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A Brief Guide to Crohn’s Disease

A Brief Guide to Crohn’s Disease

What is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn's Disease is an irritable bowel disease, popularly known as the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). IBD is an umbrella term used for Crohn's and other conditions such as ulcerative colitis. Crohn's gives rise to inflammation of the digestive tract, which can further lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, and severe malnutrition.

Inflammation can involve various parts of the digestive tract. The degree of effect largely differs from person to person. In more severe cases, the inflammation can spread into deeper layers of the bowel.

Crohn's Disease is both extremely painful and enfeebling. It may also give birth to fatal complications.

Unfortunately, medical experts are yet to find an exact cure for this type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. However, therapies are considered an effective way of reducing the signs and symptoms of this illness. Similarly, these therapies also diminish the severity of inflammation and healing the same in the long run. With correct treatment, people dealing with Crohn's Disease can regain their functionality.

Most commonly, Crohn's occurs in the small intestine and colon regions. It can cause damage to any part of your gastrointestinal tract (GI), starting from the mouth to the anus. Additionally, it can also involve some parts of the GI tract and skip other areas.

Here's a brief guide for Crohn's Disease to understand this ailment better.

The gravity of Crohn's depends on the seriousness of the symptoms. Symptoms vary and can change over time. In graver cases, the implications of an untreated Crohn's Disease are life-threatening.

Symptoms of Crohn's Disease

The symptoms of Crohn's Disease develop gradually; certain symptoms may get worse with time. The chances of dramatic or sudden development of symptoms are few and far between. The most common symptoms of Crohn's one should look out for are-

  • Diarrhea 
  • Blood in stool 
  • Fever 
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Fatigue 
  • Loss of Appetite 
  • Weight Loss 
  • Frequent urge or need for bowel movement 
  • Not feeling empty after a bowel movement

These symptoms are often mistaken for some other health condition such as food poisoning or an allergy, to name a few. It is better to consult a doctor if any or all of these symptoms continue.

With time the Disease may get worse. Some of the more troublesome symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Perianal Fistula - It causes drainage and pain around the anus. 
  • Ulcers - May occur at any place in the body. The most common areas are the mouth and the anus. 
  • Skin and Joint Inflammation 
  • Respiratory Problems - Crohn's can cause difficulties in breathing and exercising due to shortness of breath or decreased ability to exercise due to inadequate healthy red blood cells in the body

Early detection and diagnosis help one to avoid fatal complications. The earlier the problem is identified, the sooner it is cured.

What causes Crohn's Disease?

It is not possible to put the finger on one precise set of causes for Crohn’s Disease. However, in the previous decades, diet and stress were considered a very probable cause. Today, modern-day doctors opine that diet and stress may aggravate the condition however do not cause Crohn's Disease.

Some of the most plausible causes of Crohn's Disease are -

Egregious Immunity - A person with poor immunity is more prone to getting infected by a virus or a bacterium. Experts are of the view that a certain type of virus or bacteria may trigger Crohn's. Scientists are yet to identify a trigger of that nature. When the immune system fights the outside microorganism, an abnormal immune response may cause the immune system to attack its cells present inside the digestive tract.

Heredity- Your genes may have a crucial role to play when it comes to Crohn's. It is more common in people who have had a family history with this disease. However, it is not always necessary for the person infected with Crohn's Disease to have a history of such a condition.

Risk factors for Crohn's Disease

The risk factors for Crohn's Disease are -

Family history - You're at high risk of having an immediate family member, such as a parent, sibling, or child, dealing with the Disease. One out of every five people with Crohn's Disease has or had a family member with the same health concern.

Cigarette smoking - Cigarette smoking is an essential risk factor for developing Crohn's Disease. Fortunately, it is controllable. Smoking also leads to greater complications and a higher risk of having surgery. Doctors suggest that one should quit at the earliest to stay healthy.

