Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disorder of the bowels. Nobody knows the exact origin of Crohn’s, but researchers do know that it can affect people of all ages. The condition usually develops between the ages of 15 and 30, as well as between the ages of 60 and 80. People who have a relative with the disease have at least 10 times the risk of developing Crohn’s.
When you have Crohn’s disease, you’re likely to experience abdominal cramps, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, loss of appetite, and unexplained weight loss. But perhaps the most significant issue regarding Crohn’s is that it may mean there are some serious nutritional deficiencies. And nutritional deficiencies can lead to all sorts of secondary problems.
A common complication of Crohn’s is the blockage of the intestine caused by scar tissue. Sores or ulcers can develop on the lining of the intestinal wall, breaking through to the surrounding tissue. Sometimes surgery is recommended to repair the damage caused by these ulcers.
People who have had Crohn’s for a number of years may find that their bowel function will gradually deteriorate. Left untreated, Crohn’s can even become life-threatening. Crohn’s can increase the risk of getting cancer by as much as 20 times.
There is no real cure for Crohn’s; rather, treatment relies on easing symptoms and slowing down damage to the intestines. The best way to fight Crohn’s, of course, is not to get it in the first place. A strong digestive and immune system go a long way to protecting against Crohn’s. In particular, probiotics (those friendly bacteria) could help to keep digestion working smoothly and reduce wear and tear on and irritation to the intestinal wall.
In a French clinical trial, scientists found that a microbe normally found in the intestines has anti-inflammatory properties, but is present in only low concentrations in many with Crohn’s disease.
The French scientists have conducted early tests that suggest probiotic treatment for Crohn’s disease may be significantly beneficial. The researchers described their findings in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.”
The research team measured levels of a particular type of bacteria called “F. prausnitzii” in 21 patients. Each patient underwent surgery for active Crohn’s disease. The researchers found that there was a significantly lower proportion of F. prausnitzii at the time of surgery in those patients who relapsed six months later than in those who remained in remission.
The team then did some lab experiments that showed that F. prausnitzii blocked the production of inflammatory factors in blood cells and intestinal cells. In addition, when mice with a condition that mimicked Crohn’s were given F. prausnitzii, it had a protective effect and dramatically decreased the number of animals that died.
You can add probiotics to your diet now — there’s no need to wait for a bout of uncomfortable symptoms that are the result of a digestive disorder. Just look for probiotics at your local health food store or simply buy yogurt supplemented with probiotics from your regular grocer. Horseradish is another excellent source of friendly bacteria for those who are sensitive to dairy.