Hello! Thank you for visiting our webpage! We are the Autoimmune Society of Australia.
Please feel free to download this printable leaflet with information about Crohn's disease and how it affects you and your community.

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“The goals of those who require medical attention for their illness want the ability to enjoy a full and active life”

  1. What role do you, the patient play?
  2. How can medical advisors help you?
  3. In which way does the community support you?

“Treatment is only a temporary remedy to treat and heal sufferers”

What is Crohn’s disease and what is society’s issue with it?
Authors: Daborn, E; Hamilton, M; Meehan, J; Schmitz, H.

Crohn’s disease is described as being the relapsing inflammatory gastrointestinal disease (Baumgart & Sandborn, 2012). Multiple factors contribute to the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, and it’s not just biological factors; instead we view it in a biopsychosocial model. This is as individuals diagnosed with Crohn’s do not only have to face physical ailments, but also emotional distress and face social discourse. Research has shown that individuals with Crohn’s feel as though they are constantly asked to rearticulate their identity due to their diagnosis and struggle with disclosing their Crohn’s and how it impacts their lives (Vidali,2010). The public has become increasingly knowledgeable about Crohn’s, however further understanding of the roots of this disorder could improve the topic. This Brochure aims to help those diagnosed with Crohn’s, suffering these aspects in an anthropological aspect, discussing topics such as Levi-Strauss’ Shamanistic Complex, which through his three components (the sorcerer’s belief of the technique’s effectiveness, the patients belief in the power and the groups faith and expectation (Levi-Strauss, 1963)) will guide the patient to understanding that coping with Crohn’s lies not only in a biological foundation. We hope this brochure is helpful in understanding that Crohn’s disease is not only solved with medical assistance, but an understanding of the deeper issues, such as biosocial issues and the public’s view, can greatly help in living with this ailment.
How is the patient affected?

Crohn’s Disease, being a lifelong gastrointestinal disorder is an experience of ill-being to a patient as it presents itself with severe and complex inflammation in the colon, rectum and gastrointestinal tract. The broader impacts of this auto-immune disease affect the individual person’s emotional, physical and social well-being. In order to properly diagnose a patient with Crohn’s Disease a pathological examination of the blood and symptoms relating to the causation of the illness is paramount as a delayed diagnosis can lead to life-threatening situations (WebMD 2019).

What Does Levi-Strauss Have to Say?
In relation to Levi-Strauss’ lines of inquiry the individual of ill-being believes in the powers of the shaman. The Shaman, in retrospect, in contemporary medical practices is the health professional trained in diagnosing a patient with Crohn’s disease. The ill patient yields to the therapy of the Shaman for healing purposes and this is evident in those who suffer from Crohn’s Disease because these people seek urgent and immediate medical treatment to heal the burden of the illness they bear. The practitioner who treats patients who suffer from Crohn’s Disease exhibits the “magic” that is believed by the patient to be the cure to effective healing (Levi-Strauss, 1963).

The Dimensions of Crohn’s
The physical and psychosocial dimensions of Crohn’s Disease make patients who suffer from this state of ill-being to endure complications with relapse and irregular disease, but also to stigmatization, feelings and thoughts of depression, and an increased risk of suicidal ideation or suicide (Carson et.al, 2014). “Illness narratives” is a term used to describe the individual experience of the patient’s perspective and subjective experience in the process of undergoing medical attention for receiving treatment and clinical pathology surrounding their ill-being. A patient experiencing the ill-being has shifted from being an object of inquiry to a source for producing subjective experience (Velpry, 2008). This is interpreted in a way that can understand the context-dependent attribution to the individual experiences of health treatment.

