Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease typically occurring in the small intestine or colon, although it can affect any area of the GI tract.
While much is known about this disease, it still remains somewhat mysterious to modern science. More information is required as to how exactly it starts and what demographics are most affected by it.
Crohn’s Disease manifests in varying levels of intensity ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms also vary, as well as alter over time.
In some cases, flare-ups can be life-threatening.
Both conventional and holistic medicine are making progress in the diagnosis and treatment of Crohn’s disease, but there is still much work to be done.
What Are The Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease usually appear gradually, but can sometimes occur very rapidly. Asymptomatic periods are also common.
Symptoms of an active case of Crohn’s Disease include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Reduced appetite
- Unintended weight loss
- Mouth sores
- Bloody stool
- Pain and/or drainage near or around the anus resulting from inflammation
Some less common symptoms include:
- Liver and/or bile duct inflammation
- Inflammation of the eyes, joints, and skin
- In children, Crohn’s Disease can delay sexual development and growth
People often mistake the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease for those of other diseases; most commonly: cancer, food poisoning, or severe allergies.
Those who suffer from Crohn’s Disease are more likely to develop intestinal infections as a result of:
The immune system can also be negatively affected; infections from foreign invaders are often worse than normal.
Yeast infections are also more common.
As stated above, the absolute cause or causes of Crohn’s Disease is not entirely clear. Your genes, immune system, and environment are all factors that play a role in whether or not you are vulnerable to developing Crohn’s Disease.
Between 5% and 20% of those who suffer from Crohn’s Disease also have a first-degree relative (sibling, parent, or child) who also has it.
Your risk of developing Crohn’s Disease is much higher if both of your parents have IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).
Those of European descent are most at risk.
The Immune System
When the body is under attack from a foreign invader, cells travel from the blood to the intestines and initiate an inflammatory response. Inflammation is one of the ways in which the body fights off foreign invaders. However, the body can sometimes mistake harmless bacteria or the body’s own tissues as a threat; thus, inflammation becomes chronic.
One’s environment seems to play a role in one’s chances of developing Crohn’s Disease. People in the following locations are more at risk:
- Urban cities and towns; it is more rare for those living in rural areas
- Developed countries
- Northern climates
Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s is typically diagnosed by process of elimination. It usually requires a number of different tests, from which doctors rule out other diseases.
Crohn’s Disease treatment typically includes the following tests:
Lab testing for Crohn’s Disease usually involves a combination of the following tests:
- Liver function testing: Crohn’s affects the liver and bile ducts.
- Complete blood count (CBC): This test looks for infection and anemia (a deficiency of red blood cells).
- Electrolyte panels: Being low in potassium and other minerals is an indicator of Crohn’s disease (this is often the result of Crohn’s-related diarrhea).
- C-reactive protein tests: This protein is a sign of inflammation.
- Iron & B12 Level Testing: People with Crohn’s Disease absorb less nutrients via the small intestine, which can result in low levels of iron and B12.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate tests: This test involves recording how long it takes for your blood to settle to the bottom of a medical tube, indicating the level of inflammation present in your system.
- Antibody tests: Doctors can determine the likelihood of your having Crohn’s Disease through:
○ Perinuclear anti-neutrophile cytoplasmic antibody tests (pANCA) – Those who have this protein are more likely to have Crohn’s.
○ Anti-Saccharomyces cerevisiae antibody tests (ASCA) – People with this protein are also more likely to have Crohn’s.
Doctors will also typically employ:
- Imaging studies
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Conventional Treatments for Crohn’s Disease
Conventional treatment for Crohn’s Disease typically involves the following medications:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
Natural Treatments for Crohn’s Disease
Many people believe that acupuncture can stimulate the brain in a way that causes it to release endorphins; these chemicals block pain and can thus relieve symptoms of Crohn’s Disease.
Furthermore, endorphins can also boost the immune system, giving your body a better chance at fighting infection.
This is a form of therapy that utilizes a machine to help you see how your body is responding to pain. It is believed that biofeedback can help you control your response to blood flow, body temperature, brain waves, and perspiration levels.
Herbal & Botanical Treatments
Many of these substances can help with Crohn’s Disease symptoms, including:
- Elm bark
- Peppermint tea
- Aloe vera juice
The body is filled with bacteria. Fortunately, a lot of this bacteria is “good bacteria”; bacteria your body needs to stay healthy.
Probiotics are good bacteria that can be found in various foods, but they can also be taken in large amounts via supplements.
Probiotic intake is a common form of treatment for Crohn’s Disease. This can come in the form of a supplement and/or a modification of one’s diet to include more of the following foods:
These are nutrients that probiotics consume, improving how they function in the GI tract. Taking probiotics in combination with prebiotics is a way of boosting the effectiveness of probiotic treatment.
Like probiotics, prebiotics can be taken in supplement form and/or via dietary modifications, including heavier consumption of:
- Whole grains
Fish Oil Supplements
Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may have anti-inflammatory qualities. Thus taking fish oil supplements can help reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease.
Other Dietary Changes
- Fiber intake adjustments: High-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables can over-exert the GI tract and intensify symptoms of Crohn’s Disease. Patients can benefit by switching to a low-residue diet.
- Limiting fat: Crohn’s can weaken the body’s ability to absorb fat, which can intensify Crohn’s-related diarrhea.
- Limiting dairy: Those with Crohn’s can experience lactose intolerance, so dairy consumption should be limited.
- Drinking more water: Many people with Crohn’s become dehydrated, as this disease can lower your body’s ability to absorb water. Those with Crohn’s-related diarrhea are particularly vulnerable.