Chatting Crohn’s with Comfizz: What is Crohn’s Disease & how does it affect the body?

Hello readers & welcome to my first post in my ‘Chatting Crohn’s with Comfizz’ mini series. Over the next few months, I will be talking to you about a different aspect of Crohn’s Disease, starting today with the basics.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Illustration showing Crohns vs Colitis
Not my image. From Google search.

Crohn’s Disease (often referred to as Crohn’s) is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The other main form of IBD, which you may have heard of is Ulcerative Colitis. Unlike Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the digestive system from the mouth to the anus and causes inflammation, but most commonly affects the small intestine and sometimes the large (colon). Ulcerative Colitis affects the large bowel.

Crohn’s Disease is classed as a chronic illness which means it is lifelong. There is no cure, but people who have Crohn’s Disease can go through periods of active disease where they experience “flare-ups” and then through periods where the disease goes into remission, is more under control & causes less symptoms. Medication and in more severe cases, surgery, can be options to help reduce the activity of the disease and symptoms.

Crohn’s of the colon

Amy in hospital

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at the age of 7. Up until I moved up to the adult clinic at age 17, I was treated under the assumption that my active disease was in my small intestine. I then underwent tests that showed that my active disease was in my large intestine (colon) and was told that this is classed as ‘Crohn’s Colitis’. I have also had Crohn’s found in my oesophagus via endoscopy (a camera tube down the throat) and I have a small hiatus hernia that I will speak about in a later post. I now don’t have my colon, appendix, rectum, or anus as I had a permanent ileostomy formed in 2011. More about my journey will be revealed in this mini-series.

Understanding how Crohn’s affects the body

If we consider where Crohn’s typically affects (the small intestine), this is where our food is broken down further and the nutrients from our food then pass back into the bloodstream for our body to use. The parts of our food that our body doesn’t use (both liquid & undigestible elements) then move down into the colon and the colon that takes the excess water out of our waste, to form more solid stool to then be passed out of our bodies after the waste has passed through the last part of our large intestine and rectum.

Because Crohn’s causes ulcers and inflammation, this affects our body’s ability to be able to absorb the nutrients and the right amount of those nutrients back into our bloodstream. Crohn’s Disease also impacts how we digest our food and how we are able to excrete waste from our bodies. Characteristics of Crohn’s Disease inflammation often show under tests as more healthy/normal patches of bowel followed by patches of diseased bowel. Crohn’s Disease can also affect beyond the lining of the intestines, causing things such as fistulas, where the bowel develops abnormal passages, for example between the bowel and another organ.

Amy

Crohn’s can also affect many things beyond our digestive system, such as eyesight, skin and joints. The symptoms of Crohn’s Disease vary from person to person and also vary in severity. Not every person suffers from the same symptoms and elements such as diet and “safe foods” are often different between those who have Crohn’s too, especially when experiencing a flare up.

Next time – chatting Crohn’s symptoms with Comfizz…