Here, we round up everything there is to know about the type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including the symptoms, causes and even some natural remedies you can try yourself at home, so you can be sure you're clued up.
What is Crohn's disease?Crohn's disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system. Most commonly this happens in the last section of the small intestine (ileum) or the large intestine (colon).
What are the symptoms of Crohn's disease?Symptoms can vary from mild to severe, and will differ from person to person. The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease include:
Sufferers can sometimes go for long periods without symptoms or with very mild symptoms (known as remission), which can then be followed by periods where symtoms flare up and become troublesome.
How common is it?It's estimated that Crohn's disease affects one in every 650 people in the UK (about 115,000 people). It can be found in people of all ages, including children, although most cases first develop between the ages of 16 and 30 and a large number of cases develop between the ages of 60 and 80. It is also slightly more common in women.
What causes Crohn's disease?The exact causes of Crohn's are unknown, but a combination of factors may be responsible:
Is there a cure?At the moment there is no cure for Crohn's, but diet changes, drugs and sometimes surgery can give long periods of relief from symptoms. The first treatment to reduce symptoms is usually steroid medication, and if this doesn't help medication to suppress the immune system and to reduce inflammation may be used. In some cases, however, patients may require surgery to remove the inflamed part of intestine.
I think I have symptoms of Crohn's disease, what now?If you experience diarrhoea, abdominal pain and weight loss that lasts for several weeks or longer then go to the doctor and tell them you're concerned about Crohn's disease, especially if you're between the ages of 16-35 or have a family history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The doctor may carry out blood tests, stool tests, an endoscopy (a thin flexible tube with a camera on the tip) through your mouth or through the back passage, or a capsule endoscopy which is a tiny capsule with a camera inside.
5 natural remedies for Crohn's diseaseYou should always seek medical treatment if you're suffering from Crohn's, but there are a few natural rememdies which could help compliment treatment and ease the discomfort and pain associated with the symptoms.
Probiotics contain good bacteria to help support gastrointestinal health and maintain balance in the digestive system, which could help reduce the symptoms of Crohn's. You could try probiotics in supplement form, or in yogurts containing live and cultures (think Actimel) - but remember to always check with your doctor first.
It's not just an excuse to visit the spa, massage has been proven to reduce stress and pain throughout the body, and around 30% of Crohn's sufferers have reported using massage as a natural remedy, according to a study in the Gut journal in 2012. While you should avoid having a massage during a flare up, neck, back and shoulder massages during remission can help to relieve tension and stress, which can aggrivate Crohn's.
Alexandra Rainesford, who created a Crohn's disease management plan after being diagnosed with the disease in 2013, says she swears by hot vinyasa yoga to ease her symptoms.
'Almost immediately, yoga helped ease the anxiety that's often a side effect of Crohn's disease, at least for me' she says.'I love twists, because they quite literally wring you out, and inversions, partially because they're just fun, and because they reset your entire system.' Plus it's said that the work out can help you to relax and manage stress, too!
It's an ancient technique that involves thin needles being inserted into specific points in your body, which is said to help stimulate your brain to release endorphins. It's been suggested that acupuncture can help ease aches and pains that are associated with Crohn's and helps to relieve stress.
Fish oil is packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that could help to reduce the inflammation associated with Crohn's disease. But be careful - high doses could increase bleeding, so it's always best to check with your doctor before you start taking a supplement.
Do you have any natural remedies for Crohn's disease you swear by? Let us know in the comments below.