Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of chronic immune – mediated disorders that affect the gastrointestinal tract. Immune – mediated diseases are the result of abnormal activity of immune cells that attack the body and cause inflammation.
There are two types of inflammatory bowel disease: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease characterized by inflammatory changes in the lining of the colon that causes ulcers. It happens due to an overactive immune system. It can happen at any age but often begins between the ages of 15 and 30.
- Crohn’s disease is chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. It can involve any part of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus, but usually affects the small bowel and the beginning of the large intestines. It is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction that attacks healthy cells in the body. It affects about 3 million Americans. It can occur at any age but is often diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 30.
The microbiome is the collection of more than 100 trillion different microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms) that live in the digestive tract. These microbes play a critical role in overall health by helping to break down food into nutrients, produce vitamins, and protect the body from harmful bacteria. They are involved in digestion, metabolism, and immune function.
The microbiome is unique to each individual, and research suggests that an imbalance of gut microbes may be linked to various health conditions, such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and allergies. IBD is associated with a western lifestyle. Dietary changes can help improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
The exact cause of IBD is unknown, but it is thought to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. IBD is not contagious and cannot be passed from one person to another. There is no cure for IBD, but there are treatments that can help to control the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected.
The symptoms of IBD can vary depending on the individual and the type of IBD involved. Common symptoms include:
- abdominal pain and cramping
- diarrhea (which may be bloody)
- bleeding from the rectum
- weight loss
- skin sores
- loss of appetite
IBD is typically diagnosed by a combination of medical history, physical examination, laboratory testing including blood and stool tests, upper endoscopy, colonoscopy and/or capsule endoscopy and imaging studies. A colonoscopy is often used to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms.
There is no cure for IBD, but there are treatments that can help to control the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected. Treatment options include:
- medications (such as anti-inflammatories, immunosuppressants, and antibiotics)
- lifestyle changes (such as diet modification and stress reduction)
- nutritional supplementation including probiotics – helpful bacteria that can help to digest food, destroy disease causing cells and produce vitamins and improve the microbiome.
- surgery may be recommended when medications don’t help or stop working and the patient chooses surgery to improve their quality of life.
When you or a loved one suffers with abdominal pain and diarrhea contact the Gastroenterology Associates of Brooklyn to get the right diagnosis and all your treatment options.