Review of The New York Times “In-depth Report: Crohn’s Disease”

I love the New York Times. Not only does it have a LOT of their information for free online, it also covers most aspects of modern life. Their health section is truly to be recommended, the writers manage to break down complex matter for interested lay audiences, just as myself. I prefer them over wikipedia most of the time, because of quality control. Anyone can edit a wikipedia article, and I simply trust the NYT more. I just found out they had what they call an “in-depth report” on Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.  Here is what I think:

If you are looking for the quick and dirty on Crohn’s and Colitis- this is it. Printed out, it’s nine pages long. It looks like it’s a bit dated (I couldn’t find a publication date, but most cited articles are from 2009, so I assume that’s when it was published), but the intestinal system and the standard medications (unfortunately) haven’t changed much. I will briefly talk about important sections, and things that stand out.

It starts with an overview of the gastrointestinal tract- good. So many people don’t know their large intestine from  their small.

Next up, causes. This section is a little short, because…. yes, because researchers know jack shit. “Environmental triggers”- what on earth is that supposed to mean? Not the NYT’s fault, but still frustrating. Very important though: MMR VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE CROHN’S. DO YOU HEAR ME ANTI-VAXXERS? That’s settled then.

Dietary Factors: Very short again. No, your food intake does NOT cause your IBD. Managing the disease by eating differently- maybe. All I have experienced is hearsay, but I can’t blame people willing to try stuff. Just read up and make informed decisions.

Age: 10% of all patients are children under age 18. When I grew up, it was about 3%. I was a medical curiosity! That being said, I am not saying that numbers have risen, I just think that doctors now are better informed and connected, know more and can diagnose better.

Commonalities between the Diseases: In short, both suck, and the report is clear about this, they both such badly.

Difference between symptoms of Mild and Severe Disease: Ok, here I am bothered that the first thing to differentiate is the number of bowel movements. For YEARS, I was constipated and suffered from painful bloating instead of experiencing diarrhea. Contrary to what the NYT says, I have known people that had extra-intestinal manifestations of Crohn’s or Colitis,  such as debilitating back pain, constant mouth sores or eye infections,  before anybody thought about looking into their stomach. Here I believe, you need to listen to your body, and communicate with your doctor.

Next are complications– and I think they covered most.

Diet and Nutrition: Nothing too surprising here. Malabsorption is a problem with active disease, supplements may be recommended, avoid too much fiber yadya. And of course, my old friend, enteral nutrition. I have been on enteral nutrition as long as four weeks. Nasty taste, and your breath could light matches, but your stomach finally settles.

Medications: Another big overview, however a bit dated (see above). A lot of research is done with biologicals, but hook- and whipworms, and fecal transplants are also being investigated more. And of course, the elephant in the room cannot be mentioned on here either- Marijuana. More on that some other time.

Surgery: It’s a good overview to start, but there are no images, not explanations.

Resources: The usual suspects- CCFA, American Gastroenterological Association etc. What I miss here are resources for patients. Mention that there are many patient blogs, mention that there are health advocates, and even journals.

In a nutshell: It may come across as nit-picky, but it’s Crohns AND Colitis, this needs to be renamed. UC patients can be bothered that their disease doesn’t get as much attention than Crohn’s or that they are even belittled (“oh, this is the mild version of Crohn’s?”). Especially since the report itself makes it clear that both are diseases that can have severe complications. In spite of this rather grave problem, this is a good start for people wanting to know more. It’s what you could print out and give your friends, family members, or even people at work who want to know what’s going on with you.

Finally, the link.

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