The term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes a group of disorders in which the intestines become inflamed. It has often been thought of as an autoimmune disease, but research suggests that the chronic inflammation may not be due to the immune system attacking the body itself. Instead, it is a result of the immune system attacking a harmless virus, bacteria, or food in the gut, causing inflammation that leads to bowel injury.
2 major types of IBD
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease.
Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon or large intestine. Crohn’s disease, on the other hand, can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus. Most commonly, though, it affects the last part of the small intestine or the colon or both.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammation of the large intestine (colon).Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the most common types of inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis affects only the colon and rectum. Crohn’s can affect any part of the digestive tract.
The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. It may be caused by an abnormal response by the body’s immune system to normal intestinal bacteria. Disease-causing bacteria and viruses also may play a role.
Ulcerative colitis symptoms can vary, depending on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. Therefore, doctors often classify ulcerative colitis according to its location.
You may have the following signs and symptoms, depending on which part of the colon is inflamed:
- Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Rectal pain
- Rectal bleeding — passing small amount of blood with stool
- Urgency to defecate
- Inability to defecate despite urgency
- Weight loss
- In children, failure to grow
There is no solid evidence that indicates what you eat affects ulcerative colitis. You may find that certain foods aggravate your symptoms when you have a flare-up. Practices that may help include:
- Drinking small amounts of water throughout the day
- eating smaller meals throughout the day
- limiting your intake of high-fiber foods
- avoiding fatty foods
- lowering your intake of milk if you’re lactose intolerant
Although a specific diet isn’t thought to play a role in causing ulcerative colitis, some changes to your diet can help control the condition.
For example, you may find it useful to:
- Eat small meals – eating five or six smaller meals a day, rather than three main meals, may help control your symptoms
- drink plenty of fluids – it’s easy to become dehydrated when you have ulcerative colitis, as you can lose a lot of fluid through diarrhoea. Water is the best source of fluids. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these will make your diarrhoea worse – and fizzy drinks, which can cause flatulence (gas)
Crohn’s disease is an IBD that cause inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract. In Crohn’s disease, inflammation often spreads deep into affected tissues. The inflammation can involve different areas of the digestive tract — the large intestine, small intestine or both.
The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. Most researchers think it’s caused by a combination of factors.
These are thought to be:
- The Immune System
- Previous Infection
- Environmental Factors
Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract. While symptoms vary from patient to patient and some may be more common than others, the tell-tale symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
Symptoms related to inflammation of the GI tract:
- Persistent Diarrhea
- Rectal Bleeding
- Urgent Need to Move bowels
- Abdominal Cramps and Pain
- Sensation of Incomplete Evacuation
- Constipation (can lead to bowel obstruction)
- General symptoms that may also be associated with IBD:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight Loss
- Night sweats
Need to seek medical advice if
- persistent Diarrhoea
- persistent abdominal pain
- unexplained weight loss
- blood in your stools
Relief During a Crohn’s Flare
Even the most well-managed cases of Crohn’s disease can flare. This often means that a step up in treatment is needed to get symptoms under control.
- Dehydration. Start by making sure you’re getting enough fluids. “The best thing people with Crohn’s disease can do is to be able to make lots of clear urine by drinking plenty of fluids
- Abdominal pain. Cramping, bloating, and gas can be painful. Try these steps to reduce discomfort:
Eat smaller meals, but eat them more often to get enough calories.
Avoid foods that might worsen cramping, such as dairy products and fatty foods.
Limit high-fiber foods.
- Nausea. Talk with your doctor if nausea is keeping you from eating, drinking, or taking medications.You can also try to relieve nausea naturally with options such as ginger or aromatherapy.
- Weight loss. If a Crohn’s disease flare keeps you from eating, drinking, or absorbing nutrients, weight loss can be a serious concern.
Work with a dietitian to create a plan for eating well despite your symptoms.
Look for high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods you can tolerate. Consider peanut butter, bananas, cooked white rice, canned fruits, and cooked fish.
Rapid weight loss may require medical attention, so keep your doctor informed.
- Fever. Fever is triggered by inflammation and will likely decrease as your treatment starts to work. Avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without your doctor’s approval because they can aggravate the digestive system, Tamboli says. Acetaminophen is usually safe as long as you don’t exceed the recommended dosage.
- Fatigue. Higgins says fatigue should improve if you stay hydrated, manage your diet, and stick to your treatment plan. To avoid worsening fatigue, get enough sleep and pace yourself throughout the day.
- Mouth sores. use medicinal mouthwashes as an option for some mouth sores.
- Vision trouble. Some people with Crohn’s disease experience symptoms such as blurring vision, eye pain, dry eye, and sensitivity to light. Make sure your eye doctor knows you have Crohn’s disease. Ask about eye drops to help manage symptoms and protect your eyes from inflammation.
- Skin problems. Symptoms of a Crohn’s disease flare can include tender red bumps, skin tags, and sores, as well as damage to the sensitive skin around the anus. Try these skin care tips:
- Keep peri-anal skin clean and dry.
Avoid tight clothing that might irritate peri-anal skin.
Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis
The first signs and symptoms of both Crohn’s disease and UC are very similar. These symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, rectal bleeding, fever, and fatigue.
Eight key steps to healing inflammatory bowel disease are:
- Providing bowel rest using a special elemental (pre-digested) liquid diet
- Killing off the bad bacteria and fungus in the gut (disease-causing organisms)
- Re-populating the gastrointestinal tract with good bacteria
- Healing intestinal inflammation and ulceration
- Resolving nutritional deficiencies
- Detoxing your living environment
- Healing the contributing emotional factors
- Balancing your hormones
- Inflammation may develop anywhere in the GI tract from the mouth to the anus
- Most commonly occurs at the end of the small intestine
- May appear in patches
- May extend through entire thickness of bowel wall
- About 67% of people in remission will have at least 1 relapse over the next 5 years
IBD is not IBS
It’s important not to confuse an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a disorder that affects the muscle contractions of the bowel and is not characterized by intestinal inflammation, nor is it a chronic disease.