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Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn's Disease

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  • 0:43 Crohn's Disease
  • 1:52 Why Does It Occur?
  • 3:45 Symptoms & Diagnostics
  • 5:03 Management
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will discuss one of the two major forms of inflammatory bowel disease, known as Crohn's disease. We'll discuss where it occurs, why it may occur, and how something known as cobalamin is important.

The Reality of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

There have been plenty of Hollywood movies that have poked fun at individuals who have some form of inflammatory bowel disease. This is a group of conditions where our own body attacks itself, namely the gastrointestinal tract, to cause some pretty uncomfortable symptoms.

The movies make fun of the characters always having to dash to the bathroom, thereby messing up perfectly good dates, or vomiting at the most inopportune moments. Unfortunately, for the people stuck with these conditions in real life, the reality is far less amusing.

In this lesson, we'll take a look into one of the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease.

What Is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn's disease is an idiopathic, autoimmune, chronic inflammatory condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Whoa Nelly! I do believe there was a whole mouthful of strange words in that definition. But don't get too freaked out; they're easy to understand.

The word 'idiopathic' means we have no definitive idea what really causes it. The way I remember that definition is by thinking about the fact that 'idiopathic' is close enough to the word 'idiot,' and we're 'idiots' for not knowing what an idiopathic disease is caused by.

'Autoimmune' implies that our own immune system attacks itself, or 'auto.' Since our immune system is responsible for initiating inflammation, the attack on our own body causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. And because it's so hard to treat autoimmune diseases, they are usually chronic, or long-standing, in nature.

Crohn's disease is most likely to strike individuals under the age of 30 of European ancestry and people who smoke. Some individuals with Crohn's disease also have a close relative with this condition.

Why Does Crohn's Disease Occur?

This brings me to my next point - genetics. We know that people who have a family history of this condition are more likely to get it. That's probably explained by the fact that there have been dozens of genetic mutations associated with predisposing a person to developing Crohn's disease found thus far.

Your genes, remember, are the things that code and catalog who you'll become physically and physiologically. If the information in your genes is cataloged incorrectly in the system, the body is unable to properly use that information for a normal process.

If you go to the library, search for a book, are told to go find it in a certain aisle, and it's not there, then you are unable to use the information in that book for your own benefit. Well, if your genetic information isn't coded or cataloged properly, your body can't use that genetic information for your own benefit, resulting in conditions such as Crohn's disease. The poor genetics may tell immune system cells, such as T-cells, to overreact to innocent things, such as animal protein particles or even helpful gut bacteria, resulting in death and destruction of the GI tract.

This also brings me to my second point. Bacteria such as E. coli, Pseudomonas, and Mycobacteria have been linked to increasing the chances of developing Crohn's disease or exacerbating it even further. Your immune system is obviously trained to kill off bad bacteria, but it may sometimes over-react to the point of causing you too much harm, as with many autoimmune diseases. It's kind of like the cops that are supposed to enforce the law but sometimes overdo it - same thing here, but with the immune system's law enforcement agency. Now that I used that metaphor, I don't think I'll be able to talk my way out of a speeding ticket ever again.

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