- 60-70 million Americans suffer from chronic digestive disorders.
- 2-27% of the population suffer from chronic constipation (depending on gender, age and diet).
- 15% of the population suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.
- More than 40% of people worldwide have a functional gastrointestinal disorder (also called gut-brain interaction disorders)*.
- Digestive diseases account for 25% of all surgical procedures.
What are digestive diseases anyway?
Basically, it includes all the organs that are responsible for the intake, crushing, transport and ultimately the digestion of food. In medicine, a distinction is made between two different areas - the upper digestive tract, which consists of the oral cavity, including the teeth, pharynx, esophagus and stomach, and the lower digestive tract, which consists of the large and and small intestine, pancreas, liver and gallbladder. So now it is not so easy to summarize all the different clinical pictures and diseases in general in this short blog post, so today we are dealing with the most common diseases of the intestine, the so-called IBD (chronic inflammatory bowel diseases) Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis .
Crohn's disease can attack the entire digestive tract - i.e. the entire area from the mouth to the anus. However, Chron's disease usually occurs in the end sections of the small intestine. The peculiarity of this disease is that healthy and unhealthy parts of the intestine alternate and not one area is constantly affected. You can imagine it like a “patchwork quilt” made up of affected and intact sections of the intestine. When someone suffers from this disease, it means that all layers of the intestine are affected at the inflamed areas. This in turn can result in abscesses (pockets of pus) or fistulas. If Crohn's disease has progressed so far that fistulas form, the inflammation has dug "ducts" into the intestinal wall and also the surfaces around it. In addition, so-called stenosis can occur - this is what scarred constrictions in the intestine are called. To date, it has not been scientifically proven whether the genetic composition has an effect on the disease, but factors such as personal hygiene, nutrition and mental health can have an impact.
Translated, this chronic intestinal disease means "colon inflammation with ulcers". Unlike Crohn's disease, inflammation only occurs in the large intestine. In addition, the intestines are completely affected in those affected and not "in patches" as in Crohn's disease. So there are no inflammation-free sections here once the disease has broken out. Another point worth knowing is that ulcerative colitis begins in the rectum and from there spreads orally. Incidentally, CU only occurs in the uppermost layer of the intestine and does not penetrate into deeper layers of tissue like Crohn's disease!
However, both diseases have one thing in common - if they occur, the natural barrier function of the intestine is disturbed. However, this has some negative consequences, as it is responsible for preventing pathogenic, harmful bacteria or other "invaders" from penetrating the intestinal mucosa.
If the intestinal barrier is not intact, this results in impaired resistance. This allows bacteria to enter the body more easily and cause systemic inflammatory responses - just as is the case with the two diseases discussed previously. Unfortunately, over time, systemic inflammation can even become chronic. This, in turn, can lead to symptoms that also occur outside of the gut. This includes inflammation in joints, ligaments, muscles, skin, eyes and the liver. In addition, a long-lasting disease of the colon increases the probability of colon cancer noticeably. If you want to delve a little deeper into the topic, you can read our blog post on CED, here you will find all the information you need you need to know!
HEALTHY HABITS FOR A CALM GUT
Both with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, the choice of food and diet in general is not that easy, because typical symptoms such as indigestion, irregular stools, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and weight loss are directly associated with food intake connected. This is because they usually appear right after eating. Ultimately, unfortunately, it is not really possible to generalize which of those affected can and should eat what. Due to frequent diarrhea in IBD, however, there is often a risk of malnutrition, since the nutrients supplied cannot be fully absorbed by the organism. For this reason, there are some guidelines that you can follow, at least roughly, as soon as you don't notice any aggravated symptoms from this diet. Ultimately, it is important here - as so often in life - to listen to your own gut feeling!
- Food containing protein: many proteins can be lost precisely through the diarrhea typical of IBD. Meat, fish or poultry are suitable here.
- Carbohydrates: these provide energy - make sure you eat long-chain carbohydrates made from starch, i.e. potatoes, grains and vegetables.
- Fresh: Eat fresh and varied food. In this way you can fill and keep the stores of vitamins, minerals and trace elements full.
- Amount: In order not to overwhelm your intestines with large amounts at once, it can be helpful to eat several small amounts throughout the day.
Especially in your acute phase, you should avoid eating the following foods.
- Fatty food: Just chemically processed fats (trans fatty acids) have a negative effect on the intestine.
- Flating vegetables: These include legumes such as chickpeas or lentils, but also cabbage, for example.
- Carbonated acid: Carbonated drinks also irritate the intestines by causing blisters to form.
- Dietary fiber: Here it depends on the amount, because although dietary fiber is very healthy, it is difficult to digest. You can also put a strain on the intestines, especially if they are already irritated!
- Acid: You should definitely avoid acidic fruit such as lemons, oranges, pineapples or kiwi or acidic foods in general, such as onions and peppers!
- Carbohydrates: Try not to eat refined carbohydrates.