Crohn’s Disease (CD), also known as regional enteritis, is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that can cause chronic inflammation anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. Often, but not always, the inflamed tissue is specifically found in the ileum (the end of the small intestine) and the beginning of the colon. Inflammation can spread into the deeper layers of the GI tract and frequently has what is known as a “cobblestone appearance.” This refers to the fact that some patches of diseased tissue are found next to patches of healthy tissue.
Although all age groups are equally at risk, people 15-35 years old are most commonly affected. Crohn’s is a difficult condition to cure, and the main focus of treatment is typically to help manage symptoms with medication and dietary changes and, in some cases, surgery to repair or remove affected areas of the gastrointestinal tract. Because the disease is chronic, the individual may experience periods of flare-ups and aggravating symptoms, while at other times the person will have periods with no apparent symptoms at all.
Symptoms vary from patient to patient, and may include persistent, recurrent diarrhea, bleeding, urgent need to evacuate the bowels, constipation or feeling of incomplete evacuation, abdominal cramping, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, mental and physical developmental delays (in certain cases in children), fever, night sweats, and/or irregular menstrual cycles.
It is very helpful to receive an early diagnosis, as untreated Crohn’s disease can eventually cause life-threatening symptoms such as fissures and fistulas. Fissures can cause excessive bleeding and pain. Fistulas happen when inflammation erodes tissue, causing the formation of a tunnel starting from the intestines, going to the urinary bladder, vagina or even the skin.
A study* was published in the journal World of Gastroenterology, in which acupuncture treatments focused on reducing inflammation in the intestinal tract. The total treatment efficacy rate was 84%. Histopathological scores significantly improved and symptoms significantly reduced. Bowel inflammation reduction was reflected in significant lowering of both CRP (C-reactive protein) and ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) levels. The researchers note that the lab results indicate that “acupuncture effectively controls the inflammatory response and eases intestinal inflammation.”
Each participant received three treatments per week for a total of 12 weeks. and it concluded that “acupuncture provided significant therapeutic benefits in patients with active Crohn’s disease, beyond the placebo effect, and is therefore an effective and safe treatment.” Even more encouraging, researchers also discovered that both lab scores and quality of life scores improved in Crohn’s patients receiving regular acupuncture treatment, helping decrease the frequency and intensity of flare-ups, as well as moderating the physical and emotional symptoms that often accompany the disease.
Another key component of a holistic treatment approach for Crohn’s Disease is diet, as the correct food choices can help reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s. As a holistic nutritionist, Dr. Emily assists Crohn’s patients in making helpful changes to their diet.
*World of Gastroenterology Journal. 2014 Aug 21; 20(31): 11000–11011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4138481/