How Do Those Diagnosed Feel?
Those who suffer from Crohn’s Disease have described the illness as a “frustrating” and “difficult” yet challenging burden to live with (Ajani, 2019). For many sufferers of autoimmunity, the illness is to most people invisible as the symptoms are all internal pains and problems. The challenges faced every day by Crohn’s Disease patients predominantly focus of positive mindsets and optimistic views of life through the lens of an altered reality. Patients develop this disease through failures in immunity and environmental factors. This is an individual experienced illness that creates painful damage to the bowel and colon because bacteria overgrowth creates inflammation to the intestines resulting in symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain and bloating (WebMD 2019). For someone who experiences optimal health and well-being and do not have a diagnosed illness preventing them from participation in normal life activities, understanding the burden of the illness on those who do suffer can be difficult to understand and comprehend.

What Are the Goals?
The goals of those who require medical attention for their illness want the ability to enjoy a full and active life. Those with this state of ill-being want to find a cure and struggle with the life-long immunity failure that exists. Treatment is only a temporary remedy to treat and heal sufferers. However, clinical treatment uses important skills to enable patients to look beyond their illness and transforms their thoughts of being a sick person. Patients who live with Crohn’s Disease are able to then achieve a sociable approach to understanding their state of ill-being that broadens the emotional, physical and social well-being of the patient to a be more positive which benefits not only the patient but the medical practitioners and the community as a whole.

What authority does the practitioner have?

Going to see a doctor can be a daunting task sometimes. Some of us wish that we could go back in time and have our parents make our appointments and attend with us. However, living with Crohn’s disease can help overcome this fear by having to spend countless hours seeing physicians, getting procedures and identifying ways to combat this affliction.

History of Medical Diagnoses
Seeing a doctor when suffering from this disease is not necessarily a new concept, nonetheless it was not widely known or diagnosed until the middle of the twentieth century (Mayberry, J & Rhodes J, 1984, pp. 886). During these early diagnostic years, the disease was thought to be psychosomatic and linked with hysteria (Hill, J 2017), leaving both doctors and patients confused alike. Many homogenous diseases thought to be psychosomatic were and still are diagnosed upon people due to their complexity and by somewhat inadequate treatment provided by practitioners.

It is through this high complexity that practitioners can still get caught out on their understandings and methods though the spread of misinformation (Hill, J 2017). This notion of not fully comprehending the disease can create a sort of trap for doctors with diagnosing and misdiagnosing people with Crohn’s. Although there is no cure for Crohn’s, as most treatment is issued through the use of medications such as steroids and surgical procedures (Mayberry, J & Rhodes J, 1984, pp. 886). Nevertheless, the places that people are diagnosed or misdiagnosed come from towns rather than the country (Mayberry, J & Rhodes J, 1984, pp. 887).

Issues in Research
An important issue to note here is that many of these towns where diagnoses are made are in first world places such as the UK and Scandinavia where their healthcare systems appear to be impeccable. This clearly instigates a correlation between people that are able to be diagnosed and treated effectively and their governments that have bestowed easy accessibility to these people (Mayberry, J & Rhodes J, 1984, pp. 886).

Likened with highly competent healthcare systems is generational conditioning for the prevention of germs and the act of cleanness. It is believed that the hygiene hypothesis plays a crucial role in the rise of diagnosis of Crohn's.

What Role do Practitioners Play?
This hypothesis entails that the war against germs drilled into our minds from an early age by health care practitioners has led to the decrease in microorganisms interacting with our bodies which can then cause immunoregulatory failure (Zuckerman, M, Harper K, Barrett, R & Armelagos, G, 2014, pp.4). From this it could been seen that practitioners could have accidently broken the Hippocratic oath of do no harm, by enforcing common cultural beliefs which have unforeseen consequences. As time has progressed you can see people starting to unravel this conditioning by a select few parents encouraging their young to rub their hands on a telephone pole and the recent ascension of kombucha sales.

Crohn’s Today
In present times it is evident that Crohn’s disease is not a psychosomatic illness. However, its recent spike in diagnoses could simply be a side effect caused by attainable quality healthcare, whilst simultaneously hindered by the generational misunderstanding of health and germs by practitioners as a whole.

How is the community involved?

