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What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is one of the two major Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.  It is also known as ileitis or enteritis.  Active Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract.  Very commonly, this inflammation is found in the ileum, hence ileitis (inflammation of the ileum).  However, it can affect any region of the digestive and/or gastrointestinal tract (your gut). Basically, the inflammatory response can begin anywhere along along the mucousal lining from your mouth to the colon.  Instead of one long inflammatory portion of the intestine it usually occurs in patches,  such as the mouth, duodenum, ileum, or colon.

Who can get Crohn’s?

Crohn’s disease was once more common in older people.  However, more and more children and young adults are experiencing worse symptoms than people with longstanding disease.  Most often, diagnosis occurs around the age of 15-25.  However, children as young as four years old can be diagnosed.  Age is not a discriminant factor in autoimmune disease.

Symptoms of Crohn’s

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody stools
  • Brain fog
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue

The symptoms will vary from person to person and the amount of gut irritants present.  As a result, there are several different tests that your gastroenterologist will perform before confirming your diagnosis.  The process can sometimes be long so it is important monitor your symptoms at home so that you can manage them more easily.  When telling your doctor about symptoms try to be as specific as possible so they have enough information to work with.

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What causes it?

As the name suggests, autoimmune diseases such as IBD begin with inflammation.  However, the chronic inflammatory response involved with IBD can be caused by a number of things.  As a result, there isn’t a defined cause to Crohn’s by major health organizations.

More recently. studies have found a connection with bacterial overgrowths.  There are multiple factors that go into upsetting the balance of gut bacteria.  Naturally, you can expect the cause of Crohn’s for one person to differ from another.  Still, the common link is shown to be an ongoing inflammatory response in the body, keeping the body in this fight or flight mode activating the sympathetic nervous system.  So what exactly is it that causes chronic inflammation?

  • exposure to environmental toxins and harsh chemicals
  • poor diet (high in processed foods, starches and sugars)
  • genetics

Each of the mentioned contributors can affect the body weakening the immune system and digestive health.

How to tell if you have Crohn’s?

Ways to diagnose:

  • Blood tests
  • Endoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Analysis
  • Stool exams

Crohn’s diagnosis

Getting diagnosed with Crohn’s can take a very long time.  Some patients will treat parasites, H. Pylori, infections, and a series of other intestinal issues before coming across an accurate diagnosis.  As a result, you should aim to relieve digestive symptoms and cut out gut irritants so that you can have one less stressor.  In reality, the process of diagnosis and prognosis for Crohn’s can stress you enough to trigger a flare!

What should I do if I think I have Crohn’s?

Ideally, you should be keeping a journal with your triggers and symptoms.  This will help you accurately describe onset of specific symptoms and areas of pain to your doctor. Take care of yourself and know that the diagnosis doesn’t hold a cure so focus on getting better instead of getting diagnosed.

Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

Fortunately, Crohn’s disease is one of the autoimmune illnesses that can be treated effectively.  There are a few options and they range from highly restrictive to minimal.  Most people agree there are certain Crohn’s Disease diets.  However, this can mean anything to different people since every microbiome and every case of Crohn’s is different.  Depending on where the inflammation is and the level of severity you should approach Crohn’s treatment accordingly.

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Options for treating Crohn’s:

  • Medications
  • Supplements
  • Diets
  • Surgery

There are plenty of medications for treating IBD.  Some aim to suppress the immune system, others fight the inflammation in your system, and others fight the overgrowing bacteria. Your doctor will work with you to recommend different medications.  Stay informed of your symptoms so you can have questions ready and know what might work and might not work with you.  Also, keep in mind that some medication comes with side effects.

IBD supplements

Supplements and vitamins for IBD are growing in popularity.  You can find the supermarkets and health stores flooding with probiotics.  Just like anything not all supplements will help you feel better.  Aim to get most nutrition from food and remember supplements are there for additional help.  In addition, stick to only supplements from a brand or source you trust.

IBD surgery

Surgery for Crohn’s is done to remove one or more of the damaged parts of the gut.  An ileostomy is the most common.  The prognosis for these surgeries, requires frequent after care and comes with risks.  If you have already had surgeries for IBD, you may still follow the IBD certified treatment protocol by IBD Awareness.

Keep in mind, that surgery removes the damaged portion but doesn’t remove the disease. As a result, it is possible to get surgery and continue to feel sick!  Treat the real problem not the symptom.

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