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Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are among the most common chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. They hardly differ in symptoms and are often discussed together in terms of their development factors. However, the location and the intensity of the disease, as well as the impending complications, are quite different. Precise diagnostics make it possible to identify the two symptoms and take appropriate countermeasures. In addition to conventional treatment, various methods of naturopathy are available for chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, most of which are used as support.
Young people particularly affected
Statistically, there are around 300 in 300,000 inhabitants who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Young adults in particular develop ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease; the peak age is between the ages of 15 and 40. However, the diseases can basically occur at any age. IBDs are diagnosed more frequently in industrialized countries and urban areas than in developing countries and rural areas, which suggests that environmental factors are involved.
Both diseases progress in episodes, but can also be chronically active. The two forms of IBD can only be distinguished with difficulty on the basis of complaints. General symptoms that indicate chronic inflammatory bowel disease include:
- Stomach pain,
- Fever that rises slightly higher in Crohn's disease than in ulcerative colitis,
- general physical discomfort.
In both cases of IBD, blood loss in the inflamed areas can lead to anemia requiring treatment with an associated iron deficiency, which in turn leads to tiredness and fatigue.
With some main symptoms, there are nevertheless significant differences between the two IBD diseases.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
The main symptom in the acute episode of ulcerative colitis is bloody stool, which often comes with mucus or as diarrhea. There is constant urge to stool, sometimes with abdominal pain, fever and general physical weakness.
Symptoms of Crohn's disease
Crohn's disease is particularly associated with abdominal pain, often with diarrhea, which is then accompanied by weight loss and deficiency symptoms.
Symptoms outside the digestive tract
The inflammatory bowel diseases are accompanied by other symptoms that lie outside the intestine. In addition to the disease, there are often inflammations of the liver, which can also spread to the biliary tract. In addition, joint inflammation, skin symptoms or inflammation of the oral mucosa, such as e.g. painful aphthae and stomatitis. Rainbow or conjunctiva of the eyes can also be affected. Complications, particularly Crohn's disease, are fistulas (tubular ducts between individual organs) and abscesses (encapsulated accumulation of pus), which often have to be removed surgically due to the risk of sepsis.
Diagnosis through infestation patterns and tissue samples
Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease focus on inflammatory processes in the digestive tract. In the case of ulcerative colitis, these begin in the rectum and progress partially up to the appendix. The inflammation is limited to the intestinal mucosa, ulcers are formed.
In contrast, inflammation in Crohn's disease can affect the entire digestive tract, with healthy sections and foci of inflammation alternating. However, it most often affects the transition from the small intestine (terminal ileum) to the large intestine (coecum). In order to make a reliable diagnosis, a reflection of the intestine and a microscopic examination of the tissue samples taken are necessary in addition to the collection of the symptoms.
Origin of IBD
There is no single cause for the development of inflammatory bowel diseases. Rather, various factors are suspected that favor the development of the disease. This includes a genetic predisposition as well as certain environmental factors, for example:
- Infections (often as a trigger),
- Eating habits,
- Tobacco use and
Irritations in the area of the immune system also play an important role, since there are autoimmune processes in the intestinal diseases, which lead to defense reactions against the body's own intestinal tissue. In addition, there is always evidence of a poorly populated intestinal flora, with too few "useful" bacteria, but increasingly those that can potentially make you ill. In addition, real pathogens such as Salmonella can penetrate more easily due to the inflammation. Finally, vegetative and psychological processes also play a role, which those affected describe in particular as worsening of symptoms and recurrence of inflammatory episodes in stressful phases.
Conventional therapy consists of conservative and surgical measures. Anti-inflammatory drugs are used as a preservative, especially corticosteroids and aminosalicylates, but also immunosuppressive agents to suppress autoimmune events. In some cases, complications (fistulas, abscesses) are responded to with surgery, right up to the removal of entire sections of the intestine or the use of an artificial anus. In the case of severe deficiency symptoms, nutrition is temporarily carried out bypassing the digestive tract.
