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9 Steps for Managing Crohns
While there is no known cure for Crohn's disease, you may be able to avoid going on medication with potentially harmful side effects by following these steps to manage the disease naturally.
Bowel disorders are an uncomfortable topic in today’s world, but many people suffer in silence. One of the worst forms of bowel disorders is Crohn’s disease. Crohn's disease affects up to 700,000 of Americans, according to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. This disease is a chronic inflammation of the intestines that can lead to pain, intestinal blocks, cancer, and other serious diseases.
Crohn’s disease is classified as an autoimmune disorder. Most medical professionals don’t know a lot about the disease. According to Web MD, Crohn’s disease is chronic inflammation in the digestive tract ranging from the small intestine or colon. There are five types of Crohn’s disease, which include ileitis, ileocolitis, jejunoileitis, gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease, and granulomatous colitis.
According to the crohn’s advocacy website, Crohn’s and Me, the issue of Crohn’s arises when cells in your GI tract start attacking healthy cells. These cells do not know the difference between good invaders and bad invaders. This throws the body into a state of constant stress and attack, which leads to painful bowel issues, like irritability, frequent bowel movements, abdominal cramps, and a wide range of digestive problems from gas to constipation.
Crohn’s disease can also lead to other, less common symptoms. Some individuals suffering from the disease also show the following symptoms:
The medical industry is unaware of the exact cause of Crohn’s disease. Since the disease is an autoimmune disorder, there could be a number of causes ranging from allergies to diet, to a simple cell mix-up. However, according to Web MD, many medical professionals agree that factors like genetics, environmental issues, and a person’s immune system are the most likely culprits. Smoking can also make any existing Crohn’s symptoms much worse.
An overactive immune system is one likely cause for Crohn’s disease, although there is no scientific data proving that an overactive immune system will lead to Crohn's or what causes an overactive immune system in the first place.
Nutritionists have theorized that nutritional factors could be in play for the disease. Main suspects are Omega-6 fats, grains and gluten, processed foods, or dairy products (for lactose-intolerant individuals).
Crohn's disease is not something that most individuals have to face every moment of every day. Typically, the disease lies dormant until a trigger occurs. Triggers can vary from person to person, but according to Web MD and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, common triggers can include:
Because there is so little known about this disease, managing Crohn’s disease is a life-long process. While it may be possible to reduce total inflammation in the body, your gut sensitivity to inflammation will remain. This means that you will always have to be mindful of the disease even when you have flare-ups under control. In some cases, flare-ups happen for no discernable external reason.
Because GI disorders are such a personal issue, there is a lot of emotional management that also goes along with the disease. The best way to manage the disease is to use management techniques from a wide variety of sources.
The Crohn’s advocacy site, Crohn’s and Me lists several conventional treatments for Crohn’s disease. These include:
Anti-inflammatory medication (5-ASAs): These help prevent inflammation in the intestines. This form of medication is helpful in preventing pain and frequent flare-ups. Usually, the medication is available in tablet or suppository form.
Antibiotics: Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to reduce the bacteria levels in the intestine. This is believed to help reduce flare-ups, by keeping the intestines bacteria-free. However, this treatment option can backfire, as a lack of bacteria in the gut can also lead to an increased immune response in the body, which will lead to greater overall inflammation. Antibiotics are also prescribed to heal abscesses and fistulas.
Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are also traditional anti-inflammatory medications. Corticosteroids have many unwanted side effects, like breathing problems and weight gain. For this reason, doctors typically only prescribe them if symptoms do not respond to other forms of treatment.
Immunomodulators: Immunomodulators work in conjunction with other medications to reduce inflammation and increase the response time of other medications. When this medication is prescribed, patients see fewer side effects from other medications. Over-the-counter medications: In some cases, a doctor may recommend over-the-counter treatment options. These could include pain reliever, laxatives, or antidiarrheals to help you manage your symptoms at home.
Biologics: A biologic medication is the newest idea for Crohn’s disease. These non-steroid medications contain special antibodies that are designed to bind with specific substances, enzymes, and proteins that affect Crohn’s sufferers. This allows the body to suppress parts of the immune system that are overactive without suppressing the entire immune system. Biologics include TNF inhibitors and integrin receptor antagonists. Surgery: In some cases, surgery can help individuals with Crohn’s disease. Basically, surgery is used to remove an area of the intestine that will not respond to any treatment method. It is also used to remove bowel obstructions.
Crohn’s disease is something that requires management and notice every day. This is a large task that can be difficult. The CCFA has created an app that helps Crohn’s sufferers manage their disease. This app allows users to track signs and symptoms, triggers, and keep a food log to determine if they have food sensitivities. This app is called the “GI Buddy” and is available free of charge. The app is designed to work along with other treatment methods to manage the disease and keep flare-ups at bay. A similar app, Crohn's Wellness Widget, offers similar tools.
Exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy body and immune system. Exercise can help reduce stress, strengthen the body, and even improve immunity. Exercise is important for Crohn’s sufferers because it can help reduce depressive symptoms, according to Web MD. Exercise will also reduce stress, improve bone strength, and if done outdoors, increase vitamin D exposure.
Since the medical industry is unaware of the precise cause of the disease, there is little in conventional medicine that tries to address the problem at the source. If you do not want to take medication daily, then alternative therapies might be the best option for you. Several alternative methods are available for Crohn’s sufferers:
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is used to reduce inflammatory bowel diseases in China. According to a 2004 study conducted by University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, acupuncture offers benefits beyond placebo for IBD symptoms. It offers improved quality of life, a decrease in blood-bound inflammatory markers, and general well-being.
Herbs: One form of herbal supplement has been proved to help individuals with Crohn’s disease. A 2001 study from Heidelberg University indicated that the herb boswellia was just as effective as mesalazine in the management of Crohn’s symptoms. The researchers concluded that the boswellia herb was a more effective and viable treatment option because the herb has no side effects.
There has been some research that suggests that diet may contribute to Crohn’s symptoms and flare-ups. However, not all patients respond to the same foods. The best way to determine the best diet to control your symptoms is to keep a food journal and report what foods contribute to flare-ups and which foods do not. In addition to this method, it is also helpful to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to manage feelings of nausea.
According to US News and Crohn’s and Me, there are five common diet approaches in the management of Crohn’s disease. These diets include:
While following a healthy diet is essential for managing Crohn’s symptoms, it is important not to block out entire food groups in the quest to reduce flare-ups. For example, if you notice that red meat causes a flare-up, replace it with a different form of protein to ensure you still receive the nutrients that you need. Otherwise, you will end up deficient in some necessary nutrient, which can be detrimental to your health.
You should avoid a few substances if you suffer from Crohn’s disease. These foods include caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, processed grains, and any foods that you know are triggers for your flare-ups.
Stress can be a trigger for Crohn’s disease. You will see fewer flare-ups if you try to maintain a stress-free life. You can reduce your stress by getting educated about your disease, engaging in stress-reducing activities like exercise and meditation, packing an emergency bag in case of flare-ups, and avoiding known triggers for the disease.
Some supplements have been shown to help manage Crohn’s symptoms. In addition to some supplements helping with the disease, you may also need supplements to replace vital nutrients that you are missing from foods. The following supplements may be helpful:
Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease that is not fully understood by the medical industry. There is currently no cure for the disease. Crohn’s patients usually have to discover triggers and resolution methods on their own. There are some medical treatments available to help control Crohn’s symptoms. There are also several natural options that may provide relief as well. It is up to each individual patient to determine the right treatment method for him or her. That is the only way to truly manage the disease.
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