Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis
Help and Advice for Crohn's Disease Sufferers.
Just after Christmas 2004 a man came for healing who I'd never met before. He said he'd had Crohn's Disease for about 20 years and was "living with it"; his words. Just after the New Year, he'd had a flare up which was so bad his medication wasn't touching it. My first reaction was most likely the stereotypical one, too much merrymaking and unfamiliar food. I know that would definitely have been my own reason for a bad tummy. The man (we'll call him Frank) was facing surgery, but wanted to try healing first.
Facts about Crohn's Disease
What is Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's Disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines.
Crohn's Disease can affect the digestive system anywhere along the entire gastrointestinal tract - from the lips, the mouth, the esophagus, the stomach, the duodenum, the jejunem, the ileum, the ileocecal valve, the cecum, the ascending or right colon, the transverse colon, the descending or left colon, the sigmoid colon, and the rectum, to the anus.
Crohn's Disease is not dissimilar to Ulcerative Colitis and much of this basic Crohn's Disease article also applies to Ulcerative Colitis. Both conditions are known jointly as Inflammatory Bowel Disease - IBD.
The disease also goes by other names, which is usually indicative of it's location. For example, Crohn's Disease in the ileum is referred to as ileitis or Crohn's ileitis or regional enteritis or terminal ileitis. If it involves the ileum and the colon, it is ileocolitis. When in the stomach or first few loops of the intestine, it is known as gastroduodenal Crohn's disease. If it is in the next few loops of intestine (the jejunum), it is called jejunoileitis. If it resides in the colon, it is known as Crohn's colitis or granulomatous colitis, plus a few more.
Crohn's Disease is named after the physician who first described the disease in 1932. While isolated cases were recognized as early as the 17-1800s, it was not until 1932 that a Dr. B.B. Crohn, with others eminent in this field, described a new disease which he called "regional ileitis." This distinguished it from Ulcerative Colitis, which primarily affects the colon, while Crohn's Disease is much more invasive, affecting many areas up and down the digestive tract.
What Causes Crohn's Disease and Who is Most at Risk of Contracting the Disease?
Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis occurs in, more or less, equal frequency between men and women, and at any age, but more usually, in teenagers up to the late twenties, and lasts a lifetime. Crohn's tends to be more prevelant in patients who already have a history of it in the family. Once the disease sets in, it tends to be chronic (long-term) with recurring symptoms and periods of remission.
Ulcerative Colitis affects around 95,000 people in the UK, that's about 1 in 600. Crohn's Disease estimates suggest that up to 60,000 people in the UK (about 1 in 1000) and 1,000,000 Americans have the disease (around 1 in 300), with thousands of new cases being reported each year.
No one knows what causes Crohn's Disease. Some research points to bacterial infection as the main suspect, but nobody is really sure. Diet definitely has an affect on the symptoms of Crohn's, but it is doubtful that diet has any play in contracting the disease. The most recent research suggests that Crohn's results from abnormalities in the way the body's immune system reacts to the contents of the gastric tract.
Normally the body relies on saliva, hydrochloric acid and protein-digesting enzymes to digest and destroy hostile bacteria. This passive immune system is non-specific - in other words, it's there all the time rather than being triggered by a specific attack. It's also sometimes called the innate immune system. The immune system takes over when infection and foreign invaders enter the other body systems. In Crohn's Disease patients, it is possible that the immune system reacts to a variety of substances in the intestines, including bacteria, causing inflammation, scarring, pain and ulcerations.
It is this over enthusiastic immune system that may be the genetic family link, as close family members are more likely to go on and develop the disease, irrespective of ties through accommodation or geographic location.
What are the Symptoms of Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's Disease is commonly associated with abdominal pain, and tenderness on the right-hand side, mimicking appendicitis, is quite normal. Sufferers can have stomach cramps, partial, or not so partial, bowel obstruction and rectal bleeding, with bloody motions or diarrhea.
Diarrhea is a frequent side effect of a 'flare-up', and may be associated with excessive bacterial growth, poor digestion and inflammation of the large intestine. A patient may show signs of severe fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever and painful joints.
What are the Complications of Crohn's Disease?
Most complications of Crohn's Disease result in abdominal pain to varying degrees. Bowel obstruction, narrowing and perforation, or ulcers, scarring, abscesses and inflammation, can result in abdominal pain, abdominal distention, or nausea and vomiting. Sometimes, the intestines cannot absorb enough nutrition from food, which can lead to deficiencies, diarrhea can lead to dehydration and rectal bleeding to anaemia.
Intestinal narrowing can be due to swelling and scar tissue, resulting in blockages. Ulcers can eat into the walls of the intestines and affect the surrounding tissue of organs like the bladder, vagina or the abdominal cavity. This burrowing causes a tube-like tunnel, called a fistula, to form, which becomes infected, causing abscess and recurrent infections.
In addition, Crohn's is sometimes associated with inflammation of the joints, arthritis, skin problems and inflammation of the eyes or mouth.
How is Crohn's Disease Diagnosed?
