Crohn’s and Colitis

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What are Crohn’s and colitis? 

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two most prevalent forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

Crohn’s disease can impact any area of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract from mouth to anus, but most commonly manifests in the lower end of the small intestine (ileum) or in the first part of the large intestine (colon). Since Crohn’s is not localized to one particular area, it cannot be cured by surgery. Crohn’s disease impacts the GI tract by expanding the entire thickness of the intestinal lining. This inflammation may only impact certain sections of the intestinal lining, leaving “normal” areas of lining between the inflamed sections. 

Colitis, or ulcerative colitis, impacts only the innermost layer of intestinal lining (inner mucosa) of the large intestine, also known as the colon. Unlike with Crohn’s disease, colitis impacts the entire length of the colon, leaving no “normal” areas free of inflammation. Due to the fact that colitis manifests only in the colon, it is possible to cure colitis by removing a significant portion of the colon. 

Canada has among the highest prevalence of Crohn’s and colitis worldwide, with 1 in 140 Canadians living with either Crohn’s or colitis. As of 2018, there were an estimated 135,000 Canadians living with Crohn’s disease and an estimated 120,000 Canadians living with ulcerative colitis, with an estimated 15,000 Canadians awaiting official diagnosis. Crohn’s disease is more common in females, whereas colitis is more common in males. Most individuals with Crohn’s and colitis are diagnosed by the age of 30. However, more males are diagnosed with colitis in their 50’s and 60’s than females in the same age category. 

How are Crohn’s and colitis diagnosed? 

Most individuals with Crohn’s or colitis are diagnosed by the age of 30. 

Crohn’s diagnosis may include:

  • Physical examination
  • Laboratory tests of blood and stool
  • Endoscopy/colonoscopy
  • Biopsy of the intestines
  • Small intestine imaging (X-ray, CT, MRI) 

Colitis diagnosis may include:

  • Physical examination
  • Laboratory tests of blood and stool
  • Sigmoidoscopy/colonoscopy
  • Biopsy of the colon

Crohn’s and colitis diagnosis can be overwhelming. For individualized support, book with one of our dietitians today! 

How can a dietitian help with Crohn’s and colitis management?

Consulting a dietitian is a great way to ensure that you are including all essential nutrients in your diet while avoiding those foods that are known to trigger Crohn’s and colitis flare ups.

Malnutrition is very common in individuals with Crohn’s and colitis. Inflammation in the GI tract inhibits proper digestion and absorption of nutrients that are essential for our overall health. Another reason for malnutrition in this population is food avoidance. Individuals with Crohn’s and colitis tend to avoid certain foods that cause flare ups of their condition, limiting their intake of some essential micronutrients. 

If you are concerned about malnutrition due to Crohn’s or colitis diagnosis, or are struggling with frequent Crohn’s or colitis flare ups, book with one of our dietitians today! 

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