What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can be a challenging and overwhelming experience for those affected by this chronic condition. If you or someone you love is living with IBD, you are likely familiar with the physical discomfort and emotional distress that come with this condition.

In this blog post, we will explore what IBD is, the common issues faced by those living with the condition, and how to manage and improve the quality of life of those affected by it. Read on to know more.

What Are the Common Types of IBD?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a group of chronic conditions that cause inflammation in the digestive tract. The two most common types of IBD are:

  1. Crohn's disease
  2. Ulcerative Colitis

Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. The inflammation caused by Crohn's disease can be deep and severe. It can cause damage to the entire thickness of the intestinal wall.

Ulcerative Colitis, on the other hand, affects only the colon and rectum. The inflammation caused by Ulcerative Colitis is typically more superficial than that of Crohn's disease and only affects the innermost lining of the colon.

Symptoms of IBD

What happens when you have IBD?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can cause a range of symptoms that vary in severity and frequency. The symptoms of IBD can depend on:

  1. The type of IBD
  2. The location of the inflammation in the digestive tract
  3. The individual's overall health

Here are some common symptoms of IBD:

inflammatory bowel disease symptoms

Symptoms of IBD

Abdominal pain and cramping: IBD can cause persistent abdominal pain and cramping, which can range from mild to severe.

Diarrhea: Frequent loose or watery stools are a common symptom of IBD, particularly during flare-ups.

Rectal bleeding: Inflammation in the digestive tract can cause bleeding from the rectum, which can appear as blood in the stool.

Fatigue: The chronic inflammation and other symptoms of IBD can cause fatigue, which can impact daily activities and quality of life.

Weight loss: Chronic diarrhea, loss of appetite, and malabsorption of nutrients can lead to unintentional weight loss.

Anemia: Chronic inflammation can lead to anemia, a condition in which there is a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood.

Now, is IBD serious?

Inflammatory bowel disease can be considered a serious condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Since it’s chronic, patients will have to deal with ongoing flare-ups and may even need lifelong management.

How Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of IBD involves a combination of

  1. Knowing the patient's medical history
  2. Physical examination
  3. Laboratory tests
  4. Imaging
  5. Endoscopy

The goal of the diagnostic process is to differentiate between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, as well as rule out other potential causes of gastrointestinal symptoms.

Here are some of the most common diagnostic tests health professionals use to diagnose IBD:

Medical history

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. He may also ask about your family history and other factors that can play a role in your diagnosis. It’s important for patients to be truthful in sharing their medical histories since the data can be a huge factor in making an accurate diagnosis.

Physical examination

Your doctor will physically examine you to check for the presence of any inflammation and other possible causes of your symptoms. This may include doing an abdominal exam where your doctor will palpate your abdomen to check for swelling and tenderness.

He will also likely check your joints, rectum, and eyes. It’s important to get your vital signs too. It can help assess your overall health.

Blood tests

One of the blood tests done to diagnose IBD is a Complete Blood Count. CBC can help identify anemia which is commonly present in patients with the condition. It can also detect changes in your white blood cell counts that may signal an infection.

Patients suspected of IBD may also be asked to have their C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate to get tested. These two tests can help check for inflammation in the body.

Albumin may also be checked since low levels may signal inflammation and malnutrition in people with IBD. Additionally, they may need to take a liver function test since they are at an increased risk of liver damage and liver disease.

Imaging studies

Computed Tomography scans are usually performed to get detailed images of the intestines. Although X-rays are usually done as part of diagnosing the condition, CT scans are preferred since they can help identify common complications of IBD, like fistulas and abscesses.  In addition to CT scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI may also be performed.

Capsule endoscopy is also commonly required. It involves swallowing a small capsule with a camera inside. This camera takes pictures of the intestines as it moves through the digestive tract. 

This procedure is quite helpful in identifying areas the other imaging studies may have missed.

Endoscopy

This is the most important diagnostic tool for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It involves the use of a flexible tube with a camera on the end to examine the inside of the intestines.

There are two types of endoscopy used for IBD. Colonoscopy examines the large intestine while the upper endoscopy checks the upper part of the digestive tract.

During the procedure, the doctor may take biopsies of the intestinal tissues for examination and confirm the diagnosis.

Calprotectin fecal test

Fecal calprotectin testing is often used as a non-invasive alternative to colonoscopy and other imaging tests to monitor disease activity in those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The test involves the collection of a small stool sample and sending it to a laboratory where it’s analyzed. 

The results can help your healthcare provider determine the presence and severity of inflammation in your gut. A higher level of calprotectin in the stool indicates a higher level of inflammation in your digestive tract.

Also Read: How to Reduce Calprotectin Naturally

At Planet Naturopath we use the Gut Zoomer test OR the GI Map test to assess calprotectin levels, the Gut Zoomer is the more comprehensive option. Based on the results of the Gut Zoomer test we can help to give you a specific treatment plan, this can include diet, herbal medicine, and specific nutrients to help heal and reduce inflammation associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Book Your Appointment

If you are experiencing the symptoms of IBD and want to get yourself diagnosed, then just click on the button below to book your appointment with Planet Naturopath. We can help you with any of your digestive issues.

