CROHN'S DISEASE

Crohn's Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the gastro-intestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. It causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stools, vomiting and weight loss. Unfortunately, Crohn's disease can also affect other parts of the body by creating complications with the skin, blood, and endocrine systems. These include eye problems, arthritis, osteoporosis, and skin rashes. Crohn's has been described as 'eczema of the intestinal tract'.

There are 3 categories of the disease depending on which part of the intestinal tract is being affected. Ileocolic Crohn's disease, affects both the ileum and the large intestine. Crohn's ileitis affects only the ileum, and Crohn's colitis affects the large intestine.

Causes

Crohn's Disease is thought to be an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system attacks the intestinal tract causing inflammation. Although the exact cause of Crohn's disease is still unknown, it is believed to have large environmental and genetic components attached to it. The incidence of Crohn's appears to be quite high in western industrialized nations, and smokers are three times more likely to contract the disease than non-smokers.

There has also been research conducted which shows that people with siblings who have Crohn's are at a higher risk of developing the disease. Apparently, the introduction of hormonal birth control in the U.S in the 1960's also saw a dramatic increase in Crohn's cases. It is believed that these prescription drugs negatively affect the digestive system in ways similar to smoking.

Other factors:

- low fiber and fast food diets

- High intake of animal protein

- Low intake of Omega 3 fatty acids

- Use of anti-biotics

- High consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates

- food allergies and sensitivities

- Low Vitamin D levels

Complications

Crohn's Disease is known to cause neurological complications in some patients such seizures, stroke, myopathy, depression and headaches. It can also lead to adhesions in the bowel causing obstruction, abscesses forming in the sufferer's abdomen or perianal area, perforation and hemorrhage.

Crohn's patients are also at higher risk of contracting intestinal or bowel cancer in the area's of inflammation and are recommended to have regular colonoscopy screenings.

These individuals are at risk of malnutrition for several reasons. In some instances they are afraid to eat and have a limited diet because of the pain associated with digestion and elimination. This leads to decreased food intake and malabsorption issues.

Cures or treatment options..?

Currently there is no cure for Crohn's Disease.

The standard medical treatment includes anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, anti-biotics, pain killers, and immunosuppressive and anti-spasmodic drugs.

You can make some lifestyle changes that may improve the condition though. These include changing your diet and avoiding 'trigger' foods, stopping smoking, and properly hydrating your body. Typically this disease makes carbohydrate digestion difficult. Gluten is the main protein in wheat and rye and would be best avoided if you have Crohn's disease as it can further damage the intestinal walls.

The Canadian Natural Health and Healing Centre in Toronto recommends the following in their book 'Colon Health':

- keeping a gluten free diet for up to one year.

- avoiding roughage

- taking digestive enzymes such as AIM PrepZymes and eating small properly combined meals (i.e do not eat carbs and proteins together at the same meal)

- Taking probiotic supplements such as AIM FloraFood

- Avoiding all refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour, and white rice

- Take nutritional supplements such as AIM BarleyLife to improve food intake and absorption of vitamins and minerals. The chlorophyll will soothe the intestinal tract.

- Vitamin E, 800 iu per day for 4 weeks

- Take Essential fatty acids such as AIMega. They have excellent anti-inflammatory properties.

- Two colonic irrigations per week to flush out the irritating substances (not recommended during the acute stages. Check with your doctor first.)

- A one week green juice fast is recommended



One of the best ways to prevent Crohn's is a high fiber diet, but once it is in the acute stages fiber may be too harsh. The AIM company states though that their product Fiberbalance is suitable for those individuals suffering from Crohn's disease and colitis. It has been formulated with herbs that soothe and protect the gastro-intestinal tract as well as reduce irritation and inflammation.
To learn more about the AIM line of products or to purchase, click here.

Yoga, acupuncture, and biofeedback therapy are also reported to be helpful in the treatment of Crohn's due to their ability of calming the nervous system, which is closely related to the digestive system.




References:

1)'Colon Health', The Canadian Natural health and healing Center, 2001 edition.

2)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crohn%27s_disease

3) 'Gut Solutions', Brenda Watson & Leonard Smith, Renew Life Press and Information Services, 2004

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