- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Natural ways to treat Crohn's disease
Crohn’s disease is more commonly found in developed countries, and in the United States it is estimated that 700,000 Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease does not discriminate it affects both men and women, and is a medical condition which is on the increase.
The disease is named after Dr Crohn who first described the disease in the early 1930’s. It belongs to a group of conditions commonly known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) which are all diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
Crohn’s disease – what is it?
Our gut can become inflamed for various reasons such as food poisoning or a food tolerance. Crohn’s disease is caused when the wall and the gut becomes inflamed and this causes swelling and severe pain.
In Crohn’s disease part of the bowel may stay healthy and the disease can affect only certain areas. Crohn’s disease would normally affect the small bowel and the start of the colon.
What causes Crohn’s disease
The cause, or causes, behind Crohn’s disease are not known. Some sufferers of Crohn’s disease have a close relative who also suffer the conditions so there could be a genetic link.
Other factors such as a bacteria or a virus may also play a role in the development of this condition.
Recently it has also been suggested that the over use of antibiotics can trigger Crohn’s disease as antibiotics destroy the good bacteria in the bowel as well as any harmful bacteria. Antibiotics can be very harmful to the bowel, and if you are prescribed antibiotics by your doctor it is always advisable to take a good quality probiotic to protect your intestinal health.
Smokers are more likely to develop Crohn’s disease but so far no clear link between smoking and Crohn’s disease has been found however it is well established that many smokers have a higher risk of infections as smoking affects the immune system.
Crohn’s disease is also more common in people that have, or are receiving treatment with anti-inflammatory steroid based medication for instance treatment for acute inflammation such as arthritis. There is also now another school of thought which seem to go some way towards linking Crohn’s disease with other inflammatory diseases such as Lupus, arthritis and IBS.
The initial flare up of Crohn’s disease can also be seen after a virus infections such as influenza, and stress is also known to be associated with this painful and distressing condition.
Crohn’s disease symptoms and the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease
Diagnosing Crohn’s disease can be a complicated and difficult process which is often why many sufferers wait a long time for their diagnosis. The symptoms can be indications of many other diseases associated with the bowel.
Diarrhoea - this is the most common symptom. It may vary from mild to extremely severs It may be mixed with blood, mucus or pus. Most sufferers feel the need to rush to the toilet. Sometimes a sufferer is not able to pass anything but still feel they need to go to the toilet. The medical term for this is Tenesmus.
Pain – this is another very common symptom. The bowel because inflamed and this leads to severe pain. The severity of the pain varies from person to person but the pain often settles in the lower right side of the abdomen ( the lower part of the smaller intestine) and can be mistaken for appendicitis.
Weight loss – Crohn’s disease causes weight loss as sufferers loss weight after problems with diarrhoea and are not able to absorb sufficient nutrition from their food.
Ulcers – just as you can get ulcers in your mouth the lining of your gut may become ulcerated which can lead to bleeding when you pass a motion, and lead to further inflammation.
Feeling rundown – symptoms associated with other inflammatory conditions such as fever, tiredness and loss of a healthy appetite are very common. Anaemia is very common and many Crohn’s disease sufferers also have a problem with recurring mouth ulcers.
Anal fissures is a common symptom. An anal fissure is a painful crack in the skin of the anus which can bleed. They look like small fleshy lumps which can become red when inflamed, and they are found around the anus.
Crohn’s disease seems to “flare up” so symptoms of the disease may not always be experienced or visible.
Most doctors use biopsies or perform a Colonscopy for effective diagnosis, and MRI scans are now also commonly used.
What triggers Crohn’s disease
There are many triggers associated with Crohn’s disease and they vary greatly from each individual.
Stress – people living in crowded cities and have stressful jobs seem to develop Crohn’s disease more often than people living in smaller communities.
Infection – Crohn’s disease can often show itself for the first time after a virus infection or even a foreign vacation where the sufferer may have suffered from a virus which caused vomiting and diarrhoea.
Foods – certain foods seems to be a trigger however this is very difficult as there is no hard and fast rule. Food sensitivity in Crohn’s disease is highly individual but many sufferers report problems with milk based products and foods which are high gluten.
Antibiotics – a lot of research is going on to find out if there is a link between antibiotics and Crohn’s disease. Many individual with the disease have received treatment with anti-biotics, long term or short term, prior to an initial flare up.
Managing Crohn’s disease naturally
The most important factor in managing Crohn’s disease naturally is to get to know what works for you. This is such an individual disease and every body I have spoken to have their own way of coping. One thing which really is a problem for all sufferers is malnutrition which increases the severity of flare ups and affects the sufferer’s general wellbeing.
Here are some tips which might help.
Almond milk – this is a good alternative to dairy milk and is very nutritious. It is high in vitamin E and it helps to reduce inflammation
Ground Flaxseeds – allowing ground flax seed to mix with water overnight creates a paste which can also be described as “ground flaxseed gel paste”. Eaten first thing in the morning it can help to reduce inflammation in the bowel wall.
Vitamin B complex – all Crohn’s disease sufferers I have met all suffered from a lack of vitamin B. Remember that vitamin B is water soluble and constant attacks of diarrhoea will lead to a lack of vitamin B.
Iron – if you experience bleeding it is important to take a very gentle Iron supplement.
Focus on reducing inflammation –a fish oil supplement and chamomile tea are both fantastic when it comes to reducing inflammation.
Buckwheat – buckwheat is full of nutrition and the are some great products available. A buckwheat breakfast cereal is a good alternative to Cornflakes which so many doctors recommend to Crohn’s disease sufferers.
Alfa Alfa sprouts – sprouts are highly nutritious and contain a lot of protein. Most sufferers prefer eating small meals and a small amount of sprouts go along way.
Chlorophyll – this is full of vital micro nutrients which are stripped from your body when you suffer from Crohn’s disease. I describe as drinking sunshine – a power house of vital health nutrients. Spirulina is another alternative.
If you have been diagnosed keep a diary of what is going on with your body as getting to know how your body is coping with Crohn’s disease is the best way to know how you can manage your Crohn’s condition and reduce flare ups.