Stem Cell Therapy and,Patients with Ileitis
Chronic abdominal pain affects millions of people each year in the US alone. While there are numerous potential causes, Crohn’s disease is a common underlying condition, particularly for conditions such as ileitis, which is an inflammation of the ileum. However, it should be noted that ileitis can also be caused by a bacterial infection, in which case it is not a type of Crohn’s disease, and standard antibiotic treatment will help alleviate symptoms. Other diseases can also cause ileitis. In Crohn’s-related ileitis, antibiotics will not help.
What Is Ileitis?
Ileitis is an inflammation of the ileum, and according to published studies,
“is classically caused by Crohn’s disease.”
Healthline defines the condition as causing
“inflammation and irritation of the ileum.”
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation explains that it is similar in terms of symptoms and effects as ileocolitis, which is an inflammation of the ileum and the large intestine.
What Is the Ileum?
The ileum is the very end of the small intestine. Its primary function is to absorb vitamin B12 and bile salts, as well as digestive products that the jejunum does not absorb. The NCI explains it as,
“the last part of the small intestine. It connects to the cecum (first part of the large intestine). The ileum helps to further digest food coming from the stomach and other parts of the small intestine. It absorbs nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins) and water from food so they can be used by the body.”
What Are the Symptoms of Ileitis?
Ileitis presents with a number of common symptoms. Crohn’s related ileitis usually begins with pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, which can spread to other areas if left untreated. Other symptoms include diarrhea, painful abdominal cramping, weight loss, and possibly the formation of abscesses (fistulas) in the lower right abdomen. Note that symptoms may be acute in onset and this may be confused with symptoms of appendicitis. It is also important to note that symptoms may come and go over time. Most patients experience a slow progression of symptoms, marked by periods of remission.
Who Is At Risk for Ileitis?
Ileitis can affect anyone of any age, but it is more common in people between 20 and 50 years of age. There is no known cause for ileitis or other forms of Crohn’s disease, although chronic inflammation is the primary reason for symptoms. The most likely cause is thought to be an immune system reaction to either food or bacteria in the intestines, which would cause the inflammation responsible for symptoms.
What Are the Conventional Treatment Options for Ileitis?
The most common method for dealing with ileitis, as well as for other forms of Crohn’s disease, is to take medications. Anti-inflammatory medications can help to control the inflammation responsible for symptoms. Antibiotics may also help. Antidiarrheal drugs and corticosteroids are also used. Ultimately, immune suppressants may be used.
Lifestyle changes can also provide relief from symptoms, although these must be followed at all times and cannot be abandoned during periods when symptoms are in remission. Avoiding known triggers, such as spicy foods or those very high in fiber, is important. Patients are also recommended to follow a balanced diet and get enough exercise.
Most patients with ileitis also require nutritional support to obtain the nutrients they lack due to poor digestion. Dietary supplements can be used for this purpose.
Finally, surgery may be an option depending on the severity of the condition. Generally, this is only reserved for worst-case situations in which the condition has caused the formation of abscesses or obstructions.
How Can Stem Cells Help Treat Ileitis?
Stem cell therapy shows promise for treating a very wide range of conditions, most of which share inflammation as their common cause. Stem cells are the body’s building blocks and healers – they are precursor cells that can transform into other types of cells as necessary to replace damaged and dying cells and can also heal all types of body tissues.
Stem cell IV therapy introduced live umbilical cord-derived stem cells has shown promise in treating ileitis. In the cited case, a 32-year-old male patient was scheduled to have a stem cell IV to address chronic fatigue and illness. The day of the appointment, he suffered acute onset abdominal pain in the upper right quadrant. While appendicitis was suspected, the stem cell IV was administered. Afterward, the patient had a surgical consult with a second medical practitioner.
The consult indicated that the patient suffered from ileitis, possibly Crohn’s, and not appendicitis. Within two hours of the initial transfusion, and with no medications of any kind, the patient’s pain and discomfort subsided. Two weeks later, a second stem cell infusion was conducted with no signs of abdominal pain or inflammation. A subsequent colonoscopy found no evidence of Crohn’s. The patient has remained asymptomatic during the following 14 months despite a family history of Crohn’s disease.
Allogeneic Stem Cells vs. Autologous Stem Cells
It is important to note that allogeneic stem cells were used in the treatment discussed above, rather than autologous stem cells. Allogeneic stem cells are sourced from umbilical cord blood and tissue and provide numerous advantages not found with autologous stem cells, which are those sourced from the patient’s own fat tissue or bone marrow. Notably, allogeneic stem cells are immune system naïve, which means they do not cause any sort of immune system reaction when administered. Also, because these are brand new stem cells, they have a lifetime of healing and divisions ahead of them and they carry no genetic damage, such as autologous stem cells can.
While more studies must be conducted on the use of allogeneic stem cells to treat ileitis and other GI conditions, the process shows great promise. Note that the FDA currently does not approve any stem cell treatments within the US. Any such treatments should be considered experimental.