What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease often develop gradually. Certain symptoms may also become worse over time.
Although it’s possible, it’s rare for symptoms to develop suddenly and dramatically.
The earliest symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include:
- abdominal cramps
- blood in your stool
- a fever
- a loss of appetite
- weight loss
- feeling as if your bowels aren’t empty after a bowel movement
- feeling a frequent need for bowel movements
It’s sometimes possible to mistake these symptoms for the symptoms of another condition, such as food poisoning, an upset stomach, or an allergy. You should see your doctor if these symptoms persist.
The symptoms may become more severe as the disease progresses. These symptoms can include:
- a perianal fistula, which causes pain and drainage near your anus
- ulcers that may occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus
- inflammation of the joints and skin
Early detection and diagnosis can help you avoid severe complications and allow you to begin treatment early.
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. As many as 700,000 Americans have Crohn’s disease.
More research about this disease is necessary. Researchers aren’t sure how it begins, who is most likely to develop it, or how to best treat it. Despite major advances in treatment in the last three decades, no cure is available for Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease most commonly occurs in the small intestine and the colon. The disease can affect any part of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from your mouth to your anus. The disease can involve some parts of the GI tract and skip other parts.
What may be mild or irritating for some can be painful and debilitating for others. The symptoms vary and can change over time. In some people, the disease can lead to life-threatening complications.
Dietary recommendations for people with Crohn’s disease
A diet plan that works for one person with Crohn’s disease may not work for another. This is because the disease can involve different areas of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in different people. It’s important to find out what works best for you. Changes to your diet and lifestyle may help you reduce the recurrence of symptoms and lessen their severity.
If you have Crohn’s disease, you should:
Adjust your fiber intake
Some people need a high-fiber, high-protein diet. For others, the presence of extra food residue from high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables may aggravate the GI tract. If this is the case, you may need to switch to a low-residue diet.
Limit your fat intake
Crohn’s disease may interfere with your body’s ability to break down and absorb fat. This excess fat will pass from your small intestine to your colon. This could lead to diarrhea.
Limit your dairy intake
You may not have lactose intolerance, but your body may respond in a similar way if you have Crohn’s disease. Consuming dairy can lead to an upset stomach, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea for some people.
Crohn’s disease may affect your body’s ability to “recycle” water from your digestive tract. This can lead to dehydration. The risk for dehydration is especially high if you’re having diarrhea.
Consider alternative sources of vitamins and minerals
Crohn’s disease can affect your intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients from your food properly. Eating high-nutrient foods may not be enough. Talk to your doctor about the use of multivitamins, and ask them if they’re right for you.
Work with your doctor to figure out what best suits your needs. They may refer you to a dietician or nutritionist. Together, you can identify your dietary limitations and create guidelines for a well-balanced diet.
Treatment for Crohn’s disease
A cure isn’t available for Crohn’s disease, but it can be manageable. A variety of treatment options may be able to lessen the severity and frequency of your symptoms.
More than four classes of medication are used to treat Crohn’s disease. First-line treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs. More advanced options include biologics, which use the body’s immune system to treat the disease.
Food doesn’t cause Crohn’s disease, but it can trigger disease flares. Once you have a definitive diagnosis, your doctor will likely suggest that you make an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD). An RD will guide you through the process of understanding how food affects your symptoms.
In the beginning, they may ask you to keep a food diary. This food diary will detail what you ate and how it made you feel. Using this information, the RD will set out guidelines for you to follow. These nutrition and dietary changes should help you absorb nutrition from the food you eat while also limiting any side effects the food may cause.
If less invasive treatments and lifestyle changes don’t alter or improve your symptoms, surgery may be necessary. During surgery, your doctor will remove damaged portions of your digestive tract and reconnect the healthy sections