Crohn's disease description
Crohn's disease (inflammatory bowel disease) is an immune-deficient disease that can cause inflammation of any part of the gastrointestinal tract and a wide variety of other symptoms. Sufferers usually have symptoms such as abdominal pain or diarrhoea for years before it is diagnosed. They typically have periods of flare-ups and remissions.
Crohn's disease is caused by a combination of environmental, immunological and bacterial factors in genetically susceptible people. (1,2,3) It is a chronic inflammatory disorder in which the immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract.
Half of all cases of Crohn's disease occur in a combination of the ileum and large intestine. 30% of cases occur in the ileum, and 20% of cases in the large intestine. Cases affecting the stomach, small intestine, oesophagus and any other parts of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus are rare.
In the USA approximately 1 in 600 people are diagnosed with Crohn's disease. In Western Europe, the rate is about 1 in 2,500. Males and females equally affected. Smokers have twice the incidence of the disease. Crohn's disease most commonly first presents in the teens and twenties, with another peak in the fifties to seventies. However, it can first occur at any age. Having a sibling with the disease increases the risk by 30 times.
Symptoms In the gastrointestinal tract
- abdominal pain and bloating
- blood in the stools (can be bright or dark red, and intermittent)
- vomiting and nausea
Symptoms outside of the gastrointestinal tract
- weight loss because of poor food absorption and loss of appetite
- diseases resulting from poor nutrition, because of poor digestion of nutrients
- loss of appetite (sufferers feel better eating less or skipping meals)
- skin diseases (inflammations and rashes)
- mouth sores that do not heal
- inflammation of the eye
- lack of concentration
- neurological complications in up to 15% of patients, such as seizures, stroke, myopathy, peripheral neuropathy, headaches and depression
- growth failure in children
- diet - eating a processed food diet increases the risk. Foods to avoid include sugar, white flour and their products (bread, cake, biscuits, pastries), milk and other dairy products, polyunsaturated fats, potato chips, meat. The risk is lower with a vegetable-based diet, and consumption of vegetable rather than animal protein. (Fish protein is neutral)
- contraceptive pill, and other pharmaceutical drugs
- contaminated drinking water, with added fluorides, numerous other pollutants
- Infection by the protozoa blastocystis (4) and possibly other pathogenica bacteria such as mycobacterium
- aspartame sweetener (avoid all other food chemicals too)
- location - living in an industrialised country
Management / remedies
Conventional medicine has no cure for inflammatory bowel disease. However, people afflicted with Crohn's disease have found that lifestyle can have a major affect on its' incidence. As you can see below, a peaceful, happy and healthy lifestyle can moderate the disease. The most important therapy that you can use is re-establishing a strong and varied symbiosis of microorganisms in your digestive tract. Eat a variety of probiotic foods every day, and in particular, establish a water kefir plant and drink it every day. These foods should preferably be home-made. If you buy them, it is essential that they are alive and not pasteurised or factory-made foods.
- Keep a food and lifestyle diary to identify foods or situations which may be triggers
- Make diet and lifestyle changes to reduce inflammation. Avoid processed foods and eat more vegetables. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Many people find a gluten-free diet helpful
- Probiotics and live foods (water kefir, milk kefir, rejuvelac, whey, sauerkraut etc - the diet recommended in Grow Youthful)
- Water - drink sufficient water
- Eating smaller meals, avoiding large meals
- Regular exercise (pleasant but not painfully excessive or stressful)
- Sufficient sleep, regular hours every day (not just weekends)
- Avoid stress
1. Cho J.H., Brant S.R.
Recent insights into the genetics of inflammatory bowel disease.
May 2011. Gastroenterology 140 (6): 1704-12.
2. Dessein R., Chamaillard M., Danese S. Innate immunity in Crohn's disease: the reverse side of the medal. September 2008. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 42 (Suppl 3 Pt 1): S144-7. Article
3. Stefanelli T., Malesci A., Repici A., Vetrano S., Danese S. New insights into inflammatory bowel disease pathophysiology: paving the way for novel therapeutic targets. May 2008. Current drug targets 9 (5): 413-8. Article
4. Boorom K.F., Smith H., Nimri L. et al. Oh my aching gut: irritable bowel syndrome, Blastocystis, and asymptomatic infection. October 2008. Parasit Vectors 1 (1): 40. Article