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Most people might assume that diseases of the digestive tract are closely related to an individual’s eating habits. But that’s not the case with Crohn’s disease. A form of irritable bowel syndrome that affects the small intestine, this chronic disorder is marked by abnormal immune system response. The body mistakes healthy bacteria found in the small intestine as harmful and attacks them, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. In the process, the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed, narrowing the passageway.
Researchers aren’t sure what causes Crohn’s disease but say it appears to run in some families. Although it can affect a person at any age, it’s most often diagnosed between ages 20 and 30.
Because the symptoms of Crohn’s disease are similar to other gastrointestinal disorders, the disease is difficult to diagnose. Symptoms include persistent diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, fatigue and sometimes rectal bleeding. Some people will experience a loss of appetite and subsequently weight loss.
The disease also affects other areas of the body, including the joints, eyes, skin and liver. Patients tend to have “flare-ups,” during which symptoms are prominent, followed by periods of remission.
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but treatment helps patients manage the condition. A variety of medications can reduce inflammation and the number of flare-ups. Surgery may be required in patients who no longer respond to medication.
Crohn’s disease has not been linked to any particular foods or diet. To reduce symptoms, however, people with the condition are advised to watch what they eat.
Because many experience a loss of appetite during flare-ups, it’s important for Crohn’s patients to continue to get the nutrients their bodies need. What is ingested may be lost during bouts of diarrhea. Also, chronic conditions in general tend to cause the body to require a higher calorie intake to fight off the infection.
While there is no recommended diet or food list for people with Crohn’s disease, eating soft, bland foods during flare-ups and staying away from spicy and high-fiber foods may help.
Your doctor might recommend a nutrition supplement. Some patients require high-calorie liquid formulas or even to be fed intravenously to get the nutrition they need.
People with Crohn’s disease, like those with other chronic conditions, often experience emotional distress. Talk to your physician about ways to enhance your quality of life with Crohn’s disease.
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