Anti-inflammatory medications include ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin IB, others, naproxen sodium (Aleve), diclofenac sodium, etc. They do not necessarily cause Crohn's Disease. However, they can potentially lead to inflammation of the bowel that makes Crohn's Disease worse.

How is Crohn's Disease Diagnosed?

A single test result is not sufficient for your doctor to initiate treatment for Crohn's Disease. They will start with the elimination of other possible causes of the symptoms that manifest in your body.

Your doctor may use several different types of tests to make a diagnosis. These tests are -

  • Blood test - To help your doctor look for the plausible indicators of problems, such as anemia and inflammation 
  • Stool test- It helps the physician to detect blood in your gastrointestinal tract. 
  • Endoscopy- The doctor may ask you for an endoscopy to better understand the upper portions of the gastrointestinal tract. 
  • Colonoscopy- The doctor may also ask for it to examine the large bowel. 
  • Imaging tests- Tests like CT scans and MRI scans help in getting more detail than a common X-ray. These tests aid in seeing specific areas of your tissues and organs. 
  • Biopsy- The doctor will likely have a tissue sample taken to examine the tissues of the intestinal tract.

Treatment for Crohn's Disease

As mentioned above, a specifically designed cure for Crohn's Disease is not yet discovered. With correct combinations of medicines, diets, and exercises, one can manage it well and live a healthy life. There are various treatment options available that can lessen the pain and frequency of the symptoms and ultimately heal them.

Medications

Plenty of medicines are considered effective in treating Crohn's Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are the most common of all types of drugs. Advanced medications include biologics that make use of the body's immune system to fight diseases. Although Crohn's Disease medications are readily available, it is always better to consult a physician before taking any medication as the anti-inflammatory medicines may cause side effects to your body.

Surgery

Surgeries are often the last resort to any health concern as they involve a greater risk of complications. However, in cases where less invasive treatments and lifestyle changes do not make situations better, surgery becomes necessary. According to some studies, about 75 percent of people dealing with Crohn's Disease will have to undergo surgery at some point in their lives.

In some surgeries, the damaged portions of the digestive tract are removed and reconnected with the healthy parts. In comparison, other procedures focus on repairing the damaged tissues and treat the deeper infection.

Food

Food is connected to the triggered flares of the Disease. A person diagnosed with Crohn's Disease will require a registered dietitian to understand the impact of their food choices on the symptoms.

Generally, patients are asked to maintain a record or diary of the foods they eat throughout the day and how it makes them feel. This monitoring helps the RD in creating a diet chart for the patient. The changes are made in your eating habits with a vision to provide your body with as many nutrients as possible while limiting the negatively impacting foods simultaneously.

Crohn's Disease Diet

Every human body is different, so one single diet plan may or may not work for all. Your RD will design a customized diet plan that suits your body and its needs.

It's quintessential to understand your body well and then focus on what works best for you. For this reason, doctors around the globe ask their patients to monitor and keep track of their symptoms and then add or remove certain types of foods from their diet plan accordingly.

Adjustment in Fiber Intake

Some people require a high fiber diet, while for others, a little residue from high fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables can cause trouble. Therefore, one needs to make diligent adjustments in fiber intake from time to time. The doctor must first consult any changes made in the diet.

Limitations on Fat Intake

Crohn's Disease may cause hindrances in breaking down and absorbing fat. This excess fat passes from the small intestine to the colon, which further causes diarrhea. Some studies suggest that a diet rich in plant-based fats can make positive changes in the gut microbiome. Medical experts are intensively researching it. In the meantime, it is advised that patients take the help of their doctors in matters of fat intake.

Cutting Dairy Foods

Many people complain of becoming lactose intolerant after contracting Crohn's Disease. In this condition, the body loses its ability to digest some dairy products. Consumption of such dairy products leads to abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and an upset stomach.

