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Crohn's Disease

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Inflammatory bowel disease affects about one million Americans. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are both types of irritable bowel disease, or IBD. Crohn's disease is an ongoing illness that creates inflammation in the walls of the digestive tract. It can affect any area of the gastrointestinal tract (GI), from the mouth to the anus. Although it can be found along any part of the GI tract, it is most commonly detected in the small intestine. This paper will highlight the history, causes, dietary effects, prevention, and cures of Crohn's disease.

Its namesake, Dr. Burrill B. Crohn, and two colleagues discovered the illness in 1932 (, 2005). Since Crohn's is a chronic disease, it requires more than a couple months of treatment and some simple medications. It is a lifetime illness that can be fully active, and can then be in total remission. A person with Crohn's can go through the cycles of the disease many times in their lifespan. One of the common features of the disease is the immune system's reaction to the natural bacteria in the small intestine. The bacterium found in the digestive tract, or gut flora, is mistaken for harmful microbes (Secko, 2005). It is at this time when the area around the GI tract becomes bombarded with white blood cells which is the beginning of inflammation. Since the body's immune system attacks healthy, good bacteria, Crohn's could be considered to be an autoimmune disease. With the disease able to affect any part of the GI tract, any part of the digestive system can be susceptible to inflammation. As previously stated, the small intestine is most commonly affected, but any organ in the digestive tract, from the esophagus to the colon, can become inflamed. Once the GI tract becomes inflamed, the visible symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and even rectal bleeding. Over time, a patient with Crohn's can experience loss of appetite and fatigue. Other organs and body parts, besides the GI tract, affected by the disease include the eyes, liver, joints, and skin. Crohn's is a disease that can develop in young and elderly alike. Since anyone is at risk to contracting this disease, when the first signs of the symptoms develop, one should consult with their physician about testing for the disease.

Crohn's disease affects the organs located within the digestive tract system that consists of the esophagus, stomach, large intestine or colon, small intestine or ileum, rectum, and the anus. The digestive system and its accessory organs are used to process food into molecules that can be absorbed and utilized by the cells of the body. Once the food is broken down it then goes through a three-step process within the body, which consists of digestion, absorption, and elimination. Once the nutrients have been absorbed, they are available to all cells in the body and are utilized by the body cells in the metabolism. However, an individual with Crohn's disease has an immune system that reacts inappropriately to this process. Their immune system takes the nutrients absorbed from foods and treats them as a foreign substance and launches an attack. This attack causes many problems in the body, although, no one knows the exact causes of this disease.

Due to the slow progress in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, scientists have not found a causal factor for this disease. Scientists believe that this disease can be caused by poor genetics. If one member in a family is found to have Crohn's Disease, chances are that many other family members have it as well. Genetics definitely play a role in this disease. Studies have shown that about twenty to twenty-five percent of patients may have a close relative with either Crohn's or ulcerative colitis. If a person has a relative with the disease, the risk for that person to find that they too have Crohn's Disease is about ten times greater than that of the general population. If that relative happens to be a brother or sister, the risk is thirty times greater. Scientists also believe that adjusting to a new environment can cause this disease. Soldiers overseas have to adjust to new climates as well as different living conditions. Soldiers in the first tour had to burn all human waste by adding gasoline to the cans where the feces were, and leave until it turns to ashes. This act of disposal often results in the release of an airborne virus. The affects of this airborne virus vary depending on the type of immune system one has. For reasons that are not yet clearly understood, Inflammatory Bowel Disease is largely a disease of the developed world, and is found principally in the United States and Europe. Similarly, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are reported to be more common in urban areas than in rural areas. Disease increases when people move from underdeveloped countries to more developed countries, and vice versa. Because of this pattern, it is possible to identify populations that are susceptible to this disease.

Certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to this disease. It is proven that American Jews of European descents are four to five times more likely to develop IBD than the general population. The disease was long thought to be a disease that affects predominantly white Americans. The prevalence rate, or the number of people with the disease at a given time, in white Americans is one hundred forty-nine to one hundred thousand (About Crohn's Disease, 2005). The reported cases are increasing in African Americans in both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The prevalence rate remains low in Hispanics and Asians. Because Crohn's disease is often found in more than one family member, it is probable that there is some genetic component. Studies have identified a gene named CARD15, or NOD2, which is suspected to aide in the inflammatory process at the heart of Crohn's disease. While polymorphisms, or mutations, do not cause the disease, they can assist in determining whom this disease affects. One study reported that fifty percent of patients with Crohn's disease carried one or more mutations in CARD15 (Crohn's disease, 2005). It



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