Crohn’s Disease Basics

Symptoms, outlook and diet tips

Crohn’s disease is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) which causes our immune system to attack the gastrointestinal tract. While long described as an autoimmune disease, experts now call Crohn’s a disease of immune deficiency. A compromised immune system mistakes healthy digestive bacteria as foreign and attacks, sending white blood cells to intestinal lining where they produce chronic inflammation. These cells then generate harmful products that ultimately lead to ulcerations and bowel damage. And a lot of poop.

Symptoms

Outlook

First discovered in 1932 by American gastroenterologist Burrill Bernard Crohn, there are now over 1.4 million Americans with IBD, split evenly between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s often appears in ages 15-30, but can occur at any age. While there’s no cure, medicine can treat inflammation along with diet and yoga which play a big role in reducing your symptoms and improving health.

Diet

The most common diets for treating Crohn’s involves eliminating irritating foods like sugar, wheat and dairy. Consult our food list for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, as well as our review of the Paleo Diet book; both diets can have immensely positive results for Crohn’s patients.

Getting diagnosed

There are a few way to determine if you have Crohn’s: endoscopy, radiology tests, nuclear scans and a blood test. Swallowing the camera pill is a good option but may make for an uncomfortable work day. Endoscopy is invasive and you feel bloated for hours afterward because of the air they pump through your tract to make way for the camera. Crohn’s and colitis are very similar and exact diagnosis can be difficult. See the chart below which compares Crohn’s vs. Colitis symptoms:
Sign Crohn’s disease Ulcerative colitis
Ileum involvement (where small & large intestine meet) common rare
Colon involvement common always
Rectum involvement rare common
Involvement around anus common rare
Bile duct involvement no increase in rate higher rate
Distribution of inflammation patchy continuous
Endoscopy deep snake-like ulcers continuous ulcer
Depth of inflammation may be transmural, deep into tissues shallow, mucosal
Stenosis (narrowing of organ tubes) common rare
From Wikipedia

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I’m just starting the Paleo diet in my Crohn’s adventure. I hope you’ll join me as I share recipes, tips for eating healthy and other helpful info I find along the way.