Dina (left) and Jonas (right); Be Food Smart booth at the Crohn's & Colitis Take Steps Walk, May 22, 2011

I arrived at the Santa Barbara Crohn’s & Colitis support group a bit early. I was surprised at the diverse nature of the group as attendees ranges from age 16 to 70ish. Like most support groups, people went around the room, introduced themselves and began sharing how they’ve been managing their disease. In between discussions of dietary restrictions and past intestinal surgeries, drug names like Humira and Remicade flew back and forth making the attendees sound more like pharmacists than regular folk. I guess that’s what happens when your life revolves around this disease.  I was fascinated and saddened by the world they lived in.

Ever heard of Crohn’s disease? What about colitis or IBD? A year ago, I’d heard of these conditions, but honestly had no idea what  they were. Fast forward to a few months ago when I learned a great deal more about these illnesses which affect an estimated 1.4 million Americans.  Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and colitis are very similar, chronic conditions which belong to a larger group of illnesses called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

IBD causes inflammation of the digestive and/or gastrointestinal tract and is classified as an autoimmune disease:

Researchers believe that the immune system mistakes microbes, such as bacteria that is normally found in the intestines, for foreign or invading substances, and launches an attack. In the process, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines, where they produce chronic inflammation. These cells then generate harmful products that ultimately lead to ulcerations and bowel injury. When this happens, the patient experiences the symptoms of IBD.

-Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America

Symptoms of Crohn’s and colitis range from person to person, but here are a few common complaints:

  • Persistent diarrhea (loose, watery, or frequent bowel movements)
  • Painful bowel movements and rectal bleeding
  • Cramps and abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Delayed growth and sexual development (in children with Crohn’s)

Do these symptoms sound familiar? Think you might have Crohn’s or IBD? Talk to your doctor and visit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America website for more information. Interestingly, I found out that the screening tests conducted prior to donating blood are a common way people find out they have IBD.

Karen Clark of the Santa Barbara support group invited Be Food Smart to speak at their June meeting where I presented the Top Ingredients to Avoid. In addition to speaking to this wonderful group, Be Food Smart also participated in the Crohn’s & Colitis Take Steps walk in Santa Barbara, CA on May 22, 2011 where we gave away re-usable produce bags at our booth. We were honored to be a part of the event and send a warm thank you to Karen, Amira and all the participants involved.

Random fact: According to Wikipedia, Shannen Doherty and Adam Corolla suffer from Crohn’s.