Crohn’s disease, named for the doctor who first described it in 1932, is part of a collection of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Symptoms include abdominal pain, intense diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Crohn’s is occasionally diagnosed in children, but mostly in young adults up to age 30. Somewhere between 0.2% and 0.3% of adult Americans are diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, this figures to be almost one million people. It is only diagnosed after a series of tests and biopsies.
Causes primarily stem from immune system infections or hereditary conditions. The highest demographic affected are white people and those living in urban areas, particularly in northern US states. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can complicate matters with increased bowel inflammation. Smoking can also increase risks and symptoms. Inflammation can extend through several layers of bowel tissue, create bowel obstructions, ulcers, and fistulas producing major digestion issues.
Crohn’s has no cure, but there are a series of treatments to relieve the pressure, including a medication regimen and surgery. Understanding that this is a chronic, debilitating condition, it helps to have a grasp of what may help alleviate symptoms for friends and family.
1. Stay Aware of Their Diet Modification
Keeping diet in check is a primary means to controlling Crohn’s symptoms. The Mayo Clinic advises to stay away from dairy, fiber, high fat foods, spicy foods, booze and caffeine. It is also prudent to eat small meals and take multivitamins. Helping a person stick to a regimented diet, perhaps even keeping a food diary, will make their lives more pleasant as well as those around them.
2. Provide Emotional and Physical Support
It is really hard to do most daily tasks with a crippling disease, but the hardest thing is to suffer alone. Friends and family should take extra concern to make sure life is pleasant for the person, like cooking some meals or helping clean their house to make life less stressful. Also, provide an ear for their complaints and take the complaints seriously.
If needed, encourage the person to seek therapy to help deal with the emotional toll. Just because the person isn’t complaining at one moment doesn’t mean they aren’t in pain, or that the pain won’t return at any time. This is something that ebbs and flows. The depression that comes with Crohn’s can be hidden.
3. Discuss Alternative Medicine Treatment
Healthline mentions some common alternative therapies such as herbal supplements, probiotics, prebiotics, fish oil, and acupuncture. However, the Mayo Clinic notes that studies have shown little to no results with any of these and supplements are also not regulated as to effectiveness by the FDA. Some other alternative therapies to alleviate symptoms include marshmallow root, which contains polysaccharide to help line the stomach cutting down on ulcers and other intestinal disorders while also giving the immune system a boost. Aloe vera is touted as a cure for everything and also has polysaccharides to aid in digestive problems. Barley grass has been popular in health food circles lately, one reason being its digestive enzymes that may fight off gastrointestinal problems. Barley grass does, however, have a high fiber content, so it would be recommended to discuss options with a doctor.
Beyond these, if there is still no relief in sight, there are two major alternative therapies that also merit some consideration.
4. Read Up on Worm Therapy
Parasitic pig worms have shown to reduce chronic diarrhea in monkeys, and reduced inflammation in the colon and intestines. Such worms, or helminthes, have traditionally been part of human digestive tracts, though the presence of these worms has decreased considerably in the developed world as they are known as a parasite that causes infections in malnourished children. Meanwhile, however, autoimmune diseases have consistently increased in the developed world over the last 50 years. The research showed helminthes work to restore immune regulatory networks by controlling levels of gut bacteria and stimulating mucus production. Gross, parasitic or not, this method could be much better than living with the disease.
5. Consider That Marijuana May Be The Answer
A teacher from Germany dealt with the debilitating nature of Crohn’s and medication side effects for nearly a year before finally trying hemp oil. Within days, the apparently incurable disease and all the side effects had disappeared. Likewise, in a study of people smoking marijuana, 5 of 11 people saw a total remission. The National Institute of Health concedes that cannabis may be beneficial as an anti-inflammatory in bowels, and has been used as such since ancient times.
Though Crohn’s is chronic and painful, there are very real ways of handling the disease and living with it. By following a few pressure relieving treatments and assisting the person inflicted, life is made better. More awareness of this condition will only help the loved ones of people who suffers.
Featured photo credit: Manuel Paul/Flickr via flickr.com