Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an autoimmune condition that affects at least 3 million people across the United States, and is on the rise. May 29 is designated as World Inflammatory Bowel Disease Day, and is commemorated by more than 50 countries around the world to bring recognition to the condition. In this post, we’ll take a look at what IBD is, how it can be caused, how it’s treated, and other helpful information.
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Here are some facts about IBD.
What is IBD?
IBD is a blanket term that defines conditions relating to chronic inflammation of the digestive system, specifically, inflammation of the stomach and intestines, although the whole digestive tract from the mouth on can be affected. This condition includes two main diseases, which are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It is an autoimmune disorder, which means the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body. IBD can seriously affect the lives of those who have it, and the disorder can also be life-threatening for some people.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Causes
One of the first questions people tend to ask is how IBD is caused. While modern medicine has made quite a few discoveries related to this condition, unfortunately, a cause hasn’t been pinpointed. Some connections have been made to familial tendencies, but heredity is not typical. That said, there are some risk factors that can affect one’s tendency to have IBD. These could include:
- Smoking cigarettes
- Family history
- Use of anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) such as naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, etc.
- Living in an industrialized area
- Eating a diet high in processed foods
- Race or ethnicity
Where most of the risk factors are beyond the scope of being affected by a lifestyle change, you can stop smoking and make modifications to your diet.
When considering the symptoms of IBD, it’s important to keep in mind that its symptoms run on a spectrum and will vary from person to person. Additionally, these symptoms typically don’t present themselves 100% of the time, and can cycle through flare-ups that can go into remission. Whenever you have a change in bowel habits that can’t be explained, make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. Here are the symptoms to look out for:
- Pain and cramping in the abdomen
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Blood in the stools
- Lack of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Treating IBD can be a complicated process and involve a number of different options. Also keep in mind that what works for one person might not be effective for the next because of the complexity of this disorder. It is important to speak with your healthcare provider to understand why each treatment is ordered to gain a fuller understanding. Many of the treatments include lifestyle changes, such as following an IBD diet, working on stress management, exercising more, improving sleep habits, and taking IBD supplements.
Comorbid disorders that accompany IBD could require more treatment, including surgery to repair perforations, ulcers, fistulas, and fissures. Because it is an autoimmune disorder, it’s possible that you’ll experience inflammation throughout the body and will need to take anti-inflammatory medications and steroids. If you develop blood clots, you may have to see a vascular specialist. Again, speak with your healthcare provider to determine what needs to be done to address each condition specifically.
What You Can Do
If you suspect you have IBD, make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible. You will want to discuss treatment options, an inflammatory bowel disease diet, and what lifestyle changes are necessary to reduce your flare-ups. If somebody you love has IBD, do what you can to raise awareness for it. Attend a local rally or event on May 19, and find ways to spread the word throughout the year. As of now, there is no cure for IBD, but with more awareness, the medical community can move closer to it.
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