Crohn's disease is characterised by a chronic and long lasting ulceration of a section, or sections of the digestive tract. The intestinal tract has four major parts: the esophagus, or food tube; the stomach, where food is churned and digested; the long, small bowel, where nutrients, calories, and vitamins are absorbed; and the colon and rectum, where water is absorbed and stool is stored.
The two primary sites for Crohn's disease are the ileum, which is the last portion of the small bowel (ileitis, regional enteritis), and the colon (Crohn's colitis). An autoimmune process causes the inflammation. These parts become inflamed and scar tissue forms in the body's attempts to heal. The vast array of related symptoms can include; fevers, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, anaemia, mouth and anal sores, nausea, headaches, lack of energy, abdominal pain, weight loss. Arthritis may also be a complication of Crohn's disease Typically it affects people between the ages of 14 to 30 with attacks occurring every few months or years. There is also a genetic predisposition, meaning that if someone in your family has it then you are around 3.5 to 10 times more likely than someone with no family link. Jewish people are at increased risk of developing Crohn's, while African Americans are at decreased risk. Because of the nature of the illness the risk of cancer is also greatly increased.
What's the Cause?
It is quite difficult to attribute a single cause in a Crohn's patient; it could be due to a whole host of different pathogens such as the Epstein Barr virus, mycobacterium Para tuberculosis, herpes virus or cytomegalovirus. The bacteria Mycobacterium Para tuberculosis can be found in milk and is also capable of surviving the pasteurisation process. Symptoms often develop after gastroenteritis, dysentery or a related digestive problem. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, more commonly known as painkillers have also been linked to the occurrence of inflammatory bowel symptoms (Lancet, 1994: 334: 1028). Conventional diagnosis is via a barium meal, which is taken and then followed through to the small intestine using x-rays, taken to observe the contents. Long-term use of steroids forms the mainstay of drug treatment. However, the drugs can carry with them some very strong side effects. For instance the drug cyclosporine has been known to cause kidney damage. Although similar to ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease attacks the deeper layers of the bowel lining, the muscular layer and the connective tissue layer, whereas ulcerative colitis is limited to the top two layers of the intestinal tract. The symptoms of Crohn's disease are certainly more severe and this reflects the greater degree of depth of inflammation. Fistulae are a well-recognised complications of Crohn's. They allow faeces to pass from the intestines into other areas of the body. It is known that removal of the affected part of the bowel can lead to the spread of the inflammatory process. Therefore, surgery is usually the recommended option when more severe complications present themselves.
What can I do?
Dietary changes are most supportive here. These would include reducing sugar, fats, white flour, dairy, tea and coffee, alcohol, carbonated drinks, eggs, artificial additives, cigarettes. Try to find out what foods you might be allergic to by having an allergy of food intolerance test, which can be carried, out at most health-foods shops. Increase the intake of nuts, fruits and juices; in particular, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, spinach and fibre rich foods. Drink plenty of water, juices and herb teas.
Supplements to include are fish oils and Vitamin E. B complex for stress, aiding digestion and anaemia. Vitamin C to prevent inflammation. Antioxidants have been shown to decrease the risk of developing Crohn's. A slightly alkaline balance in the body will also help create the proper healing environment in the body. Others gut supports include slippery elm, digestive enzymes (eat more pineapple, papaya, mango) and milk thistle. Aloe vera juice and the amino acid l-glutamine are good for healing the digestive tract and of course a diet high in live bacteria; kefir, kombucha and a good probiotic supplement.
Some general homoepathic remedies to consider for the bowel habits of Crohn's would be china, gambogia, lycopodium, mercury, podophyllum and sulphur.
China - bloating and distention of the stomach but with no relief from burping or flatulence, chronic diarrhoea Gamobogia - for diarrhoea and vomiting
Lycopodium - abdomen sensitive to clothing, rumbling in abdomen, bloating and heartburn
Mercury - diarrhoea with blood, with much straining
Nux-v - diarrhoea alternating with constipation and ineffectual urging, worse for cold and alcohol
Podophyllum - explosive diarrhoea worse in the early hours of the morning, may alternate with constipation
Sulphur - Diarrhoea in the morning drives the person out of bed, worse from alcohol, there maybe concurrent skin symptoms, burning in the rectum.
These are not comprehensive symptom pictures of the above remedies, therefore a person with Crohn's would be advised to seek the advise from a qualified homeopathic practitioner. There is also the mental connection to take into consideration, bearing in mind that emotional stress plays an important role in all aspects of well being, therapies like psychotherapy and hypnotherapy have been shown to have good results as relieving symptoms. Yoga and T'ai Chi also offer relaxing ways to unwind. The disorder often remains quiet and easily controlled for long periods of time. Many people with Crohn's disease continue to pursue their goals in life, go to school, marry, have a family, and work with few limitations or inconveniences.