Crohn's Disease

Description

Also known as ileitis or regional enteritis, Crohn's disease is one of the two chronic disorders known as inflammatory bowel syndrome. (The other is colitis.) Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammation of the intestine, primarily affecting the lower part of the small intestine (ileum) or the colon. Over time, the inflammation thickens the walls of the intestine, making it unable to absorb nutrients from food.

While the cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, the disease most commonly affects people of Jewish descent between the ages of 15 and 35 who have a family history of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. It almost always begins in Yaung adults. Some sufferers experience only one or two bouts of symptoms followed by a lifetime of remission, while others alternate between symptomatic and asymptomatic periods. In some cases, people experience symptoms continuously. The severity of symptoms also varies from person to person. Some people's symptoms are mild, while others avoid eating in order to lessen the pain felt when food enters the intestines.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Severe abdominal pain and cramping, especially after eating
  • Chronic diarrhea, which may contain blood
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • General weakness
  • Low-grade fever
  • Abdominal tenderness, especially around the navel or on the lower right side of the abdomen
  • Joint pain

Conventional Medical Treatment

After taking a detailed history of symptoms, your physician may perform a barium X-ray, colonoscopy, ileoscopy, enteroscopy, or tissue or mucus biopsy to diagnose Crohn's disease. Currently, there is no cure for Crohn's disease. Treatment, which is generally limited to symptomatic periods, usually includes anti-inflammatory medications, such as sulfasalazine and corticosteroids. Your healthcare provider also may recommend a regimen of supplements to supply the nutrients your body cannot get from food.

Up to 70 percent of Crohn's patients require one or more operations to treat complications of the disease, namely obstruction, abscesses, or perforation. In severe cases where the disease is limited to the colon, a colostomy often is performed to remove the affected portion of the large intestine. Although this treatment is effective, it leaves the patient with an ileostomy-an intestinal opening through the abdominal wall-and requires the patient to wear a disposable bag which collects accumulated stool.

Researchers are developing and investigating less aggressive treatments, including:

  • long-term antibiotic treatment
  • a new corticosteroid, budesonide, that appears to cause fewer side effects than other corticosteroids
  • agents that neutralize certain cytokines-proteins believed to cause intestinal inflammation
  • a separate cytokine, Interleukin 10, that is believed to suppress intestinal inflammation
  • fast-acting immunosuppressive drugs, like methotrexate.

In addition, researchers are investigating supplementation with zinc. Zinc helps neutralize free radicals, those molecules responsible for cellular damage and which may be a contributing factor in intestinal inflammation.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Nutrition and Supplementation

Many people with Crohn's disease are histamine-intolerant, so eliminate from your diet all dairy foods (including cheese), fish, hard sausage, and yeast products. Forgo foods that irritate the digestive tract, including alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, chocolate, corn, eggs, meat, pepper, tobacco, white flour, foods with artificial additives or preservatives, fried/greasy foods, margarine, and all animal products (except white fish from clear waters).

Diets high in refined carbohydrates have been linked to Crohn's disease, so don't eat foods such as boxed dry cereals or anything containing sugar. Instead, eat a diet centered around non-acidic fresh or cooked vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, garlic, and spinach. Steam, broil, boil, or bake your food. Chewing a couple of papaya seeds daily will enhance your digestion. During an attack, eat steamed vegetables, well-cooked brown rice, oatmeal, and organic baby foods. You need a steady intake of liquids; fresh juices, herbal teas, and steam-distilled water work best

It is important to have your healthcare provider check your digestive function by doing a comprehensive digestive stool analysis so that an optimal dietary program can be implemented.

This daily supplement guideline should help treat and/or prevent Crohn's disease:

Most Important

  • liver extract formulas (as directed on label)-necessary for proper digestion
  • vitamin B complex (as prescribed by a doctor)-helps prevent anemia, supplemented with vitamin B12 (as prescribed by a doctor) a deficiency inhibits absorption
  • folic acid (as prescribed by a doctor)-needed for cell formation
  • flaxseed oil (as directed on label, 3 times daily)-necessary for repair of the digestive tract; essential in Crohn's disease
  • vitamin K (as directed on label)-vital to colon health
  • zinc (50 mg, not to exceed total of 100 mg from all supplements)-aids in healing; use inlozenge form
  • vitamin C with bioflavonoids (1000 mg 3 times daily)-improves immunity; use buffered form
  • bromelain (100 mg twice daily, before meals)-improves quercetin absorption
  • N-acetyl glucosamine (as directed on label)-improves intestinal health

Also Recommended

  • free-form amino acid complex (1/4 tsp twice daily)-essential in the healing of the intestine
  • garlic (as directed on label)-combats free radicals
  • quercetin (500 mg twice daily, before meals)-slows histamine release
  • vitamin D (400 IU)-prevents bone disease from developing as a result of malabsorption
  • L-glutamine (2 g)-for intestinal health
  • a prodophilus formula (take as directed on label)
  • gamma oryzanal (as directed on label)-protects intestinal lining

(For an acute condition, take supplements until your symptoms subside. If symptoms persist, seek the advice of your healthcare provider. For a chronic condition, consult your healthcare provider regarding the duration of treatment)

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture Acupuncture can be very effective in alleviating the pain, diarrhea, and fever that characterize this ailment Crohn's disease is treated in much the same way as colitis, but the acupuncturist will also concentrate on points related to the small intestine, mouth, esophagus, and stomach, as symptoms warrant.

Acupressure This modality can be used to remedy the diarrhea, fever, gas, abdominal discomfort, and other symptoms are the hallmark of Crohn's disease. Specific points will be targeted, depending upon the patient's complaints.

Chinese herbal Therapy In a,ddition to the herbs mentioned for colitis, Crohn's disease also may warrant the use of herbs that promote digestion and tone the stomach and small intestine.

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