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Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This means that there is inflammation deep into the tissues of the digestive tract. It can affect any section of the digestive system from mouth to anus. It is an autoimmune condition – damage to the digestive tissues is caused by the person's immune system. Ulcers form where inflammation has killed the cells that usually line the colon and they can then bleed and produce pus. But you can find relief.
What are the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Low grade fever
- Pain in lower right quadrant
- Blood in stool
Who gets Crohn’s Disease?
- Mostly occurs before 35 years of age, mostly commonly between 14-24. It affects both men and women.
- About 20 percent of people with Crohn’s disease have a relative with IBD or other autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
- More common in Caucasian and Jewish people.
What causes it?
The cause of the condition is not known. There are some common theories listed below.
- Caused by infection of a virus or bacterium. Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), a bacterium that causes intestinal disease in cattle.
- Food allergies – dairy and gluten common.
- Genes – a mutation has been found in one of the genes.
- Measles – there is thought to be a link with the measles virus as measles specific DNA has been hound in Crohn’s tissue.
- Arthritis (affecting knees, ankles and wrists). This can often precede bowel symptoms by several years.
- Fistulas may form in the perianal area. Also fistulas occur when damage extends through the layers of the digestive system and can go into other organs like the bladder, vagina, skin.
- Colonoscopy – This allows viewing the entire colon using a thin, flexible, lighted tube with an attached camera. Small samples of tissue (biopsy) are taken for laboratory analysis, which may help confirm a diagnosis. Some people have clusters of inflammatory cells called granulomas, which confirm the diagnosis of Crohn's disease because granulomas don't occur with ulcerative colitis (a very similar IBD). In the majority of people with Crohn's, granulomas aren't present and diagnosis is made through biopsy and the location of the disease.
- IgG and IgE antibodies found against certain foods.
- Stool analysis – check for bacteria and pathogens.
- Eliminate wheat and dairy or known allergen, also alcohol, caffeine and sugar. Most people with Crohn’s are found to have food allergies, most common being wheat and dairy.
- High potency multivitamins can help as malabsorption is often a problem for Crohn’s sufferers.
- Fish oils help decrease inflammation.
- Probiotics – to establish beneficial bowel flora.
- Eat 5 – 6 smaller meals throughout the day, to lower aggravation of the GI tract.