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Science has not found a cure for Crohn's Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease, but one can manage its symptoms by adopting a suitable diet plan, in addition to medical and surgical treatments.

Up to two million people in the US suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, and about 700,000 of these people have Crohn's disease. The disease, which was named after Burrill B. Crohn, MD, who described it in 1932, is one of two conditions that make up a group of disorders classified as inflammatory bowel diseases, or IBD. The other condition is called ulcerative colitis, which mainly affects the colon.

Just like many other conditions, science has not found a cure for Crohn's disease. But researchers, doctors, and other experts are learning more ways to beat it.

What is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn's disease (also called Crohn disease) is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the digestive tract. Although inflammation can occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus, most patients have ulcerations in the small intestine and large intestines.

In Crohn's disease, there is chronic inflammation that affects the entire thickness of the bowel wall. One can have ulcers in the entire length of the intestine or have multiple ulcer clusters scattered throughout the digestive tract, with healthy tissue in between.

In severe cases, inflammation can lead to tears or fissures in the anal lining, which cause bleeding and pain during bowel movements. Fistulae or tunnels connecting the intestine to other organs such as the bladder, the vagina, or the skin may also develop. These complications require immediate medical attention.

What Causes Crohn's Disease?

The exact cause of this condition is poorly understood, but scientists believe that an abnormal immunologic response to some triggering event, in the presence of certain predisposing factors, is responsible for the disease. Many patients inherit a genetic susceptibility to the disease, and those who have first degree relatives who have the disease are more likely to develop it. Environmental, as well as lifestyle factors, which includes smoking cigarettes and use of oral contraceptives, also seem to be associated with it. Consuming a high fat diet is another predisposing factor.

What triggers an abnormal immune response leading to chronic inflammation in the digestive system has been an enigma to scientists studying IBD. Some studies show that the intestines of individuals with Crohn's disease have higher levels of a certain types of bacteria, such as E. coli, Pseudomonas species, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, Listeria species,Enterobacteriaceae, Veillonellaceae, Pasteurellacaea, and Fusobacteriaceae.

Can You Beat Crohn's Disease?

So far, no cure has been found for Crohn's disease. Patients may experience periods of active inflammation (relapse) and inactive periods (remission). During active inflammation, they may have symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, poor appetite, fever, rectal pain, and weight loss. Remissions may occur without treatment; however, some medical, surgical, and natural treatments may help induce and prolong remissions and improve quality of life.

Medications used for treating Crohn's disease include anti-inflammatory agents such as corticosteroids, antibiotics, and immunomodulators. These drugs help control symptoms and reduce inflammation, thus preventing complications.

Surgical treatment of Crohn's disease involves removal of an affected segment of the intestine that causes obstruction, drainage of abscesses, and treatment of fistulae or tunnels. These procedures can prolong remission and significantly improve the quality of one's life but the disease often returns after a few years in half of the patients.

Diet modification and nutritional therapy are an important part of beating Crohn's disease, and these are what patients can do for themselves on a daily basis. Eating certain foods can worsen one's symptoms, but choosing the right types of food and supplementing the diet can help restore one's health and reduce relapses.

To beat Crohn's disease, one must have sufficient knowledge of what triggers relapses, so that they can avoid these events.

Eating a healthy diet is sometimes a challenge because certain foods can trigger an attack of symptoms. This results in poor appetite, malnutrition, and poor health.

There is no evidence that specific foods are the cause of bowel inflammation, and reactions of individuals to these foods may vary. But knowing what foods are safe and which ones are likely to trigger relapses can help make life easier.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • WebMD. Crohn's Disease - Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/crohns-disease/tc/crohns-disease-topic-overview
  • WebMD. Creating a Crohn's Disease Diet Plan. http://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/crohns-disease/creating-a-crohns-disease-diet-plan
  • Mayo Clinic. Crohn's Disease. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/crohns-disease/basics
  • WebMD. Eating Plan for Inflammatroy Bowel Disease. http://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/eating-plan-for-inflammatory-bowel-disease#
  • Medscape. Crohn Disease. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/172940-overview#aw2aab6b2b4
  • MedicineNet. Crohn's Disease. http://www.medicinenet.com/crohns_disease/article.htm
  • Gevers D, Kugathasan S, Denson L, et al. The treatment-naive microbiome in new onset Crohn's Disease. Cell Host & Microbe, March 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2014.02.005
  • Photo courtesy of Beth Phillips by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/superr-rad/8461725045
  • Photo courtesy of Alpha by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/3299357375

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