WHAT IS CROHN'S?
Crohn’s Disease belongs to a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), it is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s Disease is not the same as Ulcerative Colitis, another type of IBD. The symptoms of these two illnesses are quite similar, but the areas affected in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) are different.
Most commonly affects the end of the small bowel (the ileum) and the beginning of the colon, but it may affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from the mouth to the anus.
Affects the entire thickness of the bowel wall
Inflammation of the intestine can “skip”, leaving normal areas in between patches of diseased intestine
Limited to the colon, also called the large intestine.
Only involves the innermost lining of the colon.
Does not occur in patches within the intestine.
Signs and Symptoms
Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract. While symptoms vary from patient to patient and some may be more common than others, symptoms of include:
Urgent need to move bowels
Abdominal cramps and pain
Sensation of incomplete evacuation
Constipation (can lead to bowel obstruction)
Loss of appetite
Loss of normal menstrual cycle
Even if you think you are showing signs of Crohn’s disease symptoms, only proper testing performed by your doctor can render a diagnosis.
People suffering from Crohn’s often experience loss of appetite and may lose weight as a result. A feeling of low energy and fatigue is also common. Among younger children, Crohn's may delay growth and development. Crohn's is a chronic disease, so this means patients will likely experience periods when the disease flares up and causes symptoms, followed by periods of remission when patients may not notices symptoms at all. In more severe cases, Crohn’s can lead to tears (fissures) in the lining of the anus, which may cause pain and bleeding, especially during bowel movements. Inflammation may also cause a fistula to develop. A fistula is a tunnel that leads from one loop of intestine to another, or that connects the intestine to the bladder, vagina, or skin. This is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. The symptoms you or your loved one experience may depend on which part of the GI tract is affected.
What are the causes of Crohn’s Disease? Who is Affected?
Crohn’s disease may affect as many as 780,000 Americans. Men and Women are equally likely to be affected, and while the disease can occur at any age, Crohn's is more prevalent among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.
The causes of Crohn’s disease are not well understood. Diet and stress may aggravate Crohn’s Disease, but they do not cause the disease on their own. Recent research suggests hereditary, genetics, and/or environmental factors contribute to the development of Crohn’s Disease.
The GI tract normally contains harmless bacteria, many of which aid in digestion. The immune system usually attacks and kills foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. Under normal circumstances, the harmless bacteria in the intestines are protected from such an attack. In people with IBD, these bacteria are mistaken for harmful invaders and the immune system mounts a response. Cells travel out of the blood to the intestines and produce inflammation (a normal immune system response). However, the inflammation does not subside, leading to chronic inflammation, ulceration, thickening of the intestinal wall, and eventually causing patient symptoms.
Crohn's Disease is most common among people of eastern European backgrounds, including Jews of European descent. In recent years, an increasing number of cases have been reported among African American populations.
The environment in which you live also appears to play a role. Crohn’s is more common in developed countries rather than undeveloped countries, in urban rather than rural areas, and in northern rather than southern climates.
C.A.R.E. for Crohn’s Foundation was founded in sunny South Florida in 2013. Through our community outreach, nutrition education and awareness campaigns, we stand for (C)aring (A)nd (R)esponding (E)ffectively, as we continue to CARE and provide resources and supportive services to individuals living with IBD. We strive to provide the necessary tools to improve their quality of life through education on the importance of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
The Nutrition Resource Center is a wellness facility working to bring better health to the community. The NRC is more than a place for those living with digestive diseases, but it is a movement looking to bring resources for people to live a more health conscious lifestyle, with therapeutic outlets that fuel the mind, body and soul. We offer services and programs throughout the year including medical nutrition therapy and diet counseling with a Registered Dietitian, workshops and educational seminars, cooking demos, yoga, creative therapy and more. We create a comfortable environment where it is cool to be healthy, and unshameful to talk about digestion and mental health.
Sybille Guichard, founder of C.A.R.E. for Crohn's Foundation has been living with Crohn's disease for over a decade. At the age of 12, she developed symptoms that went from unnoticed to hard not to notice. Unbearable abdominal pain, drastic weight loss, rectal bleeding, painful bowels, loss of appetite, high fevers, joint pains, abscesses, hair loss and anemia, it still took 2 years of misdiagnosis's before doctors could determine that it was Crohn's Disease.
"It was to the point that the doctors were sure I had a form of cancer, but after much testing, it was discovered that it was Crohn’s. I was 14 years old, a freshman in high school and very active in dance and other after school activities (despite my pain), everything came to a complete stop. The pain and discomfort left me very low, while the diagnosis left me confused about what does it mean to live with an incurable disease I never even heard of?! My entire four years of high school I was never symptom free, and no one could ever understand what it was I was going through. My senior year I became extremely ill and in the hospital for months,I had to be home schooled up until the last month before graduation. I was able to enjoy my senior prom and went into remission for 3 years. At the age of 18 I finally knew what it felt like to be a real teenager and feeling like a “normal” person again. After that amazing three year run of being “Crohn’s free” I became very ill. My body became immune to the medication I was on for three years and was back to being the sick girl i thought I would never see again. Doctors discovered that I had a blockage in my ileum and I needed to have it removed. Surgery?! This was a dream come true for me. I have heard many good testimonies from people who have had surgery and went symptom free for an extremely long time. To me that translated into a cure, and I would never be sick again. Unfortunately after a week and a "great recovery process" I became very sick, very fast. It was not understood what was the issue but after tests were ran, I still had Crohn’s and I was still in the middle of an active flare in an area near the surgical site.
I was warned that this may be the issue after surgery but I was sure it wouldn’t happen to me, but it did. After 3 months of being admitted into the hospital I was finally home and working my way into complete health. After two blood transfusions, endless pain, and total bowel rest (liquid diet), I was exhausted. I was just happy to be home. A month later I had my pic line removed, I started my new meds, and I was healing well. I then went into remission again and went symptom free for another 3 years until my next major flare.
One day I began to think of my teen years suffering with Crohn’s. I always remember feeling misunderstood, and I wished I knew someone else my age with Crohn’s who could relate. I couldn't be the only person on earth with this illness could I? I felt it was up to me to start a movement to make a difference for teens and other young adults who keep quiet, in embarrassment, of this extremely debilitating disease. Although Crohn’s is a tough illness, many people are not aware of the disease and the severity of its symptoms. Meanwhile, those who have it DO NOT talk about it. I want Crohnies and all IBD-ers to know that they are not alone, and there are others like them who can relate. Nothing to be ashamed of, people are afraid of what they don’t know, so if we stay quiet, no one will ever know what Crohn’s disease is. I preach that "Why me?" is not a fair question because if not you, then who? We need to create our own "normal" and awareness to build a stronger us; mind, body and soul."