Western Medicine’s View on Crohn’s Disease:
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation in the bowel. The inflammation can occur in the large or small intestine or both. Crohn’s most commonly affects the small intestine but does cause inflammation in the large intestine in about 20 % of cases. No one is 100% what causes Crohn’s but the most widely accepted view is that he inflammation in the intestine is resulting from immune system malfunction.
For this reason Crohn’s disease is often referred to as an autoimmune disease. With Crohn’s, naturally occurring proteins and bacteria in the intestine that are supposed to be there are not recognized by the body correctly so the body’s immune system sends white blood cells to attack the invaders. This attack by the white blood cells is what causes the inflammation.
Eastern Medicine’s View on Crohn’s Disease:
According to the theories of Oriental medicine, Crohn's disease may be caused by constitutional deficiencies, invasion of the exterior pathogenic factors, or unbalanced diet.
Constitutional deficiencies usually refer to spleen and kidney deficiencies. Invasion of exterior pathogenic factors refers to damp heat in the large intestine. Lastly, unbalanced diet high in raw or cold injures the spleen and stomach and obstructs their functions in transforming and transporting food and nutrients.
Crohn's disease can be divided into four general categories: damp heat; spleen deficiency; spleen and kidney deficiencies; and qi and blood stagnation.
Invasion of damp heat in the large intestine is characterized by an acute and sudden onset of gastrointestinal symptoms. Damp heat in the large intestine is illustrated by diarrhea; presence of mucous and blood in the stool; foul-smelling stools; yellow urine; and abdominal fullness and pain. Defecation is characterized by extreme urgency, tenesmus, and a burning sensation of the anus after passing the stool. As heat travels upwards, patients may feel irritable, thirsty, and have a preference to drink cold water. The tongue is dark red with a yellow, greasy coat; the pulse is wiry, slippery or rapid.
Spleen deficiency may be due to constitutional deficiency or secondary due to excessive intake of cold and raw food. Patients with chronic Crohn's disease usually have spleen deficiency, which is characterized by a compromised ability of the spleen to transform and transport food. Clinically, the patient will show symptoms such as frequent and severe diarrhea; watery stool with undigested food; dull abdominal pain; poor appetite; poor digestion; and gastric discomfort after food intake. Sallow facial appearance, fatigue and lethargy are due to chronic malabsorption and malnutrition. The tongue is pale with a white coat; the pulse is soft and weak.
Spleen and kidney deficiencies may be due to constitutional deficiency or secondary due to chronic nature of the illness. One diagnostic key of spleen and kidney deficiency is early morning diarrhea around 5:00 am. In addition, patients may have abdominal pain that increases with cold but decreases with defecation. Patients may also have intolerance to cold and cold extremities. The tongue is pale with a white coat; the pulse is thready and weak.
Lastly, qi and blood stagnation resembles an acute phase of Crohn's disease in which the patient has severe abdominal pain and fullness with a palpable mass in the right lower quadrant. This condition mimics acute appendicitis. It is essential to make a correct differential diagnosis prior to treatment. In addition, patients may experience diarrhea, lack of appetite, muscle wasting and lethargy. The tongue is dark purple with petechia; the pulse is thready and knotted.
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