What is inflammatory bowel disease?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a collection of disorders characterized by inflammation of the gut. The two most common types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are Crohn’s disease, which can affect any portion of the gastrointestinal tract, and ulcerative colitis, which affects only the colon or large intestine.
What causes IBD?
The causes of inflammatory bowel disease are not entirely clear. It is believed that bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens may trigger an immune reaction in the gut. In other cases, an autoimmune reaction directed against the intestinal tissue itself may be the cause of IBD. Regardless of the cause, inflammatory bowel disease leads to destruction of the intestinal lining leading to abdominal pain and diarrhea.
What are the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease?
The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease generally wax and wane as the immune reaction increases (referred to as active disease) or subsides (referred to as remission). Symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody), urgent bowel movements, fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, and iron deficiency resulting from loss of blood. If poorly treated, inflammatory bowel disease can result in profuse bleeding from intestinal ulcers, perforation of the bowel, obstruction of the bowel (common to Crohn’s disease), fistulae and perianal disease (more common in Crohn’s), toxic megacolon (more common to ulcerative colitis), and malnutrition.
Treatment for IBD
Before inflammatory bowel disease can be treated, the cause must first be determined. This involves testing for food sensitivities, heavy metal toxicities, overgrowth of harmful intestinal bacteria, and autoimmune disease, which can cause erosion of the intestinal lining. Once the cause(s) have been defined, a comprehensive treatment plan is implemented. This may include specific food elimination, amino acid and nutrient repletion, and/or clinical-strength probiotics to help rebuild the intestinal lining integrity. It is not uncommon for patients with inflammatory bowel disease to experience significant stress in their lives, so providing stress management may also be important.