What Is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disorder that leads to severe ulceration of the digestive tract. This disease generally occurs in the last portion of the small intestine (ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine, but it can occur in any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. For sufferers of Crohn’s disease, segments of the bowel become inflamed, ulcerated, and greatly thickened, while the sections in between remain normal. Any part of the bowel may be affected, but usually it is the last part of the small intestine, the terminal ileum, that is involved. It is a chronic disease whose cause is unknown, although there may be a genetic factor. Crohn’s may be hereditary, affecting multiple family members. Bowel obstruction and various other complications which arise may require surgical intervention. The term “Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” or IBD, encompasses several conditions. The two most common ones are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is more extensive which sometimes affecting the intestines, stomach, esophagus, and mouth and tissues can become much more deeply inflamed. Crohn’s can also lead to other disorders. The chronic diarrhea prevents the absorption of vital nutrients, with malnutrition as a frequent result. Persistent bleeding within the intestines can cause anemia, which only compounds the existing fatigue and the nutritional deficiencies. People with Crohn’s may also develop fistulas, abnormal tunnels that connect one part of the intestine to the other, or even to other organs. Sometimes the scar tissue is so thick, it partially or completely obstructs the bowels, a dangerous condition that is always a medical emergency.
What are Common Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?
As its sufferers know, symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be exceedingly unpleasant. Inflammatory bowel diseases, which include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, result in recurrent diarrhea which may contain blood or pus, fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, and trouble maintaining weight. In celiac disease, consumption of gluten that is a protein in certain grains leads to an immune system attack on the intestinal lining. Symptoms are similar for both colitis and Crohn’s: diarrhea, abdominal pain, and blood or mucus in the stool. These problems can flare up, then go away, with remissions sometimes lasting years. Complications of Crohn’s disease include arthritis, red swellings on the skin, mouth ulcers, eye inflammation, gallstones, urinary infections, and kidney stones. A more serious condition is inflammatory bowel disease. This category includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In ulcerative colitis, the inflammation and ulcers stay within the colon (large intestine). In Crohn’s disease, the entire gastrointestinal tract is vulnerable to ulceration. Both conditions require careful medical management. Crohn’s most often affects young adults and people over sixty. Crohn’s disease commonly occurs between the ages of 20 and 40, with the most common symptoms include intense abdominal pain and chronic diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Natural Treatments for Crohn’s Disease
If Crohn’s is left untreated, the bowels may eventually stop functioning altogether. Yet natural medicine has a lot to offer for people with this disease, and many find that they can keep the disease under control with a comprehensive natural approach.
- Turmeric: Turmeric has been shown to protect the liver, relieve indigestion, and help prevent ulcers or relieve existing ones. It also shows promise for Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Try using turmeric in everyday cooking to reduce frequent gastrointestinal complaints.
- Peppermint: Place chopped peppermint leaves in a pot and pour boiling water over the herb. Cover with a lid. Allow the peppermint to infuse for approximately 4 minutes before pouring.
- Protein: Protein deficiency is common in people with Crohn’s. Incorporate quality protein sources into your diet, such as organic chicken, legumes, turkey, and fish, for two meals a day. Soy is also an option unless you are sensitive to it.
- Probiotics: Take a product containing at least 4 billion active organisms daily. It supplies friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus. A product containing Saccharomyces boulardii probiotic has proved to be helpful for diarrhea associated with this condition.
- Breast milk helps protect babies from microbes including bacteria, fungi, and viruses and from disorders such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease.
- Oregano: Oregano (Origanum vulgare) oil can be taken for an infection that accompanies Crohn’s disease. Take oregano capsules as per dosage suggested by your doctor.
- Kefir: Eat a cultured product like kefir or, if you’re not allergic to dairy, live unsweetened yogurt every day. A deficiency of friendly intestinal bacteria is common in Crohn’s patients.
- Juices: Juices are ideal for Crohn’s sufferers, because they require little work from the digestive system and their nutrients are easily absorbed. Drink vegetable juices every day. Cabbage juice is particularly effective in healing ulcerated areas.
- Fish Oil: Italian study found that fish oil reduced the frequency of intestinal attacks in people with Crohn’s disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good digestion. Good sources include flaxseed oil and fish oil. Add one tablespoon of flaxseed oil a day straight or mixed into salad dressing or cereal. You may also take fish oil capsules 1,500 milligrams to 3,000 milligrams daily.
- Chamomile: Perhaps the most commonly used European herb, chamomile can be safely taken by babies, children, and adults for all manner of problems affecting the digestive system. From mouth ulcers and stomach ache to colic and looseness, chamomile will soothe inflammation, acidity, and cramps and encourage effective recovery. Regular cups of chamomile tea can make a difference in inflammatory conditions such as gastritis, Crohn’s disease, and colitis. For best results, brew chamomile in a teapot or in a cup with the saucer on top because most of the active constituents are formed in the steam.
Diet Tips for Crohn’s Disease
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and spicy foods. Although these products don’t cause Crohn’s disease, they irritate the gastrointestinal system and can make your symptoms worse.
- Many people with Crohn’s disease are unable to digest lactose, a form of sugar found in dairy foods. If you feel gassy and bloated, try avoiding milk and all other dairy foods for a few days. If your symptoms go away, you may have lactose intolerance. Switch to lactose free dairy products, take pills containing lactase which the enzyme needed to digest milk, or avoid milk products altogether.
- You may be allergic to some foods, such as dairy produce or wheat, see a nutritional therapist for advice.
- Avoid sugar and other refined carbohydrates.