Wednesday, May 23, 2012

National Crohn's and Colitis Day

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By Diane Forrest, RN

What do a past president, beauty pageant winner; actress and professional wrestler have in common?  Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mary Ann Mobley, Shannon Dougherty and George "The Animal" Steele all have Chromes and Colitis, along with 1.4 million other Americans.

Crohn's Disease is a chronic (ongoing) disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Although it can involve any area of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine and/or colon.  Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, are the two main disease categories that belong to a larger group of illnesses called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Because the symptoms of these two illnesses are so similar, it is sometimes difficult to establish the diagnosis definitively.

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Crohn's disease may occur at any age. It usually occurs in people between ages 15 - 35.
You are more likely to get this disease if you:
  • Have a family history of Crohn's disease
  • Are Jewish
  • Smoke

The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are:
  • Crampy abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain with passing stool
  • Persistent, watery diarrhea
  • Weight loss

Certain types of foods can make diarrhea and gas worse. To help ease symptoms, try:
  • Eating small amounts of food throughout the day.
  • Drinking lots of water (drink small amounts often throughout the day).
  • Avoiding high-fiber foods (bran, beans, nuts, seeds, and popcorn).
  • Avoiding fatty, greasy or fried foods and sauces (butter, margarine, and heavy cream).
  • Limiting dairy products if you have problems digesting dairy fats. Try low-lactose cheeses, such as Swiss and cheddar, and an enzyme product, such as Lactaid, to help break down lactose.
  • Avoiding foods that you know cause gas, such as beans.
  • Ask your doctor about extra vitamins and minerals you may need:
  • Iron supplements (if you are anemic)
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements

The Cause of Crohn's is unknown, and there is no cure.  There are periods of inactivity as well as flare ups.  Certain medications such as Metamucil or Citrocel may ease the symptoms, and surgery to remove part of the diseased colon may help, but wont cure the disease.

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Ulcerative colitis differs from another inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn's disease. Crohn's can affect any area of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, including the small intestine and colon. Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, affects only the colon. The inflammation involves the entire rectum and extends up the colon in a continuous manner. There are no areas of normal intestine between the areas of diseased intestine. In contrast, such so-called "skip" areas may occur in Crohn's disease. Ulcerative colitis affects only the innermost lining of the colon, whereas Crohn's disease can affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall.

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Today is National Crohn's and Colitis Day to learn how you can help to find a cure, click on this site:

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