Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Inflammatory Bowel Diseases can be very chronic with several complications. The causes remain unknown but there are a couple of risk factors. Treating IBD may include medications and surgeries. It is important to know all about it as anyone is at risk of developing the disease.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term that encompasses the disorders that cause severe inflammation of the digestive tract, which includes the esophagus and the small and large intestine.

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Types of IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease is of two main types:

Ulcerative Colitis

This inflammation spreads continuously usually beginning from the rectum and more adversely in the large intestine (colon). The inflammation often brings out ulcers in the inner linings of the colon, hence the name ‘ulcerative colitis’.

There are different types of ulcerative colitis, which are based on their location and the state of severity. Some include; ulcerative proctitis, pancolitis, proctosigmoiditis, distal colitis, and acute ulcerative colitis.

Crohn’s Disease

This inflammation occurs in any part of the digestive part; from the mouth to the anus. It affects the small intestine first before spreading to the large intestine (colon).

Unlike ulcerative colitis, it is not a continuous spread but affects the digestive tract in patches, that is, inflamed tissues mix themselves with healthy tissues.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease vs Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome.

Risk Factors

a) The Immune System

There are several ways that the immune system can contribute to inflammation of the digestive tract.

Fight Against Infectious Attacks.

The body is created in such a way that on the attack of a bacterial or viral infection, it, which has the immune system as a controlling factor, produces pathogens that fight these infections. When this infection is in the digestive tract, the fight against it is engaged and the tract can be inflamed due to the reactions. But when the infection dies off, the inflamed tract heals up.

Autoimmune Response

This is a defect that occurs when your body’s immune system begins to attack your body cells. As a result, your immune system begins to attack the tissues of the digestive tract causing inflammation.

Weak Immunity

If you have an immunodeficiency, your body’s immune system is too weak to fight any infectious attack in your digestive tract. The bacteria, viruses, and antigens attack the tract with no resolve and this causes inflammation.

b) Environmental Factors

Geography and places of habitat can contribute to IBD.

Urban Areas

If you live in urban and industrialized areas you will be exposed to chemicals, materials, and diseases that can affect the digestive tract, making you at higher risk of having IBD. 

Cold Climates

In areas of cold climates, there’s a high risk of having inflamed digestive tracts.

c) Lifestyle

Certain lifestyle choices affect your digestive tract causing IBD.


Foods that contain a high level of fat and calories heighten the risk of IBD. High cholesterol causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Caffeine also affects the tract.


Smoke is not healthy for the digestive tract, it inflames the pathways. Added with high nicotine, the risk of having IBD is way higher. 

d) Medications

Drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, birth controls, abortion pills, hard drugs, etc, have substances that cause inflamed tracts and in turn cause IBD.

e) Physiology

Physiological attributes can contribute to IBD.


Although Inflammatory Bowel Disease can happen to anyone of any age, it is mostly triggered from age 20 and adversely affects people over 60 years.


IBD affects all genders. However, the ulcerative colitis happens more in the male gender, while Crohn’s disease occurs mostly in females.

f) Family Traits

The traits transferred through generations can be a contributory factor in IBD.


There is no particular genetic strand that can be linked to IBD, but research has discovered that people who have a parent, sibling, or relation with the disease are most likely to have the disease themselves.


IBD has been attributed to certain decennaries or ethnic groups. For example, Jewish descents with particular emphasis on the Ashkenazi and the Caucasian tribes.

Possible Complications of IBD

There are several complications associated with IBD. These cases arise when the effects of IBD has been going on for a while and could be life-threatening. They include:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Toxic megacolon; widening and swelling of the large intestine.
  • Bowel obstruction, as inflamed parts of the bowel, swells and thicken, blocking the rectum.
  • Ulcers in the digestive tracts, including the mouth, anus, and genitals.
  • Fistulas in the gut and anus.
  • Intestinal perforations or ruptures.
  • Rectal bleeding was found on stools.
  • Anemia due to rectal bleeding.
  • Colon cancer
  • Osteoporosis; bone fractures due to bone density reduction.
  • Anal fissures; tears in the tissue lining of the anus.

Diagnosis of IBD

Once you have started noticing some of the signs associated with IBD, you must consult a doctor. Sometimes the signs may be from another disease and the doctor is there to make certain what is causing those symptoms.

On visiting a doctor, he will go through your medical and family profile and history to take a stand. But this will be based on assumption, so he will go-ahead