A Reader's Digest to Chron's
Alright, this post deals with a common issue that may not be a comfortable topic to talk about but is undoubtedly more comfortable to read about than to experience so give this a chance. Chron’s. We all know what it is, or do we? It’s something that affects millions of Americans, to the point that they think it’s something they’ll just have to deal with until they “grow out of it”. Since there are no actual known causes, there are no actual solutions. Because we can only speculate as to the reason people develop Chron’s, the symptoms are the only treatable part. We know, of course, treating the symptom isn’t really treating anything. It’s only keeping the pain and discomfort at a tolerable level until it spikes back up and you’re forced to take your medication again.
It’s important to understand why people develop Chron’s. To understand that, we have to first understand what Chron’s is. Chron’s disease belongs to a group of conditions known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, which we’ll refer to as IBD. Chron’s is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. Chron’s is most prevalent in affecting the end of the small bowel and beginning of the colon which is the reason most people diagnosed with Chron’s disease experience many frequent and uncomfortable bowel movements. While those are the most common areas affected, Chron’s can really take place in any part of the gastrointestinal tract (so anywhere from where the food goes in to where the food goes out).
So how do you know if you have Chron’s? There’s some pretty tell-tale signs that you can use to determine whether or not you may have Chron’s.
However, don’t use this as an absolute determiner! Just because you paid the price of one night of bad Thai food does not mean you have Chron’s. Remember, Chron’s is a chronic condition. When I say chronic, I mean that some people who have Chron’s can be in the bathroom at an hourly basis. So if that sounds familiar to what you’re going through or any of the following symptoms do as well, I would encourage you to study up on Chron’s. Signs of Chron’s or inflammation in the bowels may include persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, the urgent need to move the bowels, abdominal cramps and pain, the sensation of an incomplete movement, and constipation (I told you this would be uncomfortable). Obviously, as I mentioned, please don’t assume you have Chron’s just because you experience any of this. Ultimately I can’t make a diagnosis on you from behind a screen and a lot of people are not comfortable with making self-diagnoses so if need be, get a professional opinion.
So what are the causes of Chron’s disease and who gets it? There’s no difference in men or women, both are just as likely to have the disease occur. It mainly flares up among people through the age of 15 and 35. Again, the causes are not completely understood. Diet and stress may aggravate the condition but don’t necessarily create the disease. Many cases include hereditary reasons, as children of people with Chron’s have a 5%-20% additional chance of receiving the gene for Chron’s. The gastrointestinal tract usually contains normal harmless bacteria, a lot that help with digestion. The immune system attacks and attempts to kill things like bacteria, viruses, and other harmful organisms. In people with IBD, the normal bacteria is mistaken for the harmful ones and white blood cells are sent to attack the beneficial ones, suppressing the immune system and creating inflammation.
Now let’s talk about the medication Chron’s-inflicted people are recommended to take. Again, there are no known cures for Chron’s so any medication prescribed for it is to deal with the symptoms, like the inflammation. Take careful note, this is not my information. I can’t make anything up here, this is all off of the Mayo Clinic’s website. So let’s see what one of the most trusted medical facilities in the world says about Chron’s medications.
Oral 5-aminosalicylates (try saying that five times fast): these drugs may stifle the symptoms if Chron’s affects your colon, but aren’t helpful if the disease is in your small intestine. It contains sulfasalazine (known cause of depression and blood issues), that has a number of side effects including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, heartburn, and headache. They were used quite often originally but are considered to have a limited benefit now.
Corticosteroids: these medications, such as prednisone, can help reduce inflammation anywhere in your body and only have a few, minor side effects like drug induced syndromes, hypertension, hypokalemia (low potassium), hypernatremia (high sodium levels), steroid psychosis, anxiety, depression, puffed up face and torso, hyperglycemia, osteoporosis. peptic ulcerations, cataracts, immune system suppression, birth defects if taken while pregnant, as well as addiction. Other than that, it’s mostly safe.
Azathioprine and mercaptopurine: this is the most widely used immunosuppressants used for IBD. An obvious side effect, being an immunosuppressant, is having a suppressed immune system. They also have been linked to inflammation in the liver and pancreas, as well as suppressing the creation of bone marrow. Long term use can even lead to infections and cancers like lymphoma. Most people on these drugs have frequent blood tests done.
Cyclosporine and tacrolimus: these medications are used when individuals don’t respond to other drugs. Cyclosporine has some serious side effect, including kidney and liver damage, seizures, and fatal infections. It’s not for long-term use but tell me why anyone would use it if they knew the potential for death?
As you can guess, I could go on and on and on and on and on. I’m tempted to but I won’t for your sake. It’s pretty obvious to see that there’s a lot of risk involved in something that may or may not work. I know numerous individuals who have Chron’s that don’t take their medications because they simply aren’t working for them. So what does work without all the harmful effects?
Probiotics: you should already be taking a good, living probiotic to maintain a healthy life but an additional benefit is what it does for your gastrointestinal tract. It aids good bacteria with digestion and well as offers protection against bad bacteria. They may be more or less beneficial depending on what stage of the disease you’re in but I would encourage you to be taking a probiotic anyway.
Fish oil: we’ve all heard the benefits of fish oil, whether it be promoting cholesterol health or brain function. It also has shown to benefit patients with Chron’s. The omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with that irritation.
Vita Flex stimulation: not all of you know what or where the Vita Flex points are but that’s alright because I’ll explain. Very similar to acupuncture, there are specific points in the body that stimulate other parts, including the brain, which will release endorphins. It can also strengthen your immune system and fight infection.
So there you have it. I know this was a long one but I hope you found it resourceful and helpful. Even if this was just meant for one person to read, that’s fine by me as long as they take something away from it. Until next time!