You may have heard of Crohn’s disease before, but never really understood everything that it means. Now you have been diagnosed or someone close to you has been diagnosed with it, and you want to know more. It is important to understand how it affects the body, how problematic it can be, and what it means for the diet.
Crohn’s disease does not affect everyone in the same way. There are some people who manage it and get rid of their symptoms through their diet for the majority of the time, controlling their flare-ups well. Then there are others who no matter what they do suffer from pain and discomfort on a daily basis.
People with Crohn’s disease suffer from more than just stomach cramps. It affects their physical and mental health. Here is a look at everything you need to know about the chronic illness.
There Is No Cure for Crohn’s Disease
At the time of writing this, there is still no cure or treatment for Crohn’s disease. Some of the “treatments” are only temporary or only work on a small number of the popular. It is a chronic disorder that many patients just learn how to live with it.
The disease is a nightmare, especially when there are flare-ups. It is one of two very common bowel diseases that cause inflammation of the gut and can lead to ulcers forming on the intestinal wall. The other is Ulcerative Colitis and is just as bad.
There is not just one part of the digestive tract that is affected either. All parts of your digestive system can suffer, including your colon and everywhere the stools pass. It can make living extremely difficult at times.
To make matters worse, everyone’s experience of Crohn’s disease is different. While there are some common symptoms and triggers, the realities of the disease differ between all patients. This is part of the reason for no cure or treatment yet. There just is not a one-size-fits-all approach to treating a condition that does not have any consistency between patients.
And your diet will not affect the disease. Unlike celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and digestive discomforts, Crohn’s disease is not affected directly by the food you eat and that means your diet is not going to necessarily fix the problem. While there are some foods that can make the symptoms, worse or cause a flare up, it is not actually the ingredients. Evidence does not support the idea that one or two types of food affect it.
While you will find a lot of information of how one or two people have dealt with Crohn’s disease, it is not necessarily going to help you, or the people close to you. Sure, try them if you want, but do not be too disappointed when they do not work. People will make suggestions to you and it is annoying, but they are suggesting things with hope and help in mind.
Doctors Do Not Know Why You Have It
- It is caused by genetics
- Your immune system is not reacting properly
- The environment has triggered it
- It is all in your food
Quite honestly, these are all theories about why people suffer from Crohn’s disease. While some people certainly find that food triggers flare-ups or the immune system are reacting against something, that is not always the case. Doctors do not fully understand Crohn’s disease yet.
This is quite sad considering 1 out of every 650 patients suffers from the disease. You will likely know somebody with it, although they may not be diagnosed with it.
Some people will get a diagnosis from a young age. For others that diagnosis does not come for many years, as doctors do not always consider it when looking at your symptoms. Some people can live without a diagnosis for most of their lives not realizing that what they feel is not normal.
You Can Constantly Have Symptoms
You will hear of flare-ups but that does not mean you do not have symptoms at other times of the day. The flare-ups are just when the disease is at its most active. It is when you can be left in excruciating pain and unable to do anything.
However, you can have symptoms throughout the year. They range from mild to serious. Some of the milder ones could be your disease in remission but a niggling reminder that it is there.
Most people suffer from cramps, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. The last thing you want to do is put food into your stomach to force your digestive system to work. This can lead to severe weight loss and poor nutritional levels since you are not getting everything your body needs.
Fatigue is one of the most commonly complained about symptoms. This is more than just feeling like you could do with an extra hour in bed. Your whole body just cannot physically do anything. The fatigue is constant and overwhelming. And of course, your mental health suffers from this. Constant pain and tiredness can lead to depression and anxiety.
In fact, anxiety is common even when you do not have the fatigue. You can be worried about living one day to the next. You do not know if you are going to be able to stick with the plans you have. It is hard to know if you are going to suffer from a flare-up one day to the next. Nobody wants to live like that, but Crohn’s disease sufferers have to. They have to take the good days with the bad.
Liquid Diets Can Help to Get the Nutrients In
You know you need to eat, but that is the last thing you want. Crohn’s sufferers do not want to do anything that could make the pain worse. But this leads to a lack of nutrients, a lack of calories, and a lack of water. Dehydration and starvation can add to the symptoms and also cause other health problems.
