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A young woman snacks on a plate of assorted fruits to help improve her digestive health.

What causes Crohn’s disease?

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the digestive tract, typically the small intestine and colon. The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, but it is believed to be the result of an abnormal immune response in which the immune system attacks the digestive tract.

What are the symptoms of Crohn's disease?

The symptoms of Crohn's disease can vary from person to person and depend on the location and severity of the inflammation in the digestive tract. Some common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping: The most common symptom of Crohn's disease is abdominal pain, ranging from mild to severe.
  • Diarrhea: People with Crohn's disease may experience frequent bouts of loose or watery stools.
  • Fatigue: Chronic inflammation can cause fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Weight loss: The body may be unable to absorb nutrients properly due to inflammation in the digestive tract, leading to unintended weight loss.
  • Malnutrition: If the body is not absorbing nutrients properly, it can lead to malnutrition, which can cause a range of health problems.
  • Fever: Crohn's disease can cause fever due to inflammation and infection.
  • Blood in stool: This can indicate inflammation or ulceration in the digestive tract.
  • Reduced appetite: People with Crohn's disease may have a reduced appetite due to abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Joint pain: Inflammation can also affect the joints, causing pain and swelling.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a primary care provider today.

What are the risk factors for Crohn’s disease?

Some of the known risk factors for Crohn's disease include:

  • Genetics: Having a family history of Crohn's disease increases the risk of developing the condition.
  • Age: Crohn's disease can occur at any age, but it is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 35.
  • Smoking: Smoking has been shown to increase the risk of developing Crohn's disease, as well as making the symptoms worse.
  • Diet: There is some evidence to suggest that a diet high in sugar, fat, and processed foods may increase the risk of developing Crohn's disease.
  • Environment: Exposure to certain environmental factors, such as pollution, may increase the risk of developing Crohn's disease.
  • Immune system: Crohn's disease is thought to be caused by an abnormal immune response in which the immune system attacks the digestive tract.

How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?

Crohn's disease is typically diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. The diagnostic process may involve the following steps:

  • Medical history: Your primary care provider will ask you about your symptoms, family history, and medical history, as well as any medications or supplements you are taking.
  • Physical examination: Your primary care provider may perform a physical exam to check for signs of inflammation or other abnormalities in the digestive tract.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests may be done to look for signs of inflammation or infection, as well as to check for anemia or nutrient deficiencies.
  • Stool tests: Stool tests may be done to check for infections or other causes of diarrhea.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs, or X-rays may be used to look for signs of inflammation or other abnormalities in the digestive tract.

Endoscopy and biopsy: Endoscopy is a procedure in which a small camera is inserted through the mouth or anus to examine the digestive tract. Biopsies may be taken during endoscopy to look for signs of inflammation or abnormal cells.

How do you treat Crohn’s disease?

You and your doctor can work together to manage Crohn's disease with a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, surgery. The goals of treatment for Crohn's disease are to reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and improve quality of life.

  • Medications: Various medications can be used to reduce inflammation and manage symptoms of Crohn's disease, such as corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and biologics.
  • Nutrition therapy: A special diet or nutritional supplements may be recommended to help manage symptoms and maintain proper nutrition.
  • Lifestyle changes: Making changes to your lifestyle, such as reducing stress and getting regular exercise, may help improve symptoms and reduce inflammation.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove damaged or diseased portions of the digestive tract.

The specific treatment plan for Crohn's disease will depend on the individual's symptoms, medical history, and other factors. It is important to work closely with a primary care provider to develop an individualized treatment plan that is right for you.

What foods should you avoid with Crohn’s disease?

The specific foods that may produce symptoms of Crohn's disease can vary from person to person. However, there are some general guidelines for foods that may be best to avoid or limit for people with Crohn's disease:

  • High-fiber foods: Foods that are high in fiber, such as fruits with seeds or skin, raw vegetables, whole grains, and beans, can be difficult for some people with Crohn's disease to digest and may worsen symptoms.
  • Dairy products: Some people with Crohn's disease may have difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products, which can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
  • Spicy or fatty foods: Spicy foods and foods high in fat can be irritating to the digestive tract and may exacerbate symptoms.
  • Alcohol and caffeine: Alcohol and caffeine can be dehydrating and may stimulate the digestive tract, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea.
  • Popcorn, nuts, and seeds: Popcorn, nuts, and seeds can be difficult to digest and may worsen symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea.

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