Living with Crohn's Disease
You may not have heard of it before, but Crohn’s Disease is a problem that affects tens of thousands of people all across Australia.
So if you have the disease or know someone with the disease, here’s a bit of information to help better understand it as well as a few resources to get more information or a way for you to donate and help find a cure.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s Disease is an inflammation that usually occurs on the bowel wall, but it can occur anywhere along the digestive tract.
Along with inflammation Crohn's can cause ulcers and even internal bleeding. For some people, this can be a really serious problem that can even require surgery. For others, it can be treated with a range of prescription medication.
No one is exactly 100% sure what causes Crohn's, but it is believed that the disease occurs when the immune system becomes confused and attacks the gastrointestinal tract. It also has a genetic component - you’re much more likely to get it if you have a family history of the disease, though it can still occur even if no one else in your family has it.
Unfortunately, while it can be treated, there isn’t a cure for Crohn's. This means if you have the disease, you have it for life. You shouldn’t be too worried, though, because in most cases it’s easily treated and kept under control.
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
Being a disease that occurs in the bowel, you’d think Crohn’s would be restricted to that area, but you’d be wrong. Crohn’s is something that can affect a person's entire body in a variety of different ways. This can include things such as:
- Stomach cramps
- Weight loss
- Skin rashes
- Lack of concentration
- Inflammation of the eye
- Growth failure in children
The symptoms will affect everyone a little bit differently. Some people might not suffer from certain things, but may have to endure others. Anyone with the disease can tell you, though, that even a small handful of these symptoms can ruin your whole day.
In most cases these symptoms will go into periods of remission from anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before popping back up. Some things will trigger the symptoms, such as eating the wrong food, but other times they can come back for seemingly no reason at all.
Keeping all these symptoms in mind, if you know someone with Crohn’s, it’s important to be considerate of them. If they’re feeling tired or worn out, don’t push them too hard, or if they’re having a bad cramp attack, then sit with them and let them rest for a while.
You might not completely understand what they’re going through, but they’ll appreciate you being there for them.
Treatment for Crohn's
Crohn’s Disease is a bit tricky when it comes to treatment. Everyone is different, but the first step in treating it is getting to a specialist. Your family doctor will be able to refer you to the right kind of specialist - usually a gastroenterologist. Talking to them about your symptoms and their severity will allow them to create a treatment tailor-made to suit your needs.
Unfortunately there’s no cure yet, but there are a variety of different medications that can be prescribed. It might take a little while to figure out which one is just right for you, though. You might even need to try three or four different types of medication before you find something that works. Unfortunately this means a lot of blood tests to monitor how you’re doing. In some more severe cases, surgery may even be required.
However, there are a few things you can do beyond finding the right medication to make your life a little bit easier. Something as simple as a lifestyle and diet change can help keep your symptoms under control for longer and make them less severe when they do occur.
Things like exercise and quitting smoking are two things that are known to help, but a bigger factor when it comes to the disease is managing your diet.
By keeping a diary of what foods you eat and how they affect your symptoms, you can figure out over time what foods you should eat more of and which ones you should avoid.
The results will be a little bit different for everyone, though. Some people can’t eat gluten, others can’t eat leafy vegetables, and some people just need to avoid lactose. It might be a bit difficult at first, but monitoring your eating habits and changing them accordingly is a big part of keeping the disease under control.
Another method to consider is natural medicines. Things like probiotics (live microorganisms like bacteria that can be taken as a pill), fish oil and vitamin supplements are all natural alternatives worth taking into consideration. This kind of natural remedy can help, but they shouldn't be considered a substitute for prescription medication.
Because Crohn's affects everyone differently, the main thing is to find out what works for you and stick to it!
To find out more about Crohn's and how you can help to raise money toward finding a cure, here are some links to information websites and organisations.
Crohn’s and Colitis Australia (new window) is ?a great Australian organisation devoted to supporting people with Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis as well as educating people about the diseases and raising funds for research. They're worth checking out if you want more information or if you want to donate to help the cause!
The Victorian Government's Better Health Channel (new window) ?has a section on Crohn’s Disease and what they recommend in terms of diet. It’s an interesting read that talks about the relation between your diet and the disease.
About.com's page on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (new window) has really in-depth information about Crohn’s Disease. It even includes pages on treatments and a few recipes that are sensitive to any dietary needs.
Living With Crohn’s Disease (new window) is a website definitely worth having a look at for anyone diagnosed with the disease. It provides information as well as ways to cope with the disease. It even has an iPhone app for people who want to keep track of their diet and symptoms.
For other articles about Health & relationships, check out our Articles Archive.
Articles Written by Grace H
Reviews written by Grace H
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