Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that impacts the entire digestive system. The cause is unknown, but specialists suspect it’s a combination of the interaction between genetics, environmental factors, immune issues, and pathogens.
Like many autoimmune diseases, Crohn’s disease is characterized by immune cells attacking healthy tissues in the digestive tract. Unlike other autoimmune diseases, the immune system isn't triggered by its own proteins. Rather, it's triggered by the presence of a pathogen.
When a pathogen is present in the immune system, patients suffering from Crohn's experience an overblown reaction. This causes more inflammation than necessary, destroying not only the pathogens but also the surrounding tissues.
Due to the complexity of Crohn’s, there are a lot of myths regarding how the disease manifests itself and what causes the disease. Below, we asked our specialists at Digestive Disease Consultants of Orange County in Orange County, California, to provide some clarity on the most common myths.
Myth: Fiber can improve it
Although fiber is considered to be beneficial for most conditions related to digestion, it could irritate the intestines and cause a flare-up in Crohn’s sufferers.
Myth: Stress doesn’t play a role
Specialists don’t know for sure how stress triggers flare-ups, but they suspect it has something to do with the release of cortisol and its altering effects on the immune system. Some studies suggest that mindfulness meditation, with its beneficial effects on stress, can reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s.
Myth: Surgery removes the cause of Crohn
Surgery is used to treat the complications, namely the damage done to the intestinal tract, not to cure the disease. Surgeries are often recommended if the patient has perforations in the intestines, narrowing of the intestines, or infected tissue.
Myth: Crohn's isn’t a life-altering disease
Crohn's disease can definitely alter your life and force you to switch up your plans. For some people, the triggers are very clear. It could be stress or it could be certain foods.
For others, flare-ups may be erratic. One moment you’re feeling fine, and the next you’re excusing yourself to the bathroom in the middle of a conference due to diarrhea.
If the damage done to your intestines is significant, the consequences of the disease go beyond uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing symptoms. You might experience malnutrition due to not being able to absorb nutrients properly or, in serious cases, hospitalization
Myth: Medications are only recommended during flare-ups
Medications are used to ease the symptoms that appear during a flare-up and prevent the flare-up in the first place.
Once a flare-up occurs, you don’t just have to deal with uncomfortable symptoms that come and go but also with damage to the intestinal tract, which in some cases may be permanent. As a consequence, much of the treatment plan, including lifestyle interventions and medications, centers around preventing flare-ups.
For some sufferers, that may involve taking medications on a regular basis.
Hope for Crohn's disease
Not everyone experiences Crohn’s the same, which makes collaboration with an expert even more important as your treatment plan might need to be tailored to your unique needs.
Even though Crohn's is a lifelong disease that currently has no cure, with a personalized treatment plan, most people end up living a normal life with occasional flare-ups. Fortunately, there’s a wide range of medications to combat the symptoms of Crohn’s, including anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants, biologics, and antibiotics.
In the hands of our experts, you can enjoy life and live symptom-free. Contact us to schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Irvine, Huntington Beach, Tustin, and Foothill Ranch, California, to see how we can help.