ALTHOUGH CROHN’S DISEASE CAN BE A LITERAL PAIN, IT CAN BE MANAGED WITH A MIX OF
MEDICAL TREATMENTS AND LIFESTYLE CHOICES.
CROHN’S DISEASE (CD) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease with no identifiable cause. It can result in unpleasant, periodic symptoms that may include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, weight loss, nausea, and loss of appetite. In some cases, people can live with CD for an extended period of time without knowing it.
“Some people don’t feel comfortable talking about their bowels,” says Jon Potter, DO, Clinical Gastroenterologist at Eau Claire GI Associates. “But remember, if you’re not open about your symptoms, you might be pretty sick by the time you visit the doctor.”
Being vigilant about digestive problems can help doctors detect CD early, which is important to prevent scarring of the intestinal lining.
Routinely examining white blood and red blood counts can help doctors diagnose the condition.
“It’s a lot easier to tread water than it is to swim to the surface,”
Dr. Potter says. “Even if you don’t have CD, you may have something else that’s dangerous, treatable, or worth knowing about, such as cancer or a gluten allergy.”
LIVING WITH CD
Over the past 20 years, many advances in the field of CD treatment have been made that can make lives easier for those with this condition. Instead of relying on muscle-destroying prednisone, people with CD can now receive biologic injections to help suppress the immune system, which reduces inflammation and decreases the need for surgery.
“The goal is to heal the lining of the intestinal tract,” Dr. Potter says. “Some people may need injections, while others require little treatment at all.”
Changing eating habits can also help with CD. Although no one-size- fits-all diet has been identified to treat CD symptoms, people typically learn to identify foods that aggravate their digestive systems. Often, eating habits that are otherwise considered healthy can actually cause flare-ups.
“Bulky, high fiber or spicy foods can be hard for people with CD to eat,”
Dr. Potter says.
While occasional flare-ups may be unavoidable, seeing a board-certified gastroenterologist can help people with CD manage their condition and take control of their lives.
The Smoking Connection
You know smoking is bad for you and can cause respiratory problems while increasing your risk for cancer. However, smoking can also affect your digestive system in a surprising way— it can raise your risk for Crohn’s disease (CD).
Like many other aspects of CD, scientists are unsure why the condition is linked to smoking. What is known is that people with CD who quit smoking can lower
their risks for flare-ups and severe symptoms, providing yet another in a long list of reasons not to smoke.