Your doctor will give you a thorough physical examination and carry out a series of tests. This may include things like, blood tests, stool sample examinations, x-rays, colonoscopy and biopsy. Basically, he/she will be looking for all of the symptoms we have described previously, anaemia, bleeding, white blood cell count, infection, and inflammation, generally to establish the extent of the disease.
What Treatments are Available for Crohn's Disease?
Mild Crohn's Disease quite often has few symptoms and those that do manifest lack the severity to require doctor or hospital treatment. The same is also true of patients whose disease is in a period of remission. That aside, most Crohn's sufferers will require treatment during increased disease symptoms, such as abdominal pain, inflammation, bowel obstruction, fever, diarrhea and/or rectal bleeding. Treatment is mainly symptomatic depending largely on the location and severity of the disease, any complications present and responses to previous treatments. The doctor's arsenal can include drugs, nutritional supplements, surgery, or a combined approach. Care is a long term option, requiring perhaps years of regular visits to the doctors surgery. However, some people have long periods of remission, and can remain free of symptoms, sometimes for years.
To date, treatment can only help to control the disease, there is no cure.
Various drugs may be prescribed to control the inflammation, such as 5-ASA therapies (eg. mesalazine) and steroids. Immune system suppressants and antibiotics may be used to prolong periods of remission. Nutritional supplements are sometimes prescribed, especially for children whose growth has been slowed by the disease. Several anti-diarrheal and anti-spasmotic drugs are also available.
Inline with other diseases that rely on long-term dependence on powerful drugs, Crohn's Disease sufferers not only have to put up with the very unpleasant symptoms of their condition, but also the side effects of the drugs taken to combat the disease.
Unfortunately, for some people, the disease progresses to the point where surgery is necessary. In the most severe cases, this can involve the removal of narrowed or damaged parts of the intestine. Though a last resort, this is still not a cure. Around 85% of patients who have this type of surgery, can expect a reoccurrence of the disease next to the area that was removed.
Can Crohn's Disease Sufferers Help Themselves?
As with so many other diseases, one of the first things to do is, GIVE UP SMOKING! No matter how careful you are, smoke poisons and tar deposits are dissolved in the saliva and end up in the stomach and intestinal tract. There is not much more irritating than that, rest assured.
Some patients find that some foods make their symptoms worse (ie. foods high in fibre, alcohol and dairy foods), but the disease cannot be controlled simply through diet. Some patients who learn to control their diet through trial and error, just avoiding the foods that make the symptoms worse and take their medications, can go into quite long-term remission, sufficient to allow the sufferer to lead a normal life. "Flare ups" may require urgent consultation or hospital admission, so don't delay getting help.
Worldwide research programs are pulling Crohn's apart in an effort to understand it and there is much hope for improved treatments and options for sufferers, in the coming years.
National groups and internet links for Crohn's Disease Sufferers
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National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease (NACC)
4 Beaumont House
St Albans, Herts AL1 5HH
Tel: 01727 844296
Information Line: 0845 130 2233
NACC-in-Contact Support Line: 0845 130 3344
Fax: 01727 862550
Visit Website: www.nacc.org.uk
Telephone information, listening service and other support for people living with colitis or Crohn's disease and their families. Local and national group meetings. Annual grants for researchers, individual welfare funds. Produces booklets and quarterly newsletter. Research into inflammatory bowel disease.
The Ileostomy and internal poach support group Tel: 0800 0184 724
Can Spiritual Healing help with Crohn's Disease or other types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease? ...
I have to say, that I am convinced that it can!! Healers cannot and should never, promise a cure. But, at the same time, none of us should limit the power of our own Healing Energy, once it's been triggered and given direction. I'm certain there is little wrong with any of us that is not helped in some way by Spiritual Healing, Energy Healing or Reiki.
How is Frank? Frank has been back 5 times during this year for treatments, taking the view that palliative care in the form of healing is a very real option for him. Each time he has reported that he has not had a single "flare-up" or recurrence this whole year, or diarrhoea, or pain, and has even gained a little weight. (as of late OCT '05 & JAN 06) That's not to say it won't come back, and, of course, Frank is still on medication, but only periodically. Frank now has long periods with zero medication.
The other point worthy of note was that his operation was cancelled and is now termed no longer applicable.
Though the concept of palliative care is not new, in the past many doctors have concentrated on aggressively trying to cure patients, so that working toward making a patient comfortable was seen as "giving up" on them. In recent times, the concept of reaching, and maintaining, a good quality of life for chronic conditions, has gained ground among patients, although many would argue that there is a long way to go yet. I happen to agree with this and find that healing is a very effective way of reducing the stresses in the body and mind that are often cited by crohn's sufferers as a trigger.
If it is in your belief system to try, who knows what is achievable?
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Philip Chave © 2004-
Note: Please be aware that Healing, distant or otherwise, does not take the place of conventional medicine. Always consult a GP for an acute or infectious condition, and problems of an urgent nature. Continue with your prescribed medication. Healing is a complementary therapy that works effectively alongside orthodox/conventional healthcare, thus expanding your treatment options.
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