Anyone struggling with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) knows the agonising pain and immensely uncomfortable situations there are to cope with. Not to be confused with the much less serious IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which of interest, doesn’t involve inflammation. It’s the inflammation that alerts a Crohn’s or UC sufferer first. The Greek word for inflammation is rendered “to be set on fire” and that’s what the disease feels like – an internal state of impending combustion.
Among the many types of bowel illnesses, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative-colitis (UC) are the most common. Until the beginning of the 20th Century, these illnesses were almost unheard of. Now, crossing into the 21st Century, IBD and it chief bedfellows, Crohn’s and UC are more and more common in the UK and in the US. The rise in occurrences among populations on a Western diet of fast foods is climbing at an alarming rate and worse, is becoming more common in children than in adults.
Is There Such A Thing As ‘Too Clean’, ‘Too Wealthy’, ‘Too White’?
Interestingly, bowel diseases were almost unheard of before urbanization and improved hygiene! While no one is recommending any return to primitive conditions and there’s everything to be said for the kind of cleanliness needed to prevent the spread of E. coli and the illnesses resulting therefrom. But what over-sanitation habits have spawned, is weakened immune systems that never developed because there were no germs for it to form effective immunities in our blood. Perhaps there is a slight red alert in there not to overprotect our children from the naturally occurring germs our bodies use to generate immunity.
There are genetic, dietary, geographical and racial predispositions for both Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative-colitis; being found more in Caucasians, in the Ashkenazi branch of Jewish folk, in the higher socio-economic brackets, in Northern climates and in industrialized, urban countries.
Understanding The Differences Between Crohn’s Disease And Ulcerative-Colitis
Crohn’s disease can present itself anywhere along the path of the body’s digestive system, from the mouth to the anus. Even the skin, eyes, joints and liver can be affected, but its most common trouble spot is at the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine or colon. Bowel blockages often occur and an increased risk of colon cancer is associated with Crohn’s disease. Symptoms of Crohn’s include:
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Weight loss – due to avoiding food as symptoms worsen after eating
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Occasional rectal bleeding
Medications successfully used to manage Crohn’s disease are:
- Amino salicylates (e.g. 5-ASA)
- Biologic Therapy
- Immune modifiers (e.g. 6-MP, azathioprine)
Ulcerative-colitis is basically confined to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract but with confusingly similar symptoms to Crohn’s, which is why professional diagnosis is needed. Unlike Crohn’s, UC patients rarely require surgery. Symptoms for UC include:
- Anaemia (in severe cases)
- Bloody and/or loose stool
- Cramping abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
Treatments, with the exception of biologic therapy, are essentially the same as for Crohn’s disease.
Living With UC Or Crohn’s Disease
It would be best not to exhaust one’s self trying to follow any said ‘cure’ – there is no medical or scientifically endorsed one. The nature of the beast here makes it as difficult as trying to get a hold of an octopus in a vat of olive oil! The strategy to use starts with understanding what one cannot control. Accepting that as gracefully as possible, puts you in position to navigate the ever-changing currents of Crohn’s, UC and all their IBD cousins. Not only is everyone’s ‘version’ of the disease going to differ due to which particular parts of the digestive system are involved, but individually, patients find that whereas something may have worked at one time, its’ not a ‘one-size-fits-all solution as it fails miserably at other times.
Best Practice For Managing UC And Crohn’s Disease
The general rule of thumb is to dominate the diet with healthy choices, the simplest yet most significant factor being to drink enough fluids as dehydration is a permanent possibility. Understand that it is not that you are ‘allergic’ or overly ‘sensitive’ to certain foods, it is the Crohn’s disease or the UC that is causing your discomfort, not the food as such. Healthy foods are encouraged as absorption of nutrients is an issue with diseases of the digestive system. Since bowel movements are frequent and painful, reducing their occurrence eases the situation for patients. Some thus avoid caffeine and excessive roughage. Sufferers are often deficient in Calcium (please take a plant-based supplement rather than the cheaper ones manufactured from limestone) Folate, Iron and Vitamin B12 and D.
It’s a good idea to let your friends and family know you are managing UC or Crohn’s disease, so you can receive the understanding and support you need from those near and dear.
My team and I take care for the whole body, and work on the understanding that your symptoms can be managed, but the body needs to be cured from within. Why not chat with one of our caring staff members to discuss the management of Crohn’s disease or other gastrointestinal ailments.