Alternative Crohn's Treatment:
Crohn's disorder (CD) is a chronic condition characterized by patchy areas of inflammation and ulcers (open sores) along the innermost layer of the digestive tract. Such lesions can develop anywhere from the mouth to anus, but the majority of cases involve the small intestine or the first part of the large intestine. Between these patches of inflammation and ulceration there remain stretches of normal, healthy tissue.
CD is closely related to a similar condition known as ulcerative colitis (UC). Both CD and UC are considered inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). CD affects between 2 and 7 out of 100,000 people and researchers believe that these numbers are growing. CD develops mostly between the ages of 15 and 40, although children and older adults may also develop the condition. People of Jewish heritage are up to six times more likely to develop CD than are people in the general population. Although medication and strict diets can reduce the inflammation of CD, most people with the condition will require surgery to remove part of the digestive tract at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, however, surgery does not completely cure or eradicate the disease.
Signs And Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of CD are diarrhea and abdominal pain. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.
- Diarrhea (with or without blood)
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Floating stools (which is caused by poor digestion of fat)
People with CD are at increased risk for malnutrition. CD can also be associated with many other medical problems including arthritis, osteoporosis, eye infections, blood clots, liver disease, and skin rashes.
There are many theories regarding the specific cause of CD, although none have been proven. It is most likely that a variety of factors work together to bring about the disease. These factors range from genetics, faulty immune system reactions, environmental influences, cigarette smoking, and perhaps diet. For example, some people are genetically at risk for CD (it runs in their family), and an infection or other toxin may cause an abnormal immune reaction which then causes CD.
- Jewish heritage (three to six times more likely than the general population)
- European (particularly Scandinavian) ancestry
- Family history of IBD
- Cigarette smoking
- Living in an industrialized country (particularly an urban area)
- Diet high in sugar and hydrogenated fat and low in fruit and vegetables
A healthcare practitioner will perform a thorough physical exam as well as a series of tests to diagnose CD. Blood tests may reveal anemia (due to a significant loss of blood) and a high white blood cell count (a sign of inflammation somewhere in the body). Stool samples may indicate whether there is bleeding or infection in the colon or rectum.
The following procedures may be used to diagnose CD. They are also helpful in distinguishing between ulcerative colitis, CD, and other inflammatory conditions.
- Endoscopic techniques (sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy)-procedures in which an endoscope (a long, flexible, lighted tube connected to a computer and television monitor) is inserted into the anus to investigate the lining of the colon and rectum. A sigmoidoscopy is used to examine the rectum and the left colon (areas usually affected by ulcerative colitis) and can be conducted without sedation. A colonoscopy can reveal any inflammation, bleeding, or ulcers along the entire colon wall but this procedure usually requires sedation. Tissue samples (biopsies) may be taken from the colon wall for examination under a microscope in order to make a definitive diagnosis of CD.
- Barium X ray a patient swallows barium, which passes into the small intestine and shows up on an x-ray image. This image may reveal inflammation, ulcers, and other abnormalities in the intestinal wall.
- CT scans this imaging technique is useful in diagnosing inflammatory bowel diseases such as CD and ulcerative colititis
Although there is no known way to prevent CD, the number of relapses can be reduced with the right combination of drug treatment, lifestyle changes, and nutrition. Studies show that a weekly injection of the drug methotrexate may help prevent recurrences. Exercise can help prevent the stress and depression that often accompany CD, and quitting smoking can reduce recurrences in those who use tobacco. Fish oil (which contains omega-3 fatty acids) and a bland diet also show promise as means of preventing relapse.
The primary goal in treating CD is to control inflammation and replenish lost nutrients. The choice of treatment for CD depends on the severity of the disease. For example, people with mild to moderate CD are usually treated with medications that reduce swelling and suppress the immune response. More severe cases of CD may require surgery. In addition to medications, many people with inflammatory bowel diseases such as CD commonly turn to complementary and alternative remedies. Although these remedies still require extensive research, preliminary studies indicate that lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments (such as including a rich variety of fruits and vegetables and maintaining low levels of fat and sugar), specific herbs and supplements (such as turmeric) may be useful additions to drug treatment. Mind/body techniques (such as hypnosis and meditation) can help reduce stress associated with the disease.
