Naturopathic Crohn Disease Approach Overview
Crohn disease can be a difficult condition for many people to manage as it can affect many aspects of life including mental-emotional state, ability to work and productivity, educational activities, social and personal activities1. Many people have never heard of Crohn disease or do not have much knowledge on the condition, and it can be overwhelming to receive the diagnosis at first. Crohn disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that leads to chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract3. The first symptoms of Crohn disease typically manifest between the ages of 15-35 years old2. This can be a particularly difficult time to develop the condition as they comprise of a person’s formative years of becoming an adult, career and relationship establishment. While almost 800 thousand Americans are affected daily by Crohn disease; there has a been a global increase in the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease as a whole due to spread of industrialization, shedding light to possible contributing factors of the disease.
What causes Crohn disease?
While there is no known direct cause of Crohn disease, there are several contributing factors. Crohn disease is more common in Jewish populations, conversely is less common in black and Hispanic populations2. Additionally, up to 25% of patients with a diagnosis of Crohn have a family member with either Crohn or Ulcerative Colitis2. Also, those who smoke cigarettes have an increased risk of developing and the recurrence Crohn disease2. Other contributing factors that may increase the risk of developing Crohn disease are:
- Sleep deprivation, insomnia
- History of appendectomy
- Dysbiosis, SIBO, imbalance in GI microbiome
- Food intolerances
- Obesity, excess abdominal fat
- Exposure to certain antibiotics
- Oral contraceptives
The largest contributing factor is epigenetics. Epigenetics is the interplay of your specific genes with your environmental terrain. The environmental terrain consists of water quality and intake, air quality, exposure to environmental toxicities, exposure to infectious microbes, efficiency in elimination, hormone balance, stress level, quality of thought patterns, and quality in relationships. Genes are the blueprint or the instruction manual for how the body functions and what the body produces. The environmental terrain is similar to a light switch. The quality in environmental terrain will either turn genes on or off that are associated with Crohn disease.
There are protective factors that will decrease the risk of Crohn disease and improve clinical outcomes. Our Naturopathic Autoimmune Specialist can help identify the contributing factors and protective factors in your case to help you have improved clinical outcomes.
What are the common symptoms of Crohn disease4?
Crohn disease is characterized by inflammation of the entire wall of gastrointestinal tract3. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract includes: the mouth, esophagus, liver, stomach, small intestine, large intestine to rectum. While it can affect any area of the GI tract, Crohn disease typically affects the terminal ileum into the large intestine/colon. The terminal ileum is the last section of the small intestine. Chronic inflammation over time can lead to fibrosis or scar tissue to develop causing strictures or narrowing of the tract leading to constipation, obstruction and severe pain.
- Abdominal pain, specifically right lower abdominal pain
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Rectal bleeding
As Crohn disease progresses or in more severe cases, it may start to affect other organ systems leading to joint pain, eye inflammation, liver disease, blood clots, kidney stones, vitamin/nutrient deficiencies (Vitamin D, calcium and vitamin B12) and lung disease3.
Why is it important to work with a Naturopathic Autoimmune Specialist?
Naturopathic Crohn Disease treatment corrects the underlying factors and causes, leading to a resolution of symptoms without harsh side effects. This approach decreases the risk of cancer, extra intestinal manifestations, decreases risk of surgery and bowel resection. Functional Doctors believe that individualized treatment plans are essential in helping patients reach their health goals, as each person is unique with their own set of contributing factors. Treatments can include:
- Comprehensive evaluation and diagnostic testing
- Medical Nutrition
- Medical-grade vitamins and mineral supplementation
- Herbal formulations
- Lymphatic therapy
- Collaborative care approach with your GI specialist, if necessary
1 Wexner S.D., Frattini J.C. (2010) Quality of Life in Crohn’s Disease. In: Preedy V.R., Watson R.R. (eds) Handbook of Disease Burdens and Quality of Life Measures. Springer, New York, NY
2 Peppercorn M.A., Cheifetz A.S. (2018) Definition, epidemiology and risk factors in inflammatory bowel disease. Uptodate.
3 Peppercorn M.A., Kane S.V. (2018) Clinical manifestations, diagnosis and prognosis of Crohn disease in adults. Uptodate.