Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that is associated with inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to flare-ups. For more than half a million American men and women who have been diagnosed with Crohn’s, inflammation is at the root of their Crohn’s disease symptoms
The most common location for Crohn’s disease inflammation is the last portion of the small intestine, at the junction where it joins the large intestine, but Crohn’s can involve any portion of the intestinal tract.
Abdominal pain and cramping are two of the many Crohn’s disease symptoms.
Inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people. The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissue. Crohn’s disease can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications.
Crohn syndrome and regional enteritis, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus. Signs and symptoms often include abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody if inflammation is severe), fever, and weight loss. Other complications may occur outside the gastrointestinal tract and include anemia, skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, and tiredness. The skin rashes may be due to infections as well as pyoderma gangrenosum or erythema nodosum. Bowel obstruction also commonly occurs and those with the disease are at greater risk of bowel cancer. Among children, growth failure is common. In addition to systemic and gastrointestinal involvement, Crohn’s disease can affect many other organ systems.[ Inflammation of the interior portion of the eye, known as uveitis, can cause blurred vision and eye pain, especially when exposed to light (photophobia).] Inflammation may also involve the white part of the eye (sclera), a condition called episcleritis.
Crohn’s disease also increases the risk of blood clots; painful swelling of the lower legs can be a sign of deep venous thrombosis, while difficulty breathing may be a result of pulmonary embolism. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia, a condition in which the immune system attacks the red blood cells, is also more common in Crohn’s disease and may cause fatigue, a pale appearance, and other symptoms common in anemia. Clubbing, a deformity of the ends of the fingers, may also be a result of Crohn’s disease. Finally, Crohn’s disease increases the risk of osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones. Individuals with osteoporosis are at increased risk of bone fractures.
People with Crohn’s often also have issues with small bowel bacterial overgrowth syndrome, which has similar symptoms.
In the oral cavity people with Crohn’s may develop cheilitis granulomatosa and other forms of orofacial granulomatosis, pyostomatitis vegetans, recurrent aphthous stomatitis, geographic tongue, and migratory stomatitis in higher prevalence than the general population.
The diagnosis of Crohn’s disease can sometimes be challenging, and a number of tests are often required to assist the physician in making the diagnosis. Even with a full battery of tests, it may not be possible to diagnose Crohn’s with complete certainty.
DIET FOR INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE
The fact is, there is no scientifically proven diet for inflammatory bowel disease. Most experts believe, though, that some patients can identify specific foods that trigger their gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly during disease flares. By avoiding your “trigger foods,” you may find that your GI symptoms of gas, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea are more manageable. At the same time, you will give your inflamed intestines time to heal.
It’s possible that at least some of these listed foods will trigger your symptoms:
alcohol (mixed drinks, beer, wine)
butter, mayonnaise, margarine, oils
coffee, tea, chocolate
dairy products (if lactose intolerant)
fatty foods (fried foods)
foods high in fiber
gas-producing foods (lentils, beans, legumes, cabbage, broccoli, onions)
nuts and seeds (peanut butter, other nut butters)
red meat and pork
whole grains and bran
Gastroenterologists have long known about the many complications and impacts of living with IBD. For example: If you have Crohn’s disease, your life expectancy is two to three years less than someone without the disease. People with IBD have an increased chance of developing colorectal cancer, correlating with the length of time they have had the disease. The probability of a person developing colorectal cancer after having IBD for 10 years is two per cent. After that, risk continues to rise and is as high as 18 per cent after 30 years. Side effects of the various IBD medications range from decreased fertility to an increased risk of lymphatic cancer. Women who have had surgery for their IBD may not be able to conceive. Due to the diseased intestinal tract’s failure to absorb nutrients, children with Crohn’s disease are usually smaller than their peers, which can have an impact on their social lives. One of the side effects of Crohn’s disease is mouth ulcers, which are painful and make it difficult to smile.
Multiple cross-sectional surveys have revealed that 51 percent of patients with inflammatory bowel disease use complementary medicine for treating their illness. These studies indicate an increase in people seeking out alternative treatment methods.
A 2007 study on Crohn’s disease patients found that 12 of the 17 participants who received spinal adjustments “showed long-term and stable remission of their symptoms.” They also found “that vertebral subluxation is a common and characteristic finding in patients with allergies and Crohn’s disease.”
A 2003 case study by Dr. Charles L. Blum, reports a 32-year-old female patient suffering from inflammatory bowel disease was relieved of this chronic condition following chiropractic treatment.
Your gastrointestinal tract contains “good” bacteria, which help with digestion and offer protection against “bad” bacteria. If you have taken antibiotics or have an illness, you may not have a sufficient supply of the good bacteria. Probiotics are living microorganisms that you can consume. They act very much like the good bacteria in your gut.
Probiotics have not been proven to reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and further study is needed. They may be more or less beneficial depending on the location and stage of the disease. Some strains might work for one person but not others. If you decide to try probiotics, talk to your doctor first, and try to find a product that is free of dairy because many people with Crohn’s disease are sensitive to dairy products.
Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates found in artichokes, honey, whole grains, bananas, onions, and garlic. They are food for probiotics and for intestinal bacteria. Adding prebiotics to your diet might improve the function of your normal intestinal bacteria. Using prebiotics along with probiotics might make the probiotics more effective.
Fish oil has long been used to promote cholesterol health, but its benefits to Crohn’s patients have also been suggested. According to a medical journal article in the Cochrane Database of System Reviews, omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, have anti-inflammatory properties. Since Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition, a diet rich in omega-3s or omega-3 supplementation may reduce symptoms. According to a small study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), patients taking fish oil were twice as likely to remain in remission as those who took a placebo. (NEJM,1996). Talk to your doctor before starting fish oil supplementation. Taking high doses of fish oil, or taking it in combination with blood thinning medication, can lead to bleeding problems.
Acupuncture uses thin needles inserted into special points on your body. It is believed that this stimulates your brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that block pain. They may also strengthen your immune system and help fight infection.
Biofeedback is a form of relaxation therapy. With the help of a machine that monitors your body temperature, perspiration level, blood flow, and brain waves, you are able to see how your body responds to pain and learn to control these responses. Over time, you can learn to manage your muscle contractions and pain.
Herbal and Botanical Treatments
Talk to you doctor before trying any herbal or botanical treatments. Some can interact dangerously with medications you might be taking. They may also have undesirable side effects. Some herbal and botanical treatments reported to help ease the symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
aloe vera juice
slippery elm bark