- Stress - At least one study has shown that IBD often begins within 1 year of a very stressful life event, such as the death of a family member. In addition, people with CD report that stress worsens their symptoms. Moreover, the anxiety associated with all of the potential consequences (such as the loss of bowel control) can also be very stressful. Therefore, relaxation techniques, such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation are worth considering, particularly when used in addition to other forms of treatment.
- Exercise - Exercise may also be helpful for those with CD. For example, one small study suggests that exercise increases the sense of satisfaction, decreases worrying, enhances energy, and lessens feelings of hopelessness in those with CD. Although exercise is generally considered safe for people with CD, those with the condition must take certain precautions when exercising and should talk to their healthcare practitioners before starting an exercise program. It is especially important for people with CD to drink one to two glasses of water before exercising and one glass of water every twenty minutes while exercising to prevent dehydration. Exercise should be avoided during symptom flare-ups or if the individual has a fever. Extreme fluctuations in body temperature during exercise should also be avoided.
- Smoking - Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for CD and studies have shown that it may worsen symptoms of the disease. Quitting smoking reduces the rate of symptom recurrence.
Surgery And Other Procedures
Although surgical procedures will not cure CD, three out of four people with CD must eventually have resections (parts of their colons removed). Surgery may be required because of rupture of the colon; persistent fistulas (hollow passages running between loops of intestines and other organs such as the skin, bladder, or vagina) and abscesses (painful collections of pus, which can be caused by infected fistulas); and other problems caused by the disease. In some cases less invasive techniques may be used. For example, laproscopic procedures, in which the intestines are viewed and worked on through a small incision, allow for partial resection without extended hospital stays. Fibrous strictures (scar tissue that results in narrowing of the intestine) may be treated by a procedure called stricturoplasty, in which a "balloon" is inserted in the intestine and expanded.
The following will help people to recover from this disorder.
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
- Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
- Vitamin B9 (Folate)
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- N-acetyl glucosamine
- Herbs - Cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
- Herbs - Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
- Herbs - Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
- Herbs - Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
- Herbs - Salai guggal (Boswellia serrata)
- Herbs - Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva)
- Herbs - Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
- Herbs - Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
- Homeopathic remedy - Mercurius
- Homeopathic remedy - Podophyllum
- Homeopathic remedy - Veratrum album
Prognosis And Complications
A wide range of complications can develop from CD, some of which are listed below. Fortunately, however, many can be successfully treated.
- Narrowing of the colon, which may cause obstruction
- Perforation of the colon
- Abscesses (pus-filled pockets of infection) in the colon
- Toxic megacolon (grossly swollen colon that may rupture)
- Fistulas (an abnormal passageway such as an opening near the anus)
- Infection of the blood (called sepsis)
- Colon cancer
- Nutritional problems (including weight loss and reduced muscle mass)
- Joint pain and arthritis (such as ankylosing spondylitis)
- Bone loss which can result in osteoporosis
- Gallstones and other damage to the biliary system
- Skin rashes
- Eye infections/inflammation
- Mouth ulcers, gum inflammation, and dental cavities
- Liver damage
- Blood clots
- Depression and anxiety
- Menstrual irregularities
- Sexual dysfunction including pain with intercourse and diminished sexual desire
Holistic lifestyle changes can help to both prevent the condition and offer relief to those experiencing the various symptoms. A good diet with a high quality whole food supplementation program, would be beneficial.
There is a link between osteoporosis and Crohn's disorder, a condition in which gluten reduces the small intestine's ability to absorb nutrients that are essential for maintaining good bone health. Gluten can also deplete iron. If tests show iron deficiency, gluten could be the cause.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
It's associated with excessively strong and frequent contractions of intestinal muscles. Symptoms include gas, bloating, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
Best foods: Legumes, whole-grain breads and cereals. They're high in soluble fiber, which reduces diarrhea without adding too much "bulk" to the intestine. Coarse miller's bran, available in health-food stores, is very high in insoluble fiber.
Helpful: Slowly work up to two tablespoons of miller's bran, twice daily. To reduce constipation when eating high-fiber foods, drink several extra glasses of water a day.
Avoid milk and other dairy foods for a few weeks to see if symptoms subside. Many people with IBS are unable to digest the lactose in dairy foods. If you are among them, take a supplement, such as Lactaid, with meals.
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