Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines. It primarily causes ulcerations (breaks in the lining) of the small and large intestines, but can affect the digestive system anywhere from the mouth to the anus. It causes a wide variety of symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea (even bloody if inflammation is severe), vomiting, weight loss. It may also cause complications outside the gastrointestinal tract such as skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, tiredness, and lack of concentration.
Crohn’s disease is related closely to another chronic inflammatory condition that involves only the colon called ulcerative colitis. Together, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are frequently referred to as Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Crohn’s disease is caused by interactions between environmental, immunological and bacterial factors in genetically susceptible individuals. This result in a chronic inflammatory disorder, in which the body’s immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract possibly directed at microbial antigens. Crohn’s disease has traditionally been described as an autoimmune disease, but recent investigators have described it as an immune deficiency state.
Many people with Crohn’s disease have symptoms for years prior to the diagnosis. Because of the ‘patchy’ nature of the gastrointestinal disease and the depth of tissue involvement, initial symptoms can be more subtle than those of ulcerative colitis. People with Crohn’s disease experience chronic recurring periods of flare-ups and remission.
Crohn’s disease tends to present initially in the teens and twenties, with another peak incidence in the fifties to seventies, although the disease can occur at any age. Males and females are equally affected. Smokers are two times more likely to develop Crohn’s disease than nonsmokers. Crohn’s disease tends to be more common in relatives of patients with Crohn’s disease. If a person has a relative with the disease, his/her risk of developing the disease is estimated to be at least 10 times that of the general population and 30 times greater if the relative with Crohn’s disease is a sibling.
Treatment options are restricted to controlling symptoms, maintaining remission, and preventing relapse. The disease was named after gastroenterologist Burrill Bernard Crohn, who, in 1932, together with two other colleagues at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, described a series of patients with inflammation of the terminal ileum, the area most commonly affected by the illness.
Signs and symptoms
The most common symptoms in Crohn’s disease are those related to the inflammatory damage to the digestive tract.
- Diarrhea – Waxes and wanes; stool may contain mucus, blood, or pus
- Pain in the abdomen – Crampy or steady; in the right lower part of the abdomen or around the belly button; often relieved temporarily by having a bowel movement
- Bloating after eating – Less common, usually seen in cases of bowel obstruction
- Constipation – Usually seen in cases of bowel obstruction
- Pain or bleeding with bowel movement
- Infection of the urinary tract or vagina – Suggests a fistula from the intestinal tract
General symptoms occur in some but not all cases.
- Low-grade fevers
- Weight loss
Other symptoms of Crohn’s disease may be attributable to related medical conditions affecting the skin, joints, mouth, eyes, liver, and bile ducts.
Ayurveda Perspective & Management of Crohn's disease
Ayurveda, the holistic science of India, places a lot of emphasis of the care of the digestive system. Ayurvedic concepts particularly focus on the significance of healthy digestive system with regard to the overall balanced functioning and healthiness of the human body and mind. Healthy digestion ensures that the nutrients taken in through food are able to produce healthy tissues (Saptha Dhathus). When digestion is weak, the tissues of your body – including muscle, blood, bone and nerves – become weak and susceptible to disease.
According to Ayurveda, Crohn’s can be compared to ‘Grahani’ disease. Grahani in Ayurveda, is actually an anatomical term to describe small intestines (specifically Ileum and jejunam). Any vitiation or inflammation to this particular part by imbalanced Doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) can cause a wide variety of symptom similar to that of Crohn’s disease, anywhere across the digestive system. Degree and nature of symptoms may vary as per the doshic predominance & involvement.
As per Ayurveda, primary causes of Grahani disease are Mandagi (poor appetite and poor digestion), irregular, improper, irrelevant or incompatible diet habits and junk food. Non-following of the healthy diet habits (Pathya) in certain digestive disorders, especially the conditions of post diarrhea and irritable bowels, are also one of the important causes of this disease.
At CHARAKA, we are providing very effective treatment for Crohn’s disease based on the classical principle of Ayurveda and our research. Treatment involves internal research medicines, strict diet regime and life style modifications. In more severe and chronic cases, Panchakarma therapy is selectively done along with these.
If the patient is already on allopathic treatment, Ayurveda treatment can be clubbed initially and gradually allopathic medicines can be tapered down.
Usually results are very good with Ayurvedic line of treatment. Early cases tend to respond quickly than chronic. If patient can stick to all the guidelines as advised, even complete cure can also be achieved.