Crohn's Disease, along with its sister disease Ulcerative Colitis, is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. It's also classified as an autoimmune disorder, meaning the body's immune system falsely labels healthy cells as foreign invaders, thereby inflicting inflammation and ulceration. Collateral damage also includes the microbial communities of the gut, which scientists and physicians are slowly learning is a huge problemo. The disease can affect all layers of the bowel, can flare anywhere in the GI tract (from mouth to anus) and oddly skip around, leaving healthy tissue in between diseased tissues. The large and small intestines are the disease's most popular targets.
UPDATE: I was diagnosed in July 2014, and have been in remission for three years! #RemissionAccomplished
What fascinates me about Crohn's is how diverse the symptoms can be. Every patient tends to have a unique combination. Some common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation (yay pick ur poison)
- Loss of appetite (sad bc food is the bomb)
- Extreme weight loss
- Loss of period for girls
- Mouth sores
- Erythema Nodosum (this is not cute, trust)
- Night sweats
- Rectal bleeding (you read that right)
There is currently no cure for Crohn's, however, with the right treatment regime, remission is possible. In my opinion (and experience), successful treatment is a combination of biomedicine and lifestyle.
- Biologic Therapies, Anti-TNF (Humira, Remicade, Tysabri, Stelara)
- Immunomodulators (6-mercaptopurine, Methotrexate)
- Corticosteroids (Prednisone, Budesonide)
- Mesalamine (Asacol, Rowasa)
- Antibiotics (Flagyl, Cipro)
- Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
- Antidiarrheal medicines (Diphenoxylate, Loperamide, Psyllium)
- Diet - physicians can give lists of frequent trigger foods but ultimately the right diet depends on YOU. Crohn's is highly personalized.
- Exercise - running, Crossfit, yoga, dancing - idc, whatever works best.
- Reduction of Stress - type A like me? This is huge - double the dosage on your chill pill.
- Sleep - remission or not, Crohn's is exhausting and you may need anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of sleep sometimes - prioritize it.
- Support - there is no nobility in going this alone, trust me.
Unfortunately, the verdict is still not out on what causes Crohn's Disease. However, research has pointed to a few culprits, suggesting the cause is a mixture of genetic and environmental factors.