Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel condition that affects a large number of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 1.3-million people in the country are living with a form of irritable bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s and Colitis.
That equates to up to 200-existing cases of Crohn’s per 100,000-people, with up to 15-or so new cases of the disease per 100,000 people each year. Let’s have a look at the realities some of the facts of the disease and the realities of living with it with for Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week, from December 1 to 7, 2016…
1. Crohn’s is Painful
While those with Crohn’s disease and other forms of IBD have to ensure a bathroom is nearby, there’s more to it than that. HealthLine.com notes the most common form of the disease is called ileocolitis, which is related to the end of the small intestine and large intestine.
Symptoms of this form of IBD include pain in the central or lower abdomen, according to the source. Another form of Crohn’s called Jejunoileitis that affects the upper tract of the small intestine can cause “severe abdominal pain and cramping, especially after eating.” Some types of over-the-counter painkillers can actually make the discomfort worse.
2. It’s Difficult to Maintain Weight
EveryDayHealth.com explains that sufferers often experience weight loss, and it’s not necessarily from additional trips to the bathroom. The medications used to control symptoms can end up curbing your appetite, so you eat less.
The other symptoms like pain and nausea can also make you less interested in what’s on your plate. In some cases, “nutrient malabsorption, gastrointestinal protein loss, or increased energy expenditure is the culprit,” adds the source. The amount of weight loss can vary depending on the section of bowel affected by the disease, it explains.
3. You May Have to Give Up Favorite Foods
If you love eating rich and creamy foods, then you may have to cut them out of your diet unless you’re okay with suffering the symptoms of the disease. The Mayo Clinic said high-fat foods should be avoided, as some people with Crohn’s (affecting the small intestine) have trouble absorbing fat properly.
The end result of this is that the fats will end up passing through your digestive system and worsening diarrhea. Some high-fat foods include fried foods, butter, margarine and creamy sauces, explains the clinic. Even fiber-rich foods (including raw fruits and veggies), which normally aid digestion, might magnify symptoms.
4. Stress Takes a Bigger Toll
The Mayo Clinic notes that stress doesn’t cause the disease, but it can make symptoms worse. “The association of stress with Crohn’s disease is controversial,” it explains, but adds that stress can change your normal digestive process that could impact people more who already have digestive issues.
The clinic said managing stress is key, and that even “mild” exercise can help keep stress at bay. You can couple light exercise with some breathing techniques meant to promote relaxation. See your doctor or visit a yoga studio to gain more insight and see what route is right for you.
5. You Have to Know Where Washrooms Are
The reality for many with a form of IBD is that they can’t be too far from a washroom, and even events like sitting in traffic on the way home from work can become an emergency. That’s why many sufferers tend to scope out a building for washroom location when they’re somewhere they’ve never been.
The frequent bowel movements can be sudden and without much warning, which makes the challenge of getting to a washroom in time more of a challenge. EveryDayHealth.com suggests seeing your doctor to change medication doses if bowel movements become unmanageable. You may also have an infection contributing to the problem, it adds.
6. Crohn’s Can Be Costly
Having Crohn’s can limit your capacity to work, which leads to less income for some (Social Security disability benefits are available in some cases, but there’s an involved process). Medications and treatments can also add up your financial burden, and the resulting stress (as mentioned before) can lead to worse symptoms.
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) has partnered with a nonprofit called NeedyMeds to help offset the ongoing costs of managing IBD-related diseases. NeedyMeds has listed other resources (such as clinics) available to sufferers of the disease.