QUIZ: Do You Have Crohn’s Disease? A Guide to Spotting Symptoms

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have several similar symptoms. Learning how to manage your specific condition will enable you to live a normal life. 

Woman holding the right side of her abdomen

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) that share similar characteristics. For instance, both conditions directly affect the gastrointestinal tract and have relatable symptoms.

Distinguishing between the two is important as they have distinct management modalities. In addition, getting an early diagnosis will enable you to get treatment faster. In doing so, you’ll be able to reduce your risk of hospitalisation or developing severe complications.

Do You Have Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis? 

Learning if you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis allows you to develop a plan that helps prevent symptom flare-ups. Let’s discover what your answers suggest.

Woman holding her temples and closing her eyes as she sits at a table
Stress at work can increase your risk of developing Crohn’s disease.

If your answers are mostly A’s 

Your symptoms are indicative of Crohn’s disease. From a clinical perspective, there are no proven risk factors. Though, it’s worth noting that Crohn’s is an autoimmune disorder. Simply put, it’ll provoke your immune system to attack healthy tissue. Separately, a few other factors can also play a role in you developing the disease. These include genetics, cigarette smoking, a previous stomach infection, and abnormal levels of gut bacteria. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the causes of Crohn’s disease relate to pathogenic factors. These are cold, dampness, heat, blood stasis, and qi stagnation. Such factors may arise from a stressful working environment and unhealthy lifestyle habits and disrupt the functions of various organs, including the heart, liver, spleen, stomach, and small and large intestines. 

3D illustrations for the Hegu (LI4), Zhongwan (RN12) and Tianshu (ST25) acupoints that can help easy Crohn's disease symptoms
Stimulation of the Hegu (LI4), Zhongwan (RN12) and Tianshu (ST25) acupoints can help manage the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

How to manage Crohn’s disease effectively  

Management of this disease involves consulting a gastroenterologist. Upon assessing the severity of your symptoms, the expert will prescribe treatment options that help control them.

Steroid medication can reduce inflammation in the digestive system. Alternative medications – tablets or injections – may be suggested to reduce immune system activity and avert potential flare-ups. In some cases, a gastroenterologist will perform a surgical procedure to remove a small part of the digestive system. 

According to Real Health Medical senior physician Brandon Yew, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can also help manage Crohn’s disease symptoms. Acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and tuina are several treatments that a TCM physician may recommend to address your unique body constitution. 

“Acupressure is an easy, self-help remedy that requires you to place fingers or a blunt object like a massage stick at certain acupoints and apply the appropriate amount of pressure to elicit an aching sensation or numbness. At the same time, massage the acupoint in a clockwise and anti-clockwise circular motion. Do this 20 times each and repeat for at least 3 minutes per acupoint”, says physician Yew. Some of these acupoints are Hegu (LI4), Zhongwan (RN12), Tianshu (ST25) and Shuidao (ST28). 

Adding Poria (Fuling, 茯苓), Chinese yam (Shanyao, 山药) or lotus seeds (Liánzǐ, 莲子) to porridge or soup can help ease Crohn’s disease symptoms. Do seek professional guidance on the combination of herbs you can use based on your body constitution. Otherwise, you can make lifestyle changes to relieve symptoms of the disease. 

“Cut down on alcohol and smoking. Try to achieve a work-life balance. Eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, and get sufficient sleep. Reduce your consumption of oily, fried, fatty, spicy, sugared, and processed foods. Drink warm, plain water instead of cold, sweetened beverages to prevent pathogenic factors from occurring”, advises physician Yew. 

If your answers are mostly B’s 

You potentially have ulcerative colitis. Like Crohn’s disease, there aren’t any known causes for the condition. However, gastroenterologists do believe that it relates to an abnormality of the immune system in the intestines. A person who eats a high-fat diet or takes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also develop the disease. 

Meanwhile, TCM states that the condition results from dampness and heat attacking the large intestine. Consequently, this disrupts the organ’s ability to transport food and waste products through the digestive tract efficiently. This dampness-heat interaction can also present as clinical symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, or blood- or mucus-rich stools. 

How to manage ulcerative colitis effectively 

A gastroenterologist performs different tests after a physical examination to diagnose ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. A blood test can help identify either condition by indicating bleeding in the colon or rectum. Stool samples can exhibit signs of inflammation. Imaging and endoscopic tests can help assess the health of your colon and rectum. It can also help differentiate the two conditions.

The expert will then recommend various medications, depending on the severity of your condition. Amino salicylates are effective for people with mild to moderate symptoms. Corticosteroids work for severe ulcerative colitis. The use of immunomodulators can calm an overactive immune system.

Biologics can successfully manage the condition by quieting parts of the immune system. Janus kinase inhibitors can inhibit the body’s enzymes from triggering inflammation. Sometimes, the expert will also perform a surgical procedure to stop uncontrollable symptoms, steer clear of medication side effects, reduce a person’s risk of colon cancer and eliminate life-threatening complications like bleeding. 

Alternatively, a study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that powder derived from a herbal ingredient called Indigo Naturalis (Qingdai, 青黛) can suppress ulcerative colitis. Specifically, the use of the powder enabled 6 people with intractable ulcerative colitis to discontinue using prednisolone – a corticosteroid used to control the condition.

These findings coincide with the results of another study in the Clinical Journal of Chinese Medicine, which showed that the conjunctive use of shrubby sophora (Kushen, 苦参) and Radix Pulsatillae (Baitouweng, 白头翁) with acupuncture was more effective than antibiotics in managing ulcerative colitis. The acupoints you can stimulate include Lièquē (LU7), Shugu (BL65), Sanyinjiao (SP6) and Zusanli (ST36).

Knowing if your symptoms are that of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can improve your quality of life. Seek treatment early to improve your condition more successfully. If this quiz has helped you understand your condition, share it with loved ones!

References

  1. NHS. Crohn’s Disease.  [Accessed 7 January 2022] 
  2. MedicineNet. 2019. Ulcerative Colitis: Symptoms & Signs. [Accessed 7 January 2022] 
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Ulcerative Colitis.  [Accessed 7 January 2022]
  4. Hindawi. 2018. Development of a Traditional Chinese Medicine Syndrome-Specific Scale for Ulcerative Colitis: The Large Intestine Dampness-Heat Syndrome Questionnaire. [Accessed 7 January 2022] 
  5. HealthCMI. 2013. Chinese Herb & Acupuncture Clear Ulcerative Colitis Research. [Accessed 7 January 2022] 
  6. PointFinder. Colitis. [Accessed 7 January 2022] 

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