Does someone you know live with Crohn’s disease? Are you or someone you know experiencing a mix of abdominal and stomach pain? What about bloating, diarrhea, fever, nausea, loss of appetite or weight loss? What do these symptoms have to do with Crohn’s disease?
In this article, we will answer these questions and more as we discover what Crohn's disease is, and how it can be treated.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a chronic health condition that causes part or all of your digestive system to become inflamed. Inflammation is a natural part of your body’s immune response that results in tissues reddening and swelling. However, inflammation can be dangerous if it becomes chronic and results in Crohn’s disease.
7 Body Parts Affected by Crohn’s Disease
People often ask: Where does Crohn's disease affect? Crohn’s disease is a condition that impacts the following seven areas of the body:
1. Small intestine
2. Large intestine
7. Salivary glands
The immune system is thought to play a major role in Crohn’s. Inflammation in the gut is often the result of your body’s immune response, and chronic inflammation typically means that immune response has gone away.
Crohn’s disease leads to chronic inflammation that can interfere significantly with the healthy functioning of the digestive tract, leading to serious, even debilitating symptoms. People with Crohn’s disease typically experience gut pain and ulcerative colitis.
Want to know more about the symptoms of Crohn's Disease?
11 Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
You might find yourself asking: What are the early signs of Crohn's disease? Crohn’s causes a number of symptoms, most of which affect not just your digestive system but your overall quality of life. Major signs of Crohn’s disease can include:
1. Abdominal and stomach pain
4. Significant, unhealthy weight loss
8. Loss of appetite
9. Red bumps or irritation under the skin
10. Joint pain
11. Intestinal blockage
The presence of a number of these symptoms over an extended period of time is a good indication that you may be suffering from Crohn’s or another digestive disorder.
Considering all those symptoms, what kind of condition is Crohn's disease?
Crohn's Disease: Is it an Inflammatory Bowel Disease or an Autoimmune Disease?
Crohn’s disease is classified as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s is an immune disorder that leads to your immune system attacking healthy cells in your gut. Inflammation is part of your body’s immune system, Crohn’s disease is also thought to have characteristics of an autoimmune disorder or an immune-mediated disorder.
An autoimmune disorder involves your immune system attacking your body, while an immune-mediated disorder means your immune system is overactive.
7 Complications of Crohn’s Disease
Living with Crohn’s disease can lead to one or more of the following seven complications:
1. Inflammation: May be experienced in non-digestive body areas such as the skin, eyes, or joints.
2. Malnutrition: Could occur, which is a good indicator that diet and what you eat plays a large role in Crohn’s disease.
3. Bowel blockage: Because inflammation can lead the thickening of intestinal walls, if they narrow down the road, bowel blockages are a possibility.
4. Tunnels between organs: Due to inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease, the creation of a passage between organs may occur. This is known as fistulas. It is not normal and may also lead to infections.
5. Abscesses: These are pockets of infection that are filled with pus. They are painful and are a result of the inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease.
6. Ulcers: Could be experienced as a complication.
7. Anal tears: Pain, itching, or bleeding may be the result of a complication connected to Crohn’s disease. It is known as anal fissures.
Crohn’s Disease and Statistics
Here is a list of statistics on Crohn's disease:
• Population: In America, Crohn’s disease is more common than the rest of the world. In fact, the number of people living with Crohn’s disease is estimated at over a 500,000 and is growing.
• Development of Crohn’s disease: Is more likely if a person fits into one of the following three categories:
• Age: 20 and 29
• Smoking: Being a person who smokes cigarettes
• Genetics: A family member lives with Crohn’s disease
Wondering how smoking can lead to Crohn’s disease?
Smoking is a Risk Factor for Crohn’s Disease
If you smoke you are at a greater risk of developing Crohn’s disease. There multiple studies, smoking and its impact on different aspects of Crohn’s disease. For a close-up and in-depth examination of smoking as a risk factor for Crohn’s disease read: 7 Study Exploration: Smoking and How it is Linked in Crohn’s Disease
Genetics 4 Other Risk Factors that Increase the Risk of Developing Crohn's Disease
The genetic component of Crohn’s disease was first observed in the 1930s, and ever since the observations have been build upon through research, studies, and genome mapping. The Best Practice and Research: Clinical Gastroenterology explores the studies done on genetics in relation to Crohn’s disease. This is what is known:
• Chromosome 16: Has been identified as an increased likelihood of developing Crohn’s disease
• NOD2 gene mutations: The following gene mutations on the NOD2 gene have been linked to a higher risk of developing Crohn’s disease:
At least one of these gene mutations is known to be present in 30-40% of diagnosed Crohn’s disease.
• Hereditary percentage: The range of people diagnosed with Crohn’s disease who also have a family history or another family member with Crohn’s disease is 2-14%.
