The incidence of Inflammatory bowel disease, the category that both Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis fall within, can be ascribed to a variety of elements, including some you can help like improper food intake while others you cannot like genetics, or an inadequate immune system.
Both disorders are more commonly diagnosed in cities than in rural regions, and while each has its own set of problems and side effects, patients can still have a high quality of life.
Therefore, in today’s Plato Weight Management blog post, we’ll discuss:
- Inflammatory bowel diseases
- Crohn’s disease
- Cause and diagnosis
- How to help Crohn’s disease
- Nutrient adjustments
- Other forms of treatment
Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is a gastrointestinal disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the digestive system, which may be excruciatingly painful.
The digestive system is made up of the mouth, oesophagus, small/large intestines and stomach.
It is in charge of processing food, nutrient uptake, and getting rid of any unusable material or waste.
Inflammation at any part of the digestive tract disrupts this natural function.
Many conditions are included under the umbrella term Inflammatory bowel disease, but the most common variations are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have comparable initial symptoms that may require help.
Diarrhea, stomach discomfort and cramps, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and tiredness are some of the symptoms.
Both illnesses are more frequent in persons aged 15 to 35, as well as those who have a family history of either.
In general, males and females are affected equally by this disease.
However, this might vary depending on age. Scientists still don’t know what causes each illness, despite years of investigation.
A hyperactive immune system is most likely to blame in both situations, although other variables are also likely to play a role.
Although very similar, the main difference is that ulcerative colitis occurs in the large intestine.
In contrast, Crohn’s can occur in all regions of the gastrointestinal tract, and ulcerative colitis impacts the large intestine’s outer tissue layer while Crohn’s impacts all tissue layers.
It’s noteworthy that ulcerative colitis is only one kind of colon inflammation as there are other types, but this type causes the most inflammation and damage.
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As noted, Crohn’s disease is a category of inflammatory bowel disease, which can range from mild to severe.
Researchers aren’t sure how it occurs, who is most prone to develop it, or how to control it effectively, so research in this area is ongoing.
Unfortunately, despite significant therapeutic improvements over the last few years, a solution is yet to be found.
The condition is more frequent in the small intestine and colon and can impact any region of your digestive system while ignoring others.
Symptoms differ and might shift over time and, in extreme instances, can be fatal.
The onset of Crohn’s is usually gradual with the first symptoms commonly reported being weight reduction, stomach pain, tiredness, diarrhea, fever and feeling as though your stomach isn’t empty even after going to the bathroom.
Its worth noting that its possible to confuse these symptoms with food poisoning, an allergenic response or even just a simple upset abdomen.
Please consult a doctor if you’re experiencing any similar issues.
Symptoms that may also occur over time as the condition progresses is anus pain, ulcers that occur anywhere within the gastrointestinal tract, joint/skin inflammation and anaemia (when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to transport adequate oxygen to your tissues resulting in shortness of breath).
However, by seeing a doctor, if you experience the common initial symptoms, you can help reduce the chance of this.
Similar to several variations of inflammatory bowel disease, there are several variations of this condition too, including:
- Perianal (when inflammation causes sores, or ulcers, forming on the inside wall of the intestine or nearby organs).
- Colitis (only impacting the colon with problems in the intestinal lining).
- Ileocolitis (which affects the ileum in addition to the colon and is actually considered the main type of the condition).
- Ileitis (which is inflammation of the ileum, or bottom of the intestine).
- Jejunoileitis (occurring in the jejunum but is one of the less frequent types).
- Gastroduodenal Crohns (which is also infrequent, occurring in the top of your gastrointestinal tract).
Now that we have spoken about the condition and how to spot it early, what exactly is its cause?
Cause & diagnosis
Well, the answer is we don’t actually know yet, but it may be stem from the immune system, genetics and/or the environment.
For instance, 1 in 5 people with Crohn’s has a member of their family who also has it.
Alternatively, elements such as age, rectum involvement, how long you have had Crohn’s and if you smoke or not may increase the severity of the symptoms mentioned previously.
Further, infections in the digestive system can occur from bacteria, fungi, and viruses associated with the condition, which can also impact the severity of symptoms.
Additionally, candidiasis can develop in response to the condition that can impact the respiratory and digestive systems.
So how is Crohn’s disease actually detected outside of the earlier reported symptoms?
Well, there is no gold standard yet as to how the disease is determined.
Your doctor will most likely form several hypotheses initially as to other conditions that may also contribute to it and then gradually eliminate them based on the evidence.
Several sorts of tests here would include blood tests, stool tests, endoscopy (to look inside your body), MRI scans and CT scans.
A biopsy and colonoscopy are possible too.
After evaluating all required tests and ruling out other possible causes of your symptoms, your medical practitioner may determine if you have the condition or not.
So, how can we help Crohn’s disease?
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How to help Crohn’s disease
Unfortunately, the condition doesn’t have a cure currently, although it may be controlled.
