Dr. Amanda Guthrie, BSc, ND
28 Park Road, 3rd Floor (Yonge & Bloor)
Park Road Healing Arts Building
Toronto, ON M4W 1M1
Crohn's disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The most common areas of inflammation for people with Crohn's disease are the last part of the small intestine (ileum) and the colon. Inflammation may be confined to the bowel wall, which can lead to scarring, or inflammation may spread through the bowel wall.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of Crohn's disease can range from mild to severe and may develop gradually or come on suddenly, without warning. You may also have periods of time when you have no signs or symptoms (remission). When the disease is active, symptoms include: diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, bleeding with bowel movements, ulcers in the intestines or mouth, reduced appetite, unintentional weight loss, fever and fatigue.
What Causes Crohn’s Disease?
A number of factors, such as heredity, a malfunctioning immune system, and imbalances in the “good” and “bad” bacteria that reside in the intestines play a role in the development of Crohn's disease. Diet and stress may aggravate existing Crohn's disease, however they don't cause it on their own.
What Complications can Crohn’s Disease Cause?
- Bowel obstruction
- Fistulas (an abnormal connection or ‘tunnel’ between the intestine to another part of the digestive tract, the skin, the bladder or the vagina)
- Abscess (a pocket of infection)
- Anal fissure
- Malnutrition and anemia (diarrhea and abdominal pain may make it difficult to eat and for your intestine to absorb enough nutrients to keep you nourished).
- Inflammation of the joints, eyes or skin
- Increased risk for colon cancer
How is Crohn’s Disease Treated?
When treating Crohn’s disease, the goal is to reduce the inflammation that triggers symptoms. Treatment should also improve long-term health by limiting complications that would otherwise arise without treatment. In the best cases, integrative treatment leads not only to symptom relief but also to long-term remission. Conventional treatment for Crohn's disease usually involves drug therapy or, in certain cases, surgery.
Naturopathic therapies can play a supportive role in improving your symptoms and quality of life. Naturopathic treatment of Crohn’s disease involves dietary modifications, stress management, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, specific therapeutic probiotics and standardized herbal medicines. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, naturopathic therapies are used on their own, or in combination with prescription drugs.
How Can Nutrition Help Crohn’s Disease?
Specific dietary recommendations can help reduce Crohn’s symptoms, aid healing of the intestines and replete nutrient deficiencies. Conversely, certain foods can aggravate Crohn’s symptoms, especially during a flare-up. We’ll help you determine which foods are best for you to eat and how to prepare these foods. Nutritional counseling is particularly important for people with nutrient deficiencies or who have lost an unhealthy amount of weight due to Crohn’s disease.
In addition, nutritional supplements may be necessary, such as: omega-3, multivitamins, iron, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D, among others.
What Lifestyle Changes Help Crohn’s Disease?
Lifestyle Changes such as quitting smoking and reducing/avoiding alcohol and coffee are important for people with Crohn’s. As well, regular exercise can be very helpful.
How does Stress Affect Crohn’s Disease?
Stress management is a very important part of your Crohn’s treatment since stress can trigger flare-ups. Stressful events can range from minor everyday annoyances to a move, job loss or the death of a loved one. In addition, having a chronic illness like Crohn’s disease is often itself a source of stress and anxiety as you try to manage your symptoms while living a normal life. Stress induces changes in your normal digestive process as well as changes in the intestinal tissue itself, causing a worsening of symptoms. To learn more about stress management, please click here.