Alcohol and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These are a group of conditions that lead to inflammation of the bowel. The two most common forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Irritable bowel syndrome is another condition that produces symptoms similar to inflammatory bowel disease but does not involve any structural abnormalities. Those who drink a moderate amount of alcohol may find that it helps with the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, but anything more than this and it makes the condition worse. Alcohol can also interfere with the medications used to treat the symptoms of IBD. This is why many of those who suffer from these diseases choose to avoid alcohol completely.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include:
* Diarrhea is the most common symptom for people with Crohn’s disease.
* Blood in the stool
* Abdominal pain and cramps
* Weight loss
* Lack of appetite
* Ulcers in the intestine. Some people will also develop ulcers in their mouth.
* Fistulas between the anus and rectum and the surrounding skin
* Peri-rectal abscesses
Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis
Crohn’s disease is often confused with ulcerative colitis because the symptoms are quite similar. The main difference between these two is that ulcerative colitis only causes ulcers in the rectum and colon. Crohn’s disease can lead to ulcers in the small intestine, and other parts of the digestive tract.
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
Scientists are still not complete sure about the cause of Crohn’s Disease. This condition is likely to arise due to a number of factors including:
* Crohn’s disease appears to run in families so there is highly likely to be a genetic component to this condition.
* Those people who smoke cigarettes are twice as likely to develop Crohn’s disease as non-smokers.
* The immune system in people with Crohn’s disease appears to be overactive. This means that it kills friendly bacteria in the intestine and cause inflammation as a result.
* It has been suggested that an infection picked up in childhood may cause problems with the immune system in later life.
* The modern western lifestyle seems to be a contributing factor to this condition. Crohn’s disease has become much more common in the west since the 1950s.
Alcohol and Crohn’s Disease
Moderate alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects for some people with Crohn’s disease. The exact reason for how it helps is not clearly understood, and it is not suggested that people should take up drinking in order to help with their symptoms. Those individuals who drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol will almost certainly make their symptoms worse. The other problem with drinking alcohol is that it can interfere with the medications that are used to control the condition. This is why many people who have Crohn’s disease will avoid alcohol completely.
Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
There is no real cure for Crohn’s disease and so the main aim of treatment is to manage the symptoms of the condition. Crohn’s disease can be controlled using medications, surgery, and lifestyle changes. The most commonly used drugs include:
* Steroids can be used to reduce inflammation. This is a powerful type of drug that may lead to unpleasant side-effects if used long-term.
* Immunosuppressants work by suppressing the activity of the immune system.
* Aminosalicylates are an alternative to steroids for treating inflammation.
* New biological therapies involve using naturally occurring chemicals to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
Most of those individuals who have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease will need to have surgery at some point of their life. This is because the medication stops being effective at controlling the inflammation. The typical surgical treatment for Crohn’s disease involves cutting away the inflamed area.
Lifestyle and Crohn’s Disease
There are things that people can do to help manage the symptoms of Crohn’s disease such as:
* The individual should only drink sensible amounts of alcohol. For some people the only sensible amount will be no alcohol.
* It is believed that certain foods can worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. People should be careful when eating; spicy food, fatty food, high-fiber food, and dairy products.
* Eating small meals regularly may be better than eating large meals.
* It is helpful if people keep a diary tracking their food intake and their symptoms. This way they will develop a better understanding for how to manage their symptoms.