a ginger root – and may help to reduce inflammation. Some small studies have shown promising results in the treatment of ulcerative colitis when used with mesalamine therapy. However, trials with a larger number of people are needed to establish a clear role for curcumin. Curcumin used in cooking is generally safe, but large doses taken in supplement form can act as a blood thinner. Additionally, the safety of taking curcumin during pregnancy is unknown.
Lang A et al. CGH 2015;13:1444-1449.
Hanai H et al., CGH 2006;4:1502-1506.
Note about dietary supplements
These products can be marketed without approval from the FDA, unless they are made using a new dietary ingredient. That means manufacturers’ claims about effectiveness are largely unproven. The FDA does regulate dietary supplements to prevent adulterated or misbranded products. Claims on the label that the product is safe and effective may not be entirely accurate.
It is possible for supplements to be misrepresented, contaminated, or degraded. Regulation of natural supplements is much more relaxed as compared to prescription medication, which is subject to rigorous testing. The FDA requires proof that prescriptions are both safe and effective for the condition they are intended to treat before it will give approval.
You should not stop taking your prescribed medication, even if you are using supplements to help manage your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis symptoms. Always talk with your provider before starting any supplement regimen.