Most people don’t feel comfortable talking about their digestive health and will shy away from discussing particular issues with their family or doctor. However, approximately 10% of all hospitalizations involve the digestive system and nearly 30,000 Canadians die from digestive diseases each year1.
November is Crohn’s and Colitis awareness month and is a perfect opportunity to begin conversations about digestive health.
Crohn’s Disease and Colitis are types of Irritable Bowel Diseases (IBD) that impact approximately 200,000 Canadians: the highest incidence of IBD worldwide2.
Contrary to its name, IBD can affect any portion of the digestive system including the mouth, esophagus, stomach and small intestine; and not just the large intestine (which includes the colon, rectum and anus). In fact, inflammation associated with IBD can also manifest in the eyes.
Crohn’s Disease (CD) is characterized by inflammation of the digestive system resulting in:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Unintended weight loss
- Lack of energy
CD is a chronic (long-term) condition with periods of symptom flare-ups followed by remissions (i.e. symptom-free periods).
Since the cause of CD is not well understood treatment focuses on symptom alleviation. Some treatment options include:
- The avoidance of foods that trigger symptoms. Trigger foods differ from individual to individual and can be identified by keeping daily records of food intake and symptoms.
- Eating small amounts of food throughout the day
- Drinking small amounts of water throughout the day
- Avoidance of high fiber foods such as bran, beans, nuts, seeds and corn
- Avoidance of dairy products may help in cases of lactase deficiency, aka lactose intolerance (lactase is the enzyme that digests the carbohydrate lactose in the milk we drink)
Due to the restrictive nature of treatment for CD, deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and other nutrients may develop. Vitamin supplementation may be required to combat this.
Medications may also be used to treat CD. For example, pain killers may be used to alleviate pain, and medications such as Imodium may be used to treat diarrhea. However, it is important to discuss medication use with your pharmacist and/or doctor because the use or overuse of some medications may actually worsen symptoms (e.g. Advil is NOT recommended for CD).
In addition, stress can aggravate symptoms of CD and individuals may benefit from stress management therapies (such as relaxation, meditation and exercise). For more information on the relationship between stress and health please see our Fight or Flight post.
For more information on Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness please visit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada.
Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2011, from Canadian Digestive Health Foundation : http://www.cdhf.ca/digestive-disorders/statistics.shtml
Understanding Irritable Bowel Disease-IBD. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2011, from Canadian Digestive Health Foundation : http://www.cdhf.ca/pdfs/fact-sheets/CDHF_FactSheet_IBD.pdf#zoom=100