Crohn’s disease is an ongoing disorder that causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. It can affect any area of the digestive system, from the mouth to the anus, most commonly the lower part of the small intestine (the ileum).
The inflammation extends deep into the lining of the affected part of the digestive tract, with the resultant swelling causing the intestines to empty frequently, resulting in pain and diarrhoea.
Crohn’s disease seems to have a genetic basis – 1 in 3 patients have a family history of either Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Onset of the disease may be triggered by the presence of bacteria or viruses that provoke an abnormal immune response.
Smoking seems to contribute to the development or worsening of Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms vary depending on the location of the inflammation but may include:
- Spasmodic abdominal pain and tenderness, especially on the lower right hand side.
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy or malaise
- Low grade fever
- Rectal bleeding
- Frothy, foul-smelling stools that float
- Unexplained arthritis
- Anxiety or depression
Digestive imbalance: research shows that various digestive imbalances such as the inability to digest fat, levels and types of bacteria in the gut can all contribute to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the umbrella term for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Absorption of nutrients can affect the immune system, which is also implicated in diseases such as IBD.
Crohn’s disease may develop as a “gut reaction” to imbalances between friendly and detrimental bacteria. Friendly bacteria are very important for ensuring our food is properly digested, that our gut lining is healthy and that pathogens cannot invade. If our numbers of friendly bacteria drop, these important roles may be compromised, leaving us more susceptible to leaky gut, inflammatory flare-ups and infection by pathogens that could trigger the disease. Research also demonstrates that specific types of good bacteria can influence the outcome of the disease in a positive way.
A Comprehensive Digestive Stool Test checks how well you’re digesting food and absorbing nutrients, the health of the gut wall and your levels of good and bad bacteria. This new GI Effects Test uses the latest technology to assess the state of your digestion, along with PCR technology to check good bacteria DNA and bacterial diversity. It’s particularly relevant to Crohn’s disease as it also measures inflammatory markers in the gut. Smart Nutrition can also use the results to help optimise your gut flora and minimise inflammation.
Diet: large meals, fried or fatty foods, spicy dishes and harsh fibres such as wheat and bran can irritate the lining of the digestive system and exacerbate Crohn’s symptoms. Eating lots of refined foods and foods high in sugar can also make the condition worse by increasing inflammation.
Smart Nutrition can help you manage your symptoms by changing your diet – please use the link at the bottom of the page to book a consultation.
Nutrient deficiencies: 80% of Crohn’s patients experience chronic diarrhoea as part of their symptom picture. Diarrhoea does not allow food to be properly digested or absorbed, so can cause nutrient deficiencies to develop. This can lead to many other health problems, including stunted growth in children.
A NutrEval Test gives a comprehensive overview of nutrient status and can be used to target individual deficiencies. Smart Nutrition’s nutritional therapists can help you interpret the results – as well as provide diet and supplement advice to help you correct your nutrient levels well as providing diet and supplement to help you manage you condition and correct nutrient levels.
Leaky gut: also known as intestinal permeability, this condition allows undigested or partially digested foods, bacteria and viruses to enter the bloodstream. A normal healthy gut lining only allows certain molecules – vitamins, minerals, digested foods – to pass into the bloodstream. It acts as a barrier to prevent entry of certain molecules. These can react with the immune system and give rise to an inflammatory response.
A Leaky Gut Test can confirm the presence of leaky gut.
Food allergies or intolerance: immune reactions to food particles may play an important role in the development or severity of Crohn’s disease. Food intolerances often develop when leaky gut is present because food particles that normally remain in the digestive tract enter the blood stream and interact with the immune system. This triggers an immune system response whenever you eat the food containing the protein you’re are allergic to – the body creates antibodies and other chemicals, including histamine, in an effort to expel the “invader” from your body. Histamine release in the gastrointestinal tract can cause stomach pains, cramps, diarrhoea and inflammation, triggering a Crohn’s flare up.
Food allergies and intolerances can be identified using a simple finger prick blood test.
Chronic stress: stress can lead to both leaky gut and compromised gut flora, both of which can trigger a Crohn’s flare up.
If a stressful lifestyle might be a factor in your condition, an Adrenal Stress Test can pinpoint imbalances between stress hormones and their depleting effect on the immune system and gut.
Essential fatty acid imbalances – The chronic diarrhoea that often accompanies Crohn’s can significantly compromised the sufferers ability to absorb fats. The most important of these fats are the essential fatty acids which have many functions in the body including building new cells and mediating inflammatory processes. The inflammation responsible for Crohn’s symptoms may be significantly reduced by ensuring adequate levels of these vital nutrients. Once the levels of the various fatty acids are known, a nutritionist can help you re-establish a balance using a combination of diet and supplements.
Amino acid deficiency: amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Low levels of amino acids that help to control inflammation and support intestinal health may exacerbate Crohn’s symptoms.
An Amino Acid Test measures the levels of all amino acids, highlighting any deficiencies. Smart Nutrition can help you to address these using diet and supplements.
Calprotectin: calprotecin is a protein biomarker that’s used as a widely acknowledged way of checking inflammation in the gut. It’s used to help diagnose and differentiate IBS from IBD. Some people also like to keep an eye on calprotectin levels to help monitor disease activity, allowing them to act swiftly and make important decision about medication and dietary factors as soon as possible.