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This Month In Health
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  • Inside Crohn’s Disease
    Inflammation is a good thing when your body’s using it to fight off infection, stress, or exposure to harmful chemicals. But sometimes your immune system overreacts and triggers inflammation in healthy tissue. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) occurs when chronic inflammation affects the digestive system. Read on to learn about one of the most frustrating types of IBD, Crohn’s disease. Read >>
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Inside Crohn’s Disease

What you need to know about this type of inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammation is a good thing when your body’s using it to fight off infection, stress, or exposure to harmful chemicals. But sometimes your immune system overreacts and triggers inflammation in healthy tissue.

Prolonged inflammation can cause serious health complications and lead to conditions such as asthma, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) occurs when chronic inflammation affects the digestive system. The two most common types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Read on to learn the facts about one of the most frustrating, Crohn’s disease.

What to Expect

While ulcerative colitis mainly affects the large intestine, Crohn’s disease can harm any area along the digestive tract, but it is usually confined to the end section of the small intestine.

Symptoms of Crohn’s range from mild to severe. Sometimes the symptoms develop slowly over time, while in other cases they come on suddenly. Many folks have symptoms that come and go over time. With a flare, symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, malnutrition, fatigue, and weight loss. At times there may be blood in the stool, a low-grade fever, mouth ulcers, and a loss of appetite.

Making the condition more bothersome is that inflammation can spread to the deeper tissues surrounding the bowels and cause severe pain and even possible fatal complications. In some cases, the inflammation of Crohn’s disease affects the joints, eyes, skin, or liver.

What’s the Cause?

No one knows for sure what causes Crohn’s disease. While stress and certain foods may worsen symptoms, they’re not thought to be the cause. Genetics and a faulty immune system seem to be at the root of the disease. If someone in your family has the condition, you’re 20 percent more likely to have it as well. Anyone at any age and from any ethnic background can develop Crohn’s disease, but it most often strikes whites and Eastern European Jews living in urban areas who are under the age of 30. Cigarette smoking is a high risk factor.

What to Do

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have unusual, on-going bowel symptoms like those listed above. Diagnosing Crohn’s disease is no easy task, and starting soon will help you take proper steps. Your doctor will use a variety of tests to reach a conclusion including blood tests, fecal occult tests, biopsies, endoscopy, colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, CT scan, MRI, and small bowel imaging.

Even with a diagnosis, there is no cure. While Crohn’s disease is a life-long condition, there are ways to manage symptoms and live a quality life. The first line of treatment normally involves using medication to reduce inflammation. It’s necessary to work closely with your doctor to find the right medication and dosage to improve your symptoms. Surgery may also be necessary to bring relief.

Beyond medication and surgery, there are things you can do in your everyday routine to help control symptoms and stay in remission as long as possible. An essential step is to avoid foods that worsen your symptoms. Common culprits include dairy, high-fat or high-fiber foods, raw fruits and vegetables, spicy foods, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and caffeine. Keeping a food diary can help you discover which foods trigger a flare-up.

Many folks with Crohn’s disease experience fewer symptoms when they eat smaller meals throughout the day rather than three larger ones. Relief can also be experienced by drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and taking a multivitamin or supplements to ensure adequate nutrition. Since stress worsens your symptoms, managing stress in healthy ways is important. So eat well, drink plenty of water, and chill out. These steps may not do away with your Crohn’s, but it will make your life much more pleasant.