Crohn’s Antibiotics: Managing Bacterial Overgrowth
Although a faulty immune system is often blamed for the disease, studies of the role antibiotics play in treating Crohn’s are starting to suggest that the immune system may be doing exactly what it’s supposed to do: fighting infection.
Research has shown the presence of a bacterium called Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis, or M-para, in the intestines of people with Crohn’s. Using antibiotics that target M-para has produced encouraging results in clinical trials, with claims of long-term remission of symptoms. Others suggest that M-para may be only one of a number of bacteria that contribute to the disease. In either case, clinical studies are taking the possibility of Crohn’s antibiotics very seriously.
Traditional Antibiotic Treatments for Crohn’s Disease
The viability of using antibiotics to treat Crohn’s disease directly has yet to be proven. In the meantime, antibiotics continue to be used to treat associated bacterial overgrowth and secondary infections. Antibiotics are also often used to treat intestinal obstructions, fistulas, abscesses and post-surgery infections. Ampicillin, ciprofloxacin, and metronidazole (known under the brand name Flagyl Â®) are the drugs most often used, but many other antibiotics are available. Below you’ll find brief descriptions of some of the more common Crohn’s antibiotics.
Ampicillin is closely related to penicillin, and people with penicillin allergy should inform their doctor before using ampicillin. Medical professionals should be informed that you take ampicillin if any form of surgery (including dental) is required.
Potential Side Effects: Side effects include upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting and skin rashes. Seek medical attention if you develop hives, itching, difficulty swallowing, breathing difficulties, severe rashes or vaginal infections.
Often used with metronidazole (Flagyl), ciprofloxacin should not be taken while pregnant or breastfeeding. While one of the most common antibiotics prescribed for Crohn’s disease in adults, it is not intended for use by children.
Inform your doctor of any prescription or nonprescription drugs you may be taking as ciprofloxacin has a long list of potential drug interactions. If you have diabetes, nervous system diseases, heart disease, tendonitis, liver or kidney disease, inform your doctor before taking ciprofloxacin.
Potential Side Effects: Side effects include sun sensitivity, lightheadedness, insomnia, dizziness and abdominal pain.
Metronidazole (Flagyl) Precautions
Metronidazole is very effective when used to treat colitis and anal fistulas in Crohn’s. If you take anticoagulants, disulfiram or lithium, inform your doctor before taking Flagyl.
In high doses, metronidazole can cause nerve damage. Conditions such as blood disorder, heart disease, liver disease and central nervous system diseases are often aggravated by metronidazole.
Potential Side Effects: When taken with alcohol, the following side effects can occur: nausea, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, a metallic taste in the mouth, rashes, or redness of the face. Check with your health professional for information about other side effects.
One of the sulfa-based antibiotics, sulfonamide is not recommended for use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Inform your health professional of all medications you take for Crohn’s disease and any other condition and any drug allergies before starting sulfonamide. Let your doctor know if you suffer from anemia or other blood diseases, glucose deficiency, kidney or liver problems. Taking sulfonamide if you have porphyria may bring on an attack.
Potential Side Effects: Side effects include sun sensitivity, itching, rashes, skin problems, fever, sore throat, and difficulty swallowing.
Before taking tetracycline, report any drug allergies to your doctor, especially antibiotic allergies.
Report any medication you currently use, including antacids, antibiotics, anticoagulants and vitamin supplements. Do not take while pregnant or breastfeeding. Inform your doctor if you have diabetes, liver disease or kidney disease.
Potential Side Effects: Side effects include stomach problems, diarrhea, rectal or vaginal itching, skin rashes, sore mouth, yellow eyes and yellow skin.