Crohn’s disease can be described as a chronic and ‘deconstructive gastrointestinal disease’ which has been found to be most apparent in early adulthood (Ananthakrishnan et al. 2008), however, for some people it can occur a little later in life, for one research participant it was in his fifties. He suffered from severe abdominal pain, heart related concerns, loose bowel movements among many others which Sarid et al. (2017) characterise as common symptoms in patients with Crohn’s disease. Furthermore, due to the severity of many cases, an absence from work is not uncommon, accommodated by a loss if income, emphasising the demanding time and effort of the disease (Sarid et al. 2018).

Issues with Treatment
Whilst there are treatments available, they come at a cost both physically and mentally. Craven et al. (2018) postulates that many treatments result in a range of side effects from; mood changes, to sleeping problems, skin conditions and commonly relapsing… my uncle suffered all of these. Sarid et al. (2017) highlight the effect that the disease can have on the patients, but also those around them, with significant emphasis on the stereotype of gender roles. The significance of gender roles came into play when the research participant could no longer work, his wife was now the primary supporter, with 4 children and a partially renovated house, she was struggling to keep them afloat.

Community Support
Craven et al. (2018) examines the knowledge and belief that the community and those involved with someone suffering from Crohn’s disease have, making specific mention to the varying levels of efficacy people have for the different types of treatment and how practitioner’s knowledge enables a quicker or more pain efficient recovery. There are many avenues for community support, with the research participant joining the Crohn’s Disease support group which aims to provide a safe environment where patients as well as the community can express their experiences and receive advice… however the research participant has never been to one meeting.

A Life with Crohn’s
According to Baumgart & Sandborn (2012), there have been studies that show risks for children later developing the disease passed down from their parents, and whilst it’s not a huge risk, the possibility is still there. Therefore, with rising fears of passing the condition onto their children, both the participant and his wife are very diligent about watching their ‘digestive’ health. For those hoping to start a family, there is hope. Many therapies are considered safe with conception and pregnancy, however, there are still possible health risks and side effects that may arise; hence, counselling is highly recommended to ensure that couples have all the advice and support they need (Baumgart & Sandborn, 2012).

How Common is Crohn’s?
Crohn’s disease is considered to be one of the less common diseases in the population, and whilst it is beginning to increase, there is still a lack of understanding and available resources from healthcare systems to aid those who suffer from the condition (Loga et al. 2012). In such cases, where there is a limited awareness of the disease, it gives the community a chance to learn and gauge a better understanding of the condition and how it affects those around them. The participants wife never knew much about the disease until her husband was diagnosed with it, but if there’s one positive she can take away from it all… she’s well educated now.

To Conclude:
We hope this Webpage has given you an in depth understanding of the biosocial aspects of Crohn’s and helped you interpret how this diagnosis is not purely medical. This brochure has aimed to inform the reader of the views Levi-Strauss, such as the attitude of the individual, the practitioner and the community, and how these tie in with Crohn’s as well as various aspects of those, such as family members, involved in the life of a Crohn’s sufferer. There are many factors contributing to a diagnosis of Crohn’s, and we are still updating our understanding of how an individual’s life is impacted, however with further research into the area of public discourse, perhaps through more case studies of how Crohn’s sufferers not only suffer physically but in a more biosocial respect and how those who are unaware of the details of Crohn’s view and understand it. Through our current understanding as well as what we will discover from future research, the prognosis for a happy and healthy life with Crohn’s looks bright.

Please not that the Autoimmune Society of Australia is a fictitious organisation, however all the information provided is authentic.

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Hill, J 2017, ‘ A psychosomatic diagnosis is a doctors way of saying I don’t have a clue’, Quartz, Retrieved 20/8/19 https://qz.com/884658/are-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-ibs-and-crohns-disease-really-all-in-the-mind-a-psychosomatic-disease-diagnosis-is-a-doctors-way-of-saying-i-dont-have-a-clue/ Levi-Strauss, C 1963, Structural Anthropology, Vol. 1, Basic Books, New York

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