I recently painted the large and small intestines for an individual living with Crohn's. The recipient was so kind and lovely and gracious that I wanted to do just a little bit more. Thus I've decided to write a bit about the disease, to hopefully bring a touch more awareness and a tad more empathy. So here's my literary infomercial:
What is Crohn's?
Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It is part of a collection of diseases within the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) umbrella. Crohn's typically affects the ileum (final section of the small intestine), but it could affect any aspect of the GI tract.
What's the prognosis?
Living with Crohn's can be miserable, with symptoms ranging from diarrhea and rectal bleeding to cramps and constipation. Moreover, these probably aren't symptoms one can gripe freely about to most acquaintances, given their graphic and taboo nature. So not even the relief of complaining! In its more advanced cases, surgical intervention is necessary in the form of bowel resections, which often lead to a greatly reduced quality of life. However, while Crohn's cannot be cured, it can be managed, with medications (anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, immune system modifiers, antibiotics and biologic therapies), careful diet control and a healthy lifestyle.
Research shows that stress plays a large factor in aggravating the symptoms of Crohn's. Many of the management techniques aim to simply reduce stress: getting more sleep, relaxation techniques and exercise. Additionally, as mentioned, a well-planned diet is also imperative to combating the disease. Crohn's sufferers are encouraged to eat high protein meals, increase liquid intake and avoid dairy, gassy foods and large meals.
Anything I can do to help?
Be sympathetic to those suffering from Crohn's and a good listener if they are willing to talk about it. You can also donate to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America to continue much-needed research.