Crohn’s Disease is one of the two major chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, the other being Ulcerative Colitis. Its onset is believed to come about from an inappropriate inflammatory response to intestinal microbes in a genetically susceptible host. While it typically involved the ileum (the last section of the small intestine) and the colon it can impact any region of the intestines.
Some symptoms such as altered bowel patterns and abdominal pain are similar to other digestive conditions. However, others are far more extreme which include weight loss, rectal bleeding and fever. Further symptoms can present outside of the digestive tract such as joint pain and inflammation in the eye.
Crohn’s disease is confirmed through a range of tests which can be carried out through stool which looks inflammatory markers and the presence of infection or blood). As well as through colonoscopy or endoscopy (to look for damage). CT scans or barium x-ray may also be performed.
The Approach for Crohn’s Disease
While we cannot technically say we can cure Crohn’s Disease the approach is aimed at supporting your body to achieve and sustain a state of remission. Several areas are focused on to support your digestive system and bring the inflammatory response under control.
- Mucosal Healing. Supporting the lining of the gut wall has been associated with reduced disease activity, longer duration of remission and a decreased need for surgery. A selection of natural compounds can be useful here. These include prebiotics, herbal supplements as well as targeted nutritional supplementation.
- Stopping smoking. Cessation of smoking is associated with a 65% reduction in the risk of relapse when compared to continuing smoking. This is a similar magnitude to immunosuppressive therapy.
- Reduce oxidative stress. Imbalances in the production of oxidation vs antioxidants may contribute to injury to tissue is Crohns. By supporting our natural antioxidant defences, we aim to reduce tissue injury and support healing. This is done through specific food recommendations and targeted supplementation.
- Dietary. While diet is the main focus there isn’t a one size fits all approach. Variations on the Low FODMAP and the semi-vegetarian diet are used as starting points and adjusted to the individual. Food intolerances also need to be considered and testing may be suggested.
- Correct nutrient deficiencies. Since the gut lining is often compromised in Crohns absorption of nutrients such as zinc, iron and various b vitamins may be impaired which may alter the immune response. Vitamin D status will also be taken in to consideration.
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