Vegan Health ArticlesParatuberculosis and Crohn's Disease: Got Milk?
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From by Michael Greger, MD
Updated January 2001

Crohn's Disease

Described as a human scourge,[33] over a half million[120] Americans suffer from this devastating, lifelong condition[95] with annual US medical costs in the billions.[189] Crohn's sufferers experience profuse urgent diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fevers.[78] Because of the diarrhea, many people are unable to leave their houses; others drive around in recreational vehicles or mobile homes to keep a bathroom close at hand.[98] The director of the National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease says the best way to describe to nonsufferers how bad the disease can get is to have them think of the worst stomach flu they ever had and then try to imagine living with that every day.[29]

What happens is that the immune system starts attacking the lining of the gut, which becomes swollen and inflamed.[24] In extreme cases this painful embarrassing condition can affect any part of the digestive system from the mouth to the anus.[27] This inflammation narrows the digestive tract and can result in excruciating pain during digestion as well as constant uncontrollable bowel movements. Added discomforts associated with Crohn's disease include severe joint pains, weight loss, and lack of energy.[92]

The intestines characteristically become so deeply ulcerated that they take on a "cobblestone" appearance. The ulcers can actually eat right through the gut wall and cause bleeding, abscesses, fistulas and perforation.[150] Passing food, sometimes even just drink, through Crohn's damaged intestines can be excruciatingly painful. In the words of one colorectal surgeon, "Crohn's is a surgical disease. We wait until the patient can no longer withstand the pain anymore, and then we perform surgery...and repeated surgeries over time...ultimately, as recurrences happen and intestinal damage occurs, we just cut and cut, in some cases, until there is no more intestine that can be cut out."[24]

Tragically, Crohn's disease typically strikes people in their teens and early twenties -- destroying their health.[53] Children, adolescents, and young adults suddenly become faced with the harsh reality of a lifetime of chronic pain, in and out of hospitals their entire lives.[27]

The disease is mostly found in the United States, United Kingdom, and Scandinavia.[152] And it's on the increase. The incidence in the United States, which has been increasing steadily since the 1940s -- doubling, then tripling, then quadrupling[89] -- is now approaching that of an epidemic.[67] The most rapid increase has been seen in children. In the 1940s and early 1950s there were no recorded cases of Crohn's in teenagers. Currently, one in every six new cases diagnosed are under age twenty.[89] Dr. Crohn, who described one of the first series of cases back in 1932,[149] wrote decades later "From this small beginning, we have witnessed the evolution of a Frankenstein monster...."[25]

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.