Here is a list of four other risk factors:
1. Immune system: Weakened or damaged immune system can contribute to developing Crohn’s.
2. Medications: All of these medications negatively affect the digestive system, and can damage the cells that line the intestines. Regular use of certain medications including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs):
• Oral contraceptives
2. Bacterial infection: People who have had a previous bacterial infection, such as E. coli, are also thought to be at greater risk of developing Crohn’s, as an infection can also trigger an inflammatory response.
4. Diet: may also be a causal factor. It is well established that certain foods cause inflammation in the gut. Eating a diet heavy in the following types of foods can raise the risk of developing Crohn's:
1. Processed foods
3. Unhealthy fats
The Food and Allergy Sensitivities Connection to Crohn's Risk Development
Inflammation in your gut will lead to increasing the chance of developing risk Crohn's disease. Inflammation can result because of food sensitivities and allergies. If you have a sensitivity or allergy to:
• Other foods
You may consider gluten and or dairy free diet that will help keep your inflammation risk low.
Crohn's disease, No Cure? Is that True?
Historically, Crohn’s disease has been said to have no cure. This is probably because when it comes to the question: How long do Crohn's disease symptoms last? — The answer is that they don’t fully ever go away. People living with Crohn's disease can experience times of symptom remission.
Crohn’s disease is therefore serious, but it is not life-threatening if treated. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and can change over time. People with Crohn’s have a normal life expectancy.
When it comes to treatment, conventional treatment approaches have typically involved a combination of medication and surgery to help keep symptoms at bay.
However, holistic health professionals have been increasingly successful in treating Crohn’s using natural, diet-based approaches.
These typically suggest that you stop eating foods that cause inflammation and increase your intake of foods and supplements that support digestive health. Such treatment approaches can lead to long-term remission of Crohn’s symptoms.
3 Types of Doctors to See to Find Out if you have Crohn’s Disease
Before you can treat and manage Crohn’s disease, you need you first know if you are living with Crohn’s disease.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Crohn’s or another chronic digestive disorder there three types of holistic doctors that you can turn to when looking for an answer to the question — Do I have Crohn’s disease? The three types of holistic doctors are:
Wondering how after choosing one of these three types of doctors would assess and diagnose Crohn's disease?
How is Crohn's Diagnosed?
Many people have found themselves asking: How do you know if you have Crohn's disease or not? One of the ways to demystify and answer this question is to go through the diagnosis process of Crohn’s disease.
Assessing you for Crohn’s may include exploring:
• Risk factors
• Overall health history
One or more of the following five tests may be also recommended or used:
1. Blood testing
2. Stool testing
The purpose of such testing is to see if or how much of your digestive tract is suffering from inflammation. Through these tests and intake of information, a holistic physician can also help you develop a treatment plan, and guide you in implementing it.
As your health history is gone over by a holistic doctor, they will explore the state of your emotional and mental health.
Emotional Health and its Impact on Crohn's Disease
Emotional health or lack thereof is intimately connected to gut health. People are said to take stress “to the gut”—that is, if you feel stressed, you probably feel it in the pit of your stomach. This is because your gut is actually tied to your central nervous system and your body’s stress response. The gut has neurons just like the brain and is integral to how we experience and process emotions.
Chronic stress or emotional pain puts substantial stress on your digestive system. This can cause inflammation and is likely a cause or factor in the development of many gut-related disorders. Also specifically suggests that being under stress can significantly worsen symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
Stress reduction can also mean taking a look at what you can do to lower your overall exposure to stress. Work, relationships, and time spent on social media are all examples of situations that can be causing undue stress. Taking time to reflect on what may be stressing you out can be useful, as you can then take steps to either take yourself out of the situation or change how you approach it.
Wondering what supportive treatments you could use to reduce and alleviate both stress, build positive emotional health, and treat your symptoms of Crohn’s disease?
11 Supportive Treatments for Building a Positive Emotional Health and Treating Crohn’s Disease
Here is a list of seven supportive treatments you can try to help yourself foster and build positive emotional health and in turn decrease the stress risk factor of developing Crohn’s disease:
10. Tai Chi
Wondering what else helps Crohn's disease naturally?
Diet As a Treatment Option
A holistic doctor can help you with diagnosis, and come up with the best treatment plan for you and your body. Often times a combination of conventional medication with supportive treatments and changes in diet can be the way to go.
In fact, diet can be used as a treatment option for Crohn’s disease. A dietitian or nutritionist can be very helpful in creating a customized health and diet plan for managing Crohn’s disease and its symptoms.
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Definition & Facts for Crohn's Disease. (2017, September 01). Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/crohns-disease/definition-facts
Genetic studies of Crohn’s disease: Past, present and future. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4075408/