What is Crohn’s Disease?
January 23, 2021

Crohn’s Disease information

Crohn’s Disease is a type of inflammatory bowel condition that can cause substantial discomforts and struggles in daily life when not diagnosed and treated.  This is a chronic, lifelong condition that requires certain lifestyle changes in order to help manage its symptoms.

Who is Affected by Crohn’s Disease?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) gets a lot of attention among conditions of this nature, as does Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD).  However, those chronic conditions are usually managed by way of nutritional and medical therapies so that the patient can usually live a normal life without being fearful that symptoms could strike at any moment.

Crohn’s Disease and another inflammatory bowel disease called Ulcerative Colitis can be trickier to diagnose and treat. These conditions affect an estimated 1.6 million Americans.  While there are similarities between these conditions in both their signs and symptoms, they occur in different parts of the body, making them meaningfully unique from each other.

What is the Difference Between Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis occurs exclusively in the large intestine (the colon) and the rectum. It affects only the intestine’s innermost layer.  Crohn’s Disease, on the other hand, can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract and can impact any layer of the affected area.

Though the latter condition is relatively rare, it can occur at any age and impacts men and women about equally.  It usually starts to show first signs at some point between the ages of 15 and 35 years old.  The vast majority of patients with this condition are diagnosed before the age of 30, though it is not unheard of to receive a diagnosis later in life.

Causes of the Condition

The causes of this condition aren’t well known, but it is believed that both environment and genetics play a role.

In people with Crohn’s Disease, the immune system attacks perfectly normal and healthy bacteria occurring in the intestinal tract. Among the most common areas affected by this condition are the upper colon and the ileum.

Common Crohn’s Disease Symptoms and Treatments

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia

Among the treatments typically prescribed for patients with Crohn’s Disease are medication combinations (usually involving the use of corticosteroids) along with dietary therapies. While these won’t cure the disease, they can help to reduce its severity so that complications can be avoided.  When complications occur, surgery may be required in order to shorten the gastrointestinal tract.

The type of nutritional therapy required will vary based on the individual. That said, it usually involves high fiber food restriction as well as the identification (usually through food journaling) and avoidance of individual trigger foods. Common trigger foods include:

  • High fat foods
  • Very high fiber foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Dairy products
  • Sorbitol
  • Mannitol
  • Gluten

Due to the nature of this disease, patients often experience malabsorptive conditions. To help compensate for that, supplemental nutritional therapies and/or multivitamins may be prescribed. The goal is to help prevent malnutrition since the body does not efficiently absorb certain essential nutrients.

Should a doctor recommend supplementation or nutritional therapies, it is very important for the Crohn’s Disease patient to take them seriously.  Moreover, it is also very important not to start taking nutritional supplements or changing a diet without first consulting with a doctor or dietician. The reason is that self-prescribed nutritional supplements or therapies could inadvertently interfere with medications or other body requirements, leading to an adverse outcome.

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