Hydration

Crohn's Disease can also lead to urinary incontinence. You may feel the urge to urinate often. Some people get tired of using the toilet too many times a day and end up dehydrating themselves. However, drinking enough water helps in curing Crohn's Disease at a quicker pace.

Nutrition

Crohn's Disease adversely affects the ability of your intestines to absorb nutrients from your food sufficiently. Simply eating a balanced and nutrients packed meal might not do enough. In that case, your doctor may suggest some multivitamins and other important supplements that can help you regain your strength.

Natural Treatments for Crohn’s Disease

Many people prefer complementary and alternative medicines or CAM to manage symptoms of varied health complications, including Crohn’s.

Although Crohn’s Disease Natural Treatment is not certified by doctors per se, they are widely popular amongst people worldwide. Prefer not to use them without your doctor's prior approval of the same.

Some CAM treatments for Crohn’s disease consist -

  • Probiotics - Probiotics are live bacteria helpful in the replacement and rebuilding of the good bacteria in the intestinal tract. They are also helpful in the prevention of microorganisms from perturbing the natural balance of your gut. Maintaining the natural balance of your gut is essential as it aids in avoiding constant flares of Crohn's. 
  • Prebiotics - Prebiotics are potentially valuable materials present in plants, such as asparagus, bananas, and leeks. They are beneficial in the development of good bacteria in your gut by large numbers. 
  • Fish oil - Fish oil is a rich source of Omega-3s. It is extensively used worldwide to soothe the inflammation caused by Crohn's disease.

Surgery for Crohn’s Disease

Although surgery might seem as an extreme step for any condition, it is generally recommended and a common treatment option for Crohn’s disease. Surgery cannot cure Crohn’s, but it can make the life of an individual easier and more comfortable.

Types of Surgery for Crohn’s Disease

  1. Fistula Removal – Fistulas in Crohn’s disease for mostly between two different parts of the intestine or between the intestine and a nearby body part such as the bladder. This surgery works by either closing, opening, removing, or draining the fistula.
  2. Colectomy – Colectomy involves the removal of a part of or all of the colon that has been affected by Crohn’s. It can also be a large bowel resection. Colectomies are often followed by colostomies for the comfortable excretion of bodily waste for the individual.
  3. Protolectomy – A rare surgical step, proctocolectomy involves the complete removal of the colon and rectum, or the large intestine, in cases where they are severely damaged due to Crohn’s disease. A colostomy is required after a proctocolectomy as well.
  4. Strictureplasty – Crohn's disease can narrow the lining of the intestines and cause blockages. Strictureplasty helps broaden these areas of the intestine for smoother passage of food. It doesn’t involve the removal of any part of the intestine.
  5. Ileostomy – Ileostomies are a common surgery option for people suffering from Crohn’s disease. A small hole in the belly is made near the ileum for the excretion of waste from the body. Ostomy bags are used after an ileostomy for comfortable and safe drainage.

Crohn’s Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are placed under the same umbrella term, IBD. They have several similar characteristics; hence they are often mistaken for one another.

They have the following in common:

  • The initial signs and symptoms of both Crohn’s disease and UC are quite the same. These include diarrhea, stomach pain, rectal bleeding, fatigue, and abnormal weight loss. 
  • Both of these diseases occur more commonly in people aged 15 to 35. People with a record of any of the two IBDs are at high risk. 
  • Scientists are yet to find a definite cause for either disease. An overactive immune system has an important part to play in Crohn's disease as well as Ulcerative Colitis.

How is Crohn's Disease different from Ulcerative Colitis?

  • UC affects the colon alone, unlike Crohn’s disease, which is competent to affect any part of the GI tract starting from the mouth to the anus region. 
  • UC damages the outer layers of the colon, known as the mucosa. While, Crohn’s disease damages all the layers of the intestinal tissues, even the deeper ones. 
  • UC is a type of inflammation of the colon, many other types of colitis exist, and not all of the same are identical to intestinal inflammation.

 

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