While I like to think all posts are special- this one is going a little above and beyond.
I actually want to take a minute to discuss Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). No guys I’m serious. I want to talk about this, for realzies.
IBD comes in two forms Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is something that hits really close to home for me. I personally do not have it, but someone who is extremely close to me does have it.
So not only do I spend my day and my free (blogging) time playing RD- I am a personal RD for this person as well- a role I wish I didn’t have to have, but one I take seriously. Because someone super close to to me has crohn’s disease.
The main issue with any GI disease (Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBD) is there are in fact broad recommendations for these conditions. HOWEVER, the average GI tract is approximately 20 feet long, so depending on the type of disease and where you are being affected- will depend on the dietary modification required.
But let’s back up for a hot sec. What EXACTLY is IBD, and specifically what does it mean to have either Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis. I’ll cover IBS at a later time.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the GI tract, crohn’s tends to more commonly affect the end of the small bowel – technically known as the Ileum (end of the small intestine), and upper part of the colon (beginning of the large intestine), but crohn’s can also affect any part of the GI tract from end to end (mouth-to-bottom). Crohn’s disease can also affect the thickness of the bowel wall. Additionally with crohn’s it can “skip” meaning some areas are damaged and other areas of the GI tract are left unscathed
Ulcerative colitis on the other hand really only affects the colon (large intestine), and only the innermost lining of the colon, and some of symptoms are just a little different: bowel movements become looser and more urgent, persistent diarrhea accompanied by abdominal pain and blood in the stool, bloody stool, cramps/abdominal pain
While there are many broad symptoms the way each person is affected is completely individualized, the general symptoms for inflammation of the GI tract are:
-Urgent need to have a bowel movement
-Abdominal cramps and pain
-Sensation of not feeling “finished” after having a BM
The general symptoms associated with general IBD:
-Loss of appetite
-Loss of normal menstrual cycle
As you can see from the list of symptoms- none of them really sound like fun. In fact some of them can be downright debilitating. But I would like to clear up one misconception right from the start- and that is people with crohn’s and UC are not just running around pooping their pants. Unfortunately that is an offensive and common stigma that many people with IBD face.
While some peoples’ symptoms are much more severe and they do need to worry about “the urgent need to have a bowel movement”, others are more fortunate and do not have that symptom- they may experience severe cramps, fever, and significant weight loss.
The other issue with IBD is it is a group of “flare” diseases. Meaning? There is a period of profound symptomatic periods (flare ups), and periods where symptoms may be completely in remission, or extremely infrequent. The goal is to keep these flare ups to a minimum, as the flares are what cause the damage to GI tract- in the most severe cases fissures and fistulas can develop, and require immediate, and sometimes intensive medical treatment.
I feel compelled to write this because it is an important disease that needs awareness. Is it always debilitating? No. Can it be? Absolutely. Approximately 700,000 Americans have been diagnosed with crohn’s, that includes both men, and women. A diagnosis can be made at any point in the lifestyle but typically is diagnosed in the mid-30’s.
There is a growing body of research regarding both UC and crohn’s but it is still not completely understood what “causes” IBD. Most research indicates that the inflammatory response of IBD is caused by a combination of things: genes a person inherits (a family history of IBD), the individual’s immune system, and sometime of environmental trigger. It’s believed that once antigens (or an antigen) stimulate the body’s body’s immune system to “turn on” – that it does not know how to properly “turn off” at the right time. As a result there is a pro-inflammatory response that will damage areas of the small intestine.
So where do we go from here? I’ll cover that in my very next post- about the medications, nutrition management, surgeries, and even alternative therapies. So please stay tuned 🙂