So you need to find a way to get the nutrients in. This is when liquid diets are used. Most sufferers will have smoothies and shake to help them get the nutrients.
The liquid diets are useful after flare-ups. They can help to soothe the pain in the digestive system, cooling down the burning sensation while repairing some of the damage. Of course, throughout this time you are just thinking of all the food you want but cannot manage right now.
It is worth having a range of smoothies or shakes recipes. They will give you something to look forward to when you can start stomaching something. While they are not as fun as the pizza you are dreaming of eating or as filling as Sunday dinner, they are tasty, and you can have some fun with them.
Surgery Is Something Most Patients Face
While there are little things known about Crohn’s disease, surgery is one of the treatments considered by many doctors. The idea is that you cut out the bad parts and support the health of the good parts of your digestive system. Most patients will have at least one surgery in their lifetime and some will have more.
While it can temporarily fix the situation, the disease does come back. And there is only so much of the digestive tract that you can cut out. Eventually, you will need to find other ways to help solve the problem.
On top of this downside, there are consequences from surgeries. Stomas are commonly needed, which is a pouch on the outside of the body while collects matter into it. The idea is that the food does not touch your digestive system and instead you collect the waste to remove. You are carrying around bags of your waste around with you all the time. It is not sexy, not fun, and not living.
Even if you do not face surgery, you can find yourself hospitalized a lot. Your body cannot heal from other conditions, so you end up with viral and bacterial infections more. If you do not get enough nutrients or calories, you can end up needing drips and help to support your overall health.
It is an Invisible but Not Infectious Disease
The term “disease” can often be misleading. Most people worry that because they know someone with Crohn’s, they will get it to. After all is not that how all diseases work?
Well, it is not actually an infectious disease. There is no need to grab your plague mask or avoid people when they have flare-ups. There is definitely not need to declare that you have the condition before seeing friends or meeting their newborns. Nobody will catch this, which is part of the reason why it is so hard to figure out what causes it and how to stop it.
All sufferers need is some love and care, especially when they have flare-ups. If someone close to you has it, be there for them with some hugs and hot water bottles. While they may not be able to show it at the time, they will deeply appreciate everything you’d done. If you are the one suffering from it, let people know what they can do to help. Even if it is folding some of your laundries, they will want to find a way to support you.
Crohn’s is considered an invisible disease since there are no physical symptoms that appear on your body. It is not easy to talk about it, but it is important to have this dialogue with people close to you. While hiding the disease may protect you from embarrassment, you lose out on your support system. Find the people you trust the most and let them know when you are having a flare-up.
It Is Something You Can Learn to Live With
Despite all the bad and unknown, Crohn’s is something you can learn to live with. It does not have to stop you from having a complete life. You can go to school, get a job, have children, and more. Some of it will be a little harder, but it is not going to be impossible.
This is something sufferers need to figure out for themselves though. They need to work out their limitations and figure out what works for them.
One of the first things to do is to stop viewing the condition as an enemy. Your body is not doing this to punish you. The flare-ups are excruciating, but there are good elements in between. When you do suffer flare-ups, find ways to care for your body. Remember that your whole body is suffering and needs some tender loving care.
Once you acknowledge that Crohn’s is the problem, you can start to find ways to prevent some of the flare-ups. You can figure out what your triggers are, so you know which foods are best avoided. It is possible to see earlier signs that you are about to get the pain, so you can start planning. No, this is not always going to be possible, but you can do it some of the time. You can figure out how to live your life with the disease.
There are going to be some foods that end up on your banned list, but you can work your way around that. You can figure out how to make alternatives that are friendly in your gut. Your doctor will help find options to make it seem like you have a normal life.
A Takeaway to Consider
Nothing you have done is causing your Crohn’s disease. Nothing the people around you have caused it either. While there may be a genetic element, this is not the fault of your parents or the environment. There are some triggers, but your body would have had this anyway.
Once you accept this, you can start taking steps to live with the disease. After all, that is all you can do right now. There are surgical options, but there is only so much surgery you can have. Eventually, you just must find a way to deal with the flare-ups when they occur. Those close to you have to figure out how to deal with it.
Support is one of the best things a sufferer can have. If you have it, let people know. If a friend or a family member has it, be there for them.