Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel condition that can have an overwhelming impact on your life. The physical symptoms combined with the emotional challenges of having this condition can make Crohn’s a difficult diagnosis.
Like ulcerative colitis, the symptoms of Crohn’s are the result of inflammation, however there are differences between the two conditions. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of your entire GI (gastrointestinal) tract, from your mouth to your anus. In addition, Crohn’s can affect the deeper levels of tissue, and the inflammation can occur in patches along your GI tract. In contrast, ulcerative colitis only affects your large intestine, affects only the innermost layer of your colon, and the inflammation involves a singular area—it doesn’t skip areas or occur in patches.
There are different types of Crohn’s disease, depending on what part of your GI tract is affected. Most commonly it involves the end of your small intestine and the upper part of your large intestine. However, Crohn’s can affect your stomach, any part of your small intestine or your entire large intestine.
The symptoms of Crohn’s depend on which part of your GI tract is affected. The most common symptoms when your small or large intestine are involved include pain, cramping, diarrhea, and weight loss. If your stomach has been affected, symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, and associated weight loss. When Crohn’s affects the upper part of your small intestine (called the jejunum), you may experience pain and cramping after eating, as well as painful diarrhea. Other symptoms of this condition include fatigue, fever, painful joints, and anemia.
A complication of Crohn’s disease is the possibility of developing a fistula, which is a hole in the bowel wall. Fistulas occur because the inflammation associated with Crohn’s can penetrate the deeper layers of intestinal tissue, cause infections, and erode the tissue until it creates a hole or passage to another part of your bowel, organ, or the surface of your skin. Fistulas can occur anywhere along the length of your GI tract, and are more likely to occur the longer you’ve had Crohn’s. In addition, having any inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s, increases your risk for developing colorectal cancer, so regular screenings are a component of managing this condition.
Crohn’s disease can affect anyone, however it’s most commonly diagnosed in adolescents and young adults under the age of 30. The cause of Crohn’s isn’t clear, but scientists believe that it may be caused by an autoimmune reaction, called autoimmunity. The theory is that a bacterial or viral infection in your GI tract may trigger an immune reaction. When this happens, your immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy tissue, leading to inflammation and the symptoms associated with this condition.
Genetics may also play a role in developing Crohn’s. Researchers have found that if you have a family member with Crohn’s disease, you are more likely to develop the condition. Other factors that may increase your risk of developing Crohn’s include cigarette smoking, the use of NSAID’s (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), antibiotics, and oral contraceptives. In addition, while high levels of stress and specific foods aren’t a risk factor, researchers have found that eating a diet high in unhealthy fats may slightly raise your risk of developing Crohn’s disease.
Treating Crohn’s Disease at BodaHealth
Because there is no cure for Crohn’s disease and because it involves flare-ups followed by periods of remission, the primary goal of any treatment for this condition involves preventing flare-ups and keeping your symptom in remission, as well as to decrease inflammation and help manage your symptoms. In Western medicine, those treatment goals are approached through medications to decrease immune system activity, control inflammation, decrease severe diarrhea, and treat complications, such as infections, bleeding, and obstructions. In severe or advanced cases of Crohn’s, surgery may be necessary.
At BodaHealth, we are happy to work in tandem with your current health care provider, or as a first line of treatment. Our approach is to provide safe, natural, and effective treatments for inflammatory bowel conditions, including Crohn’s disease. Here is how we’re able to help:
-At BodaHealth, we provide acupuncture for a variety of digestive and autoimmune conditions. It is a good choice for treating patients with Crohn’s disease. Acupuncture works in your body to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, support your immune system, help to relieve stress, and promote healing. Research backs up the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel conditions. In a review of research studies, scientists found that acupuncture combined with heat therapy called moxabustion was more effective in reducing symptoms of Crohn’s than one of the most frequently prescribed prescription medications.
-We also offer other Chinese medicine. An effective way to prolong and enhance your acupuncture treatments is through the use of Chinese herbs. Each formula is prescribed based on your specific needs and symptoms. Dietary therapy can also be effective in managing your Crohn’s, as foods can be suggested to help decrease inflammation, calm digestive symptoms, and promote healing.
-At BodaHealth, we have naturopathic doctors who combine natural treatments with Western medicine when necessary. They’re able to perform lab tests and assessments to understand your nutritional status, digestion, stress levels, and whether or not environmental toxins are playing a role in your condition. Based on those assessments, they are able to prescribe vitamin or other nutritional supplements, herbs, dietary strategies, and lifestyle changes to help reduce your symptoms and prevent flare-ups. They are also able to prescribe medications if needed.
-While what you eat may not have caused your Crohn’s disease, your diet can play a role in calming flare-ups, avoiding triggers, supporting your digestion, and reducing inflammation. We have a number of practitioners who are well-trained and experienced in providing nutritional guidelines and strategies for your specific needs. They will work with you on a one-to-one basis to develop a plan specific to your unique situation.
-Vitamin injections can be a valuable supportive treatment for patients with inflammatory bowel condition. There are a number of complications associated with Crohn’s, such as malnutrition from a compromised digestive system. At BodaHealth, we have practitioners who are able to offer injection therapy, which is effective because the nutrients go directly into your system instead of depending on your digestion for absorption. Available injections may contain vitamins and other substances that can offset nutritional deficiencies, support your immune system, and increase your energy levels.
– Our osteopathic practitioner is experienced in treating patients with a wide variety of health conditions, including internal pain and the numerous symptoms associated with digestive and visceral disorders.
Crohn’s disease is chronic and can be debilitating. However, with the right care it can often be put into remission for long periods of time. At BodaHealth, we offer a number of strategies to support your health, promote and sustain remission, and decrease inflammation. If you are struggling with Crohn’s disease or another inflammatory bowel disease, contact us. We’d like to help.