Over half a million people in the United States have been diagnosed with the debilitating autoimmune malady, known as Crohn's disease (sometimes referred to as CD). Crohn's affects the function of the intestinal tract and can cause painful abdominal cramping, frequent diarrhea and sometimes ongoing or chronic constipation. For information on frequently asked questions about understanding the disease and how to live with it, keep reading.

What are the causes of the disease?

When a healthy person eats food or comes into contact with different types of bacteria, the gastrointestinal tract will inflame. It's a normal response that's highly controlled by the body. That is how the body absorbs nutrients, and this controlled inflammation never leads to infection and rarely causes discomfort or problems.

When someone has or is susceptible to developing Crohn's disease, the body is unable to control those inflammations or turn them off. As a result, the immune system starts working harder and worsening the inflammation. And though certain dietary and environmental stimulants can cause the disease to flame up, the actual root causes of CD are unknown.

How is Crohn's disease treated?

Unfortunately, there is no known cure. That said, the disease can be controlled, and with the right combination of diet and drugs, patients are able to live a happy and normal life. That said, because Crohn's disease is an incurable and lifelong condition, the treatment needs to be consistently maintained - meaning diet changes need to be kept up to control the disease.

What are the triggers for CD?

CD is typically activated by any infection of the intestinal tract. It is then aggravated by various diet choices or activities like smoking. For example, patients are encouraged to avoid fatty foods, foods high in sodium or many forms of dairy products. Other triggers include inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.

If I have this affliction, how do I live a normal life?

There are numerous websites and online communities where practitioners and patients discuss different therapy options and life changes that can help alleviate the symptoms of CD. One site is ChronsandMe.com, a support site designed to offer tips, forums for discussion and medical information.

Patients are also advised to track their diet along with symptoms. By understanding what triggers episodes or periods of inflammation, they can help avoid these in the future.

How do I locate help?

Patients who have been diagnosed with Crohn's disease or suspect they may have it should talk to their doctor. It's also recommended that they explore alternative treatment methods such as ongoing consultations with a nutritionist or naturopath who can help identify dietary triggers.

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