You probably know at least a handful of people who suffer from one form of inflammatory bowel disease (IB, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis (UC).
In fact, gut diseases are on the rise, due to a number of different factors. Read more about the causes behind this upward trend along with how we can heal our sensitive stomachs.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease, otherwise known as IBD, is an umbrella term referring to a chronically inflamed digestive tract.
According to the CDC, IBD has increased by about 45% since 1999.
There are two conditions that fall under IBD:
Ulcerative colitis: Constant inflammation that occurs ONLY in the colon
Crohn's disease: Continuous inflammation that can affect the entire GI tract. However, you can have healthy parts of the intestine mixed in with some inflamed areas, aka "skip lesions."
There is actually a public health explanation behind why IBD has been on the rise!
IBD was first seen in industrialized nations. As places became more urbanized and hygiene methods became more advanced, people's germ resistance development weakened.
In fact, research has shown that when someone emigrates from a country with low IBD rates to a country with high IBD rates, their children become more likely to develop IBD. This indicates that along with a genetic factor, the environment plays a large role.
With IBD, your immune system accidentally classifies harmless food or bacteria in the GI tract as foreign substances and responds by sending white blood cells into your bowel's lining, leading to inflammation.
Although genetics plays a role in IBD, environmental factors contribute a lot to the development of IBD.
But, don't start smoking!
IBD can be difficult to diagnose. Usually, your gastroenterologist uses an elimination process of diagnosis, eliminating other possible causes of the symptoms you may be experiencing. Some tests for IBD may include:
The goal of treating inflammatory bowel disease is to reduce inflammation; specifically, the inflammation that triggers the clinical signs and symptoms.
This may lead to symptom relief. But, the real goal is long-term remission and reduced risks of complications, such as cancer, fistula, strictures, and abscesses.
IBD treatment usually involves either drug therapy aimed to reduce inflammation or surgery in some cases.
The hereditary causes of IBD can’t be prevented. However, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing IBD or prevent relapse by:
eating healthy foods
IBD can cause some discomfort, but there are ways you can manage the disease and still live a healthy, active lifestyle.
It can also be helpful to talk to others who understand what you're going through. IBD Healthline is a free app that connects you with others living with IBD through one-on-one messaging and "live" group chats, while also providing access to expert-approved information on managing IBD. Download the app for iPhone or Android.
Here are some takeaways on this from a public health point of view.