Naturopathic procedures are becoming increasingly popular in medical practices for inflammatory bowel diseases, including:
This means that drugs with living or killed intestinal bacteria are specifically administered after a stool examination in the laboratory.
- Bach nosodes
As an alternative, a treatment with the so-called Bach nosodes (after the discoverer of the Bach flowers) can be tried, whereby an individually acting drug is made from the intestinal bacteria in a special laboratory.
- Healing earth
A cure application of healing earth detoxifies and relieves the intestine.
- High intestinal enemas
As a physical measure, high intestinal enemas bring relief from the symptoms.
- Colon hydrotherapy
Colon hydrotherapy may also be helpful between acute episodes. With this intensive form of intestinal lavage, water is flushed into the intestine over several sessions and the abdomen is massaged to clean the intestine. This is to change the bacterial colonization of the intestine and increase the patient's well-being.
For a noticeable relief and to promote the healing processes, fango packs and hot and humid compresses can be placed on the stomach, as well as rising soaking baths with hay flower bath extract. In naturopathy, the missing vitamins and minerals are also administered orally or as injection therapy.
Many patients report that increased stress leads to IBD flare-ups. Conventional or alternative psychotherapeutic treatment can help to better identify and process stress, but also serve to clarify deeper conflicts that may be related to the illness. Ultimately, various body and relaxation-oriented procedures, ideally coupled with breathing exercises, can lead to a general improvement in well-being and thus to relief from suffering.
Avoiding stress is one of the basic principles that help with chronic inflammatory bowel disease to minimize IBD flare-ups. The following tips can also help to promote the healing process:
- Food intolerance
In the case of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, it should be clarified whether there is a food intolerance, for example a milk intolerance. The healing process is then promoted by consistently avoiding dairy products. This also applies to other food allergies and intolerances. Milieutherapy users (including the Enderlein procedure) generally advise people not to use cow's milk products, egg protein and pork in chronic diseases.
- Right nutrition
A fiber-free or even liquid food is advised for an acute flare. So-called astronaut food is suitable to relieve the inflamed intestine. In the event of an extreme relapse, a clinic should be visited so that the food supply is ensured by means of an infusion. Uniform nutritional recommendations currently do not exist either conventionally or in the naturopathic context.
If the bowel disease or persistent diarrhea and abdominal pain lead to physical exhaustion, it is advisable to maintain bed rest.
- Refrain from smoking
Nicotine increases the risk of a new flare-up in Crohn's disease. Therefore, patients with a chronic inflammatory bowel should give up smoking urgently.
Those affected by IBD diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis can also find help from the German Crohn's disease / ulcerative colitis (DCCV) e.V., which provides extensive information and contact addresses for self-help groups on its website. (jvs, fp, ok)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- German Society for Combating Diseases of the Gastrointestinal, Liver and Disorders of Metabolism and Nutrition (Gastro-Liga) e. V .: Guide to ulcerative colitis, as of April 2019, gastro-liga.de
- German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (DGVS): Updated S3 guideline for ulcerative colitis, as of May 2018, dgvs.de
- German Crohn's Disease / Ulcerative Colitis Association: Medical Basics (accessed: 10.07.2019), dccv.de
- DCCV e. V .: Crohn's disease & ulcerative colitis: Living the way I want, TRIAS, 2nd edition, 2013
- DCCV e. V .: Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases: Crohn's disease / ulcerative colitis, Hirzel, 2006
- Merck and Co., Inc.,: Overview of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) (accessed: July 10, 2019), msdmanuals.com
- Competence Network for Bowel Diseases: Bowel Diseases: Chronic or Temporary? (Call: July 10th, 2019), kompenznetz-darmerkrankungen.de
- Wehkamp, Jan / Götz, Martin / Herrlinger, Klaus / u.a .: Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, Dtsch Arztebl Int, 2016, aerzteblatt.de
- Mayo Clinic: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (access: July 10, 2019), mayoclinic.org
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: What is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? (Accessed: 10.07.2019), cdc.gov
ICD codes for this disease: K50-K52ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.