GI Map test calprotectin levels

Calprotectin levels with GI Map test

What Causes IBD?

The exact causes of IBD are not fully understood. However, experts believe that it results from a combination of environmental, genetic, and immune system factors.

Below are some of the most common possible causes:

1. Immune system dysfunction: It is thought that IBD may be caused by an abnormal immune response to the bacteria that normally live in the intestines.

2. Environmental Factors: Certain environmental factors, such as diet, smoking, and exposure to certain infections or toxins, may the risk of developing IBD. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a lot higher in Western countries indicating that a low-fiber processed food diet is a contributing factor.

3. Microbiome Imbalances: The microbiome, which is the collection of bacteria and microorganisms that live in the gut, may play a role in the development of IBD. The microbiome can be influenced by diet and a highly processed food diet and a history of antibiotics will have a negative effect.

4. Stress: While stress does not directly cause IBD, it may exacerbate symptoms in some people.

5. Genetics: People with a family history of IBD are at increased risk of developing the condition. Studies have identified over 200 genetic variations that can put you at an increased risk of developing the condition.

To find out your genetic health information I recommend SelfDecode, they have specific reports on genes associated with IBD. You can either upload the raw data from another company like 23andme or do the SelfDecode genetic test, if you are worried about privacy, I recommend doing the SelfDecode test as they have strict privacy regulations.

How Is IBD Treated?

The treatment of inflammatory bowel disease is aimed at reducing inflammation, controlling symptoms and preventing complications. Here are some of the medical treatment options that may be used:

Medications

There are several types of medications that may be used to treat the condition. It includes:

Aminosalicylates

These drugs reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. They are often used to treat mild to moderate cases of IBD.

Corticosteroids

These drugs help relieve inflammation in the digestive tract. They are usually given to manage more severe cases of IBD or to induce remission.

Biologics

Used to treat moderate to severe cases, biologics work by targeting specific proteins that contribute to inflammation.

Immunomodulators

Immunomodulators are given to maintain remission. They are immune system suppressants that can come with side effects like headache, diarrhea, and body pain.

Nutritional Therapy

Some people with IBD may benefit from nutritional therapy. It involves diet modification to reduce the inflammation in the digestive tract and promote healing. There is not one specific diet to treat IBD and working with someone to help with an elimination diet is a good idea to help identify potential triggers.

Focusing on prebiotic foods and supplements that improve butyrate levels is another way to reduce inflammation, this will also help to keep patients in remission and prevent flare ups.

At Planet Naturopath we get good results using the Moss Nutrition supplements, they can only be ordered with a practitioner referral, if you schedule a consultation we can use these products as part of a treatment plan.

The advanced stool testing helps to identify dysbiotic bacteria and if you are lacking the key butyrate producing bacteria that help to control inflammation. Faecalbacterium prausnitzi is a key butyrate producing bacteria that is often missing in people with IBD.

inflammatory bowel disease and low faecalbacterium prausnitzi

Low levels of the butyrate producing bacteria in IBD

Surgery

In some cases, particularly severe ones, surgery may be necessary. It may involve the removal of the affected part of the intestines or creating an ostomy to divert stool out of the body.

Do all IBD patients require surgery?
Well, no. Not all patients diagnosed with the condition are required to have surgery. In fact, the majority of people with IBD are able to manage their symptoms with just lifestyle modifications and medical treatment.

Lifestyle Changes

Patients may be required to quit smoking, get regular exercise, and reduce stress. They may also be asked to change their diet

For example, spicy and fatty foods should be removed from their diet since they can trigger the symptoms of IBD. Other triggers can be gluten, dairy and high FODMAP foods.

The Management of IBD

Can IBD be cured?
There is currently no cure for the disease. However, lifestyle modifications and medical treatment can help manage the symptoms. They may even promote long-term remission.

The goal of treatment for IBD is to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, manage the symptoms, prevent complications, and maintain remission. Even though there’s no cure, many people with the condition are able to achieve long-term remission and maintain good health with the right treatment and management. 

However, the course of the disease can be unpredictable. Some people may continue to experience flare-ups despite receiving the appropriate treatment. 

References

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24063909/ - Sodium butyrate (SB) preventing travellers diarrhea

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22738315/ - SB decreasing pain in IBS

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24343275/ - After 12 months, the study group noted a significantly decreased number of diverticulitis episodes in comparison to the control group. The subjective quality of life in the study group was higher than in the control group. There were no side effects of the MSB during the therapy.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35623879/ - reduced blood pressure

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10795763/ - In conclusion, results of the present pilot study indicate that oral butyrate is safe and well tolerated. These data also suggest that oral butyrate may improve the efficacy of oral mesalazine in active ulcerative colitis 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19108937/ - This study demonstrated that butyrate is able to beneficially affect oxidative stress in the healthy human colon.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24343275/ - improved diverticulitis 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224402001310

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fncel.2019.00363/full

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0197018616301747

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26868600/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7192831/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070119/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27528065/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28509726/

https://academic.oup.com/jac/article/66/11/2573/750604

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6036887/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/nmo.14038

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6421268/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30277149/

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langas/article/PIIS2468-1253(19)30333-4/fulltext

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31065013/ 

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