Crohn’s Disease: Symptoms and Treatment
We still don't know the causes for this disease. It's a condition that attacks our immune system by mistake, destroying healthy tissues. The inflammation becomes chronic and affects the intestinal walls.
You might have heard of Crohn’s disease or even had first-hand experience with it. More people than we might imagine suffer from this inflammatory bowel disease that affects not only how your intestines work, but also any spot throughout the digestive system.
Hopefully this article will help you learn a bit more about Crohn’s disease.
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is mainly based on an irritation or swelling in a part of the digestive tract. It can affect us in two ways: inflammation of the small intestine and ulcerative colitis in the large intestine, colon and the rectum.
Scar tissue builds up in the intestine and accumulates there until it stretches it out, making it harder and more painful for food and feces to pass through the digestive tract, causing pain, colic and diarrhea.
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Who suffers from this disease?
Anybody can develop Crohn’s disease as it affects both men and women. Doctors suspect that it might be hereditary, meaning that it passes from parent to offspring, developing when the person is around 13 to 30 years old.
What causes Crohn’s disease?
Research into the origin of this disease is still underway. Till now, studies point to its origin in the immune system, in an inexplicable change that suddenly attacks harmless bacteria and viruses.
During the attack, white blood cells accumulate in the intestine’s walls. They end up scarring the digestive tract, triggering chronic inflammation and damage.
What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?
The symptoms depend on what part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected: the mouth, the small or large intestine, the anus, etc. It can appear suddenly and then disappear or stay for a long painful period of time. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Stomach aches, colic
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Pain when going to the bathroom
- Inflamed eyes
- Fistulas with pus near the anus
- Ulcers around the mouth
- Swelling, pain in the joints
- Ulcers on the skin
- Swollen gums
How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?
Your doctor will have the last call on making a correct diagnosis and not mistake this disease for another since the symptoms are shared. Most of the time the doctor will run the following exams:
- Blood test
- Computed tomography (CT)
- X rays
The following medical resources are usually called into play to treat Crohn’s disease:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: To alleviate inflammation, pain and diarrhea.
- Steroids: Used for a short period of time because they tend to have serious side effects.
- Immune system suppressors like azathioprine: They stop the immune system from attacking healthy parts of our body.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics are used to treat the accumulation of bacteria in the small intestine.
Diet and nutrition
Unfortunately, how we eat won’t solve the problem, but it can alleviate inflammation and pain and help us improve our quality of life as much as possible. Nutritionists recommend:
- Taking B12 supplements: They’ll help us alleviate many of the symptoms, prevent anemia and inflammation and strengthen our immune system.
- Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements: They’ll help us keep our system in top shape.
- Drinking a lot of water, in small doses, all day.
- Avoiding foods rich in fiber, which is bad for inflamed intestines
- Staying away from oily and fried foods and sauces.
- Avoiding dairy. It’s hard to digest and causes pain.
- Not consuming foods that give you gas.