Digestive health can be...complicated. There are so many overlapping systems and health issues that can cause or exacerbate digestive symptoms, like indigestion or mystery cramps, that trying to find their root cause can lead you down a rabbit hole of possibilities.
Struggling with unexplained symptoms like weight changes, diarrhea, fatigue, and even blood in your stool can leave you feeling confused, stressed, discouraged, or panicky. Educating yourself about what may be causing your symptoms and what you can do about them is the first step to taking control of your health.
If you suspect that your symptoms are a sign of Crohn’s disease, which affects over a half-million people in the United States alone, this blog post will help you familiarize yourself with its symptoms and treatments. (Note that the majority of information in this article was sourced from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation unless otherwise linked.)
This chronic illness is an inflammatory condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus, impacting the path that food travels through the body. It presents in a multitude of different symptoms, often somewhat sporadically.
Common symptoms of Crohn's disease include:
Sometimes symptoms flare up for a short period of time and then subside. Know that if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should consult your healthcare provider.
Crohn’s is a complex disease. There are many different organs along the GI tract, so a few areas of the body could be especially impacted. Different types and patterns of Crohn’s exist in a spectrum.
Where in the GI tract the Crohn's diseae is located will affect symptoms and potential health complications.
On average, people are more likely to be diagnosed with Crohn's between the ages of 20 and 30, although anyone of any age can get it. Like ulcerative colitis , the other half of the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) duo, Crohn's is mainly found in developed countries, urban areas, and northern climates, although the disease patterns are slowly shifting, with cases of IBD being found in developing parts of the world.
As you can probably guess, the research on Crohn’s has been extensive, but there is still not a definitive cause. Not diet. Not where you live. Not stress levels. No lifestyle choice has been proven to result in this disease.
Here's what researchers have uncovered: Crohn's is most likely passed via genetics—your risk for contracting Crohn’s is about 28% if either of your parents have it. And while lifestyle elements, like diet, stress, environmental pollutants, and smoking, don't cause Crohn's, they can create the right conditions to trigger it.
Here’s the really tricky part about Crohn’s: the symptoms overlap with so many other conditions that it can be difficult to identify right away. Is it Crohn’s or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Or is it food sensitivity ? Or even small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)?
While most doctors don't offer all the advanced tests you need to know for sure, Parsley does, including:
As a Parsley member, your clinician will listen to your all concerns and symptoms while you share your entire health history during your initial visit. With that information in hand, they'll work with you to determine the best diagnostic approach to take, including testing, based on your symptoms.
As personal as the diagnostic approach is for Crohn's disease, so is the treatment plan. There are many different ways that Crohn’s symptoms can be alleviated. Most treatment plans center around reducing inflammation in the GI tract and providing opportunity for the entire system to heal. Often this is achieved through certain medications, typically aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, and immunomodulators.
Sometimes adjusting lifestyle factors can have a significant impact on the symptoms of Crohn's disease. Certain nutritional approaches, like low-fat or low-salt diets, and stress management can go a long way to alleviate the digestional discomfort caused by Crohn's. If medication is needed, there are supplements and specific nutrition plans that can go a long way in maintaining or rebuilding the gut microbiome. Working with your Parsley Health clinician will ensure that you find the right balance to ease symptoms and hopefully send your Crohn's disease into remission.