There are several ways to approach therapy that can help reduce the extent and frequency of symptoms.
There is numerous medication available to help the condition including anti-inflammatory drugs (usually the first step), Immunomodulators (drugs that help immune system), Antibiotics (medicine that destroys microorganisms) and Biologic therapies.
However, please consult your doctor for further information, and we do not advise undertaking any medication without the approval of a medical practitioner.
If non-invasive therapies and lifestyle modifications do not alleviate the symptoms, surgery could be required.
Approximately 3 in 4 patients with the condition will undergo surgery.
Some Crohn’s surgeries involve removing the bad parts of your gastrointestinal tract and reconnect the healthy parts.
Although Crohn’s disease isn’t caused by food, it may provoke flare-ups.
Following the detection of Crohn’s, your doctor would most likely advise you to see a dietician for help, who will assist you in understanding how meals may impact your symptoms and how your diet can be advantageous toward reducing the severity of the condition.
They’ll most likely ask you to keep a food log initially, which will include details like what you consumed at different meals alongside how it made your stomach feel.
Based on this info, the dietician can construct a suitable eating plan for you moving forward.
Using this information, the RD will assist you in developing an eating plan.
These adjustments should help you absorb more helpful nutrients from your meals while also reducing the chance of any undesirable side effects that certain meals may cause.
It is critical to determine what works best for you since a Crohn’s diet that works for one individual may not work for another because, as noted, the condition may affect various regions of the digestive system for different individuals.
This may be accomplished by recording the symptoms experienced while adding or removing ingredients from your diet.
These nutrition and lifestyle adjustments may help you minimize the severity of symptoms and the chance that they might come back.
So what are some of the nutrients that we can change in order to facilitate Crohn’s disease?
Well, the first is to limit dietary fat.
Crohn’s disease might impair your capacity to digest and absorb fat, meaning that excess fat may go from your small intestine to your colon, causing diarrhea.
On the other hand, research on mice showed that a diet richer in plant-based fat could adjust the gut microbiota in a way that was beneficial for the condition.
However, more study on human trials is required.
The next nutrient worth adjusting is the amount of dairy you’re consuming.
You mightn’t have had lactose intolerance before, but if you’ve Crohn’s disease, your body may have problems breaking down dairy resulting in stomach cramps and diarrhea for some.
Additionally, like it is for general health, drinking water is very important for people with this condition as it may alter the absorption of water from the gastrointestinal tract, leading to dehydration.
Especially since the likelihood of dehydration is already increased if there’s bleeding or diarrhea.
Finally, consuming various micronutrients may assist in the alleviation of symptoms.
Crohn’s can impair your digestive system’s capacity to absorb several nutrients from meals, meaning that consuming nutrient-plentiful meals alone mightn’t be sufficient, so your dietician may further be able to advise you here.
Again, work with your doctor and dietician to determine what’s best for you.
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Other forms of treatment
Alternatively, some people opt to use complementary and alternative medicine alongside traditional medicine to help manage the severity of the condition.
However, sometimes these forms of medicine have not been formally advised for treatment, so be sure to ask your doctor about these also if you decide to go down that route.
Examples of these are:
- Aloe vera, as some people claim that the plant has anti-inflammatory effects, and due to inflammation being a significant component of Crohn’s disease, its thought may be used as a natural anti-inflammatory. However, there is currently no evidence that aloe vera aids in the treatment of Crohn’s disease.
- Acupuncture (inserting needles into the skin to stimulate specific bodily locations) combined with moxibustion (traditional Chinese therapy that includes burning dried medicinal herbs near your skin) as a 2014 study by Bao (2014) showed that these interventions alleviate some of the consequences of Crohn’s.
- Probiotics (bacteria that may help you in replacing and regrowing your good stomach bacteria) can improve the ratio of good to bad stomach bacteria, which may reduce the frequency of a Crohn’s disease flare-up but again, the research on this topic is scarce.
- Supplements as micronutrients are thought by some to reduce Crohn’s disease severity through anti-inflammatory effects. However, scientific data is still emerging as to which exact micronutrients may be helpful for us.
- And Prebiotics (a type of dietary fibre that feeds the “friendly” bacteria in your gut) like cocoa, chicory, bananas, asparagus, apples and berries.
In conclusion, Crohn’s disease research is still underway in order to develop more effective treatments and, hopefully, a cure.
However, symptoms can be well controlled, especially if diagnosed early and remission is possible.
Your doctor can assist you in determining if you have inflammatory bowel disease and what specific type of it as well as providing advice on the appropriate medicines, therapies, and lifestyle changes.
Again, if you are experiencing symptoms, please consult your doctor as soon as possible.
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Bao, C.-H. (2014). Randomized controlled trial: Moxibustion and acupuncture for the treatment of Crohn’s disease. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 20(31), 11000. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v20.i31.11000