What Is Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's disease is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract, resulting in pain and digestive problems. Classified as an inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's typically triggers swelling in the lower part of the small intestine (known as the ileum). It can also affect other parts of the digestive tract, including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, colon and anus.
Abdominal pain and diarrhea are the two main symptoms of Crohn's disease. Other signs and symptoms include:
- rectal bleeding (or bloody stool)
- ulcers (including small sores on the surface of the intense, as well as mouth ulcers similar to canker sores)
- weight loss
- reduced appetite
- anemia related to bleeding
- inflammation of the eyes or bile ducts
- skin problems
Causes of Crohn's Disease
Although the cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, research suggests that abnormal functioning in the immune system may prompt the body to attack harmless substances in the digestive tract. When chronically activated, this immune response may generate the tissue-damaging inflammation associated with Crohn's disease.
Heredity also appears to play a role in the development of Crohn's disease. In fact, about 20 percent of people with the condition are estimated to have a blood relative with some form of inflammatory bowel disease.
Since Crohn's disease can lead to serious complications (including blockage of the intestine, ulcers, nutritional deficiencies, kidney stones, and gallstones), it's extremely important to see a doctor if you experience significant changes in your bowel habits, persistent abdominal pain, and/or bloody stool.
Medical treatments for Crohn's disease may include the use of medication (such as anti-inflammatory drugs, immune-system suppressors, and steroids), surgery, or a combination of the two.
Remedies for Crohn's Disease
While you shouldn't attempt to self-treat Crohn's disease, it may be helpful to talk to your doctor about using these natural remedies and alternative therapies to control your condition:
Also known as hypnosis, hypnotherapy is a healing approach that creates a state of deep relaxation and heightened concentration. A report published in 2000 indicates that hypnotherapy shows promise as a means of improving immune function and relieving symptoms in people with Crohn's disease, although more research is needed.
In a 2004 study, patients with mild to moderately active Crohn's disease had a decrease in disease activity after receiving 10 sessions of acupuncture (a needle-based therapy long used to treat inflammatory bowel disease in traditional Chinese medicine). Study members also showed an improvement in general well-being. However, more study is needed.
Preliminary research suggests that treatment with the probiotic Faecalibacterium prausnitzii may help lessen inflammation associated with Crohn's disease. Available in supplement form, probiotics are bacteria that may strengthen the protective barrier of the digestive tract.
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Sokol H, Pigneur B, Watterlot L, Lakhdari O, Bermúdez-Humarán LG, Gratadoux JJ, Blugeon S, Bridonneau C, Furet JP, Corthier G, Grangette C, Vasquez N, Pochart P, Trugnan G, Thomas G, Blottière HM, Doré J, Marteau P, Seksik P, Langella P. "Faecalibacterium prausnitzii is an anti-inflammatory commensal bacterium identified by gut microbiota analysis of Crohn disease patients." Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2008 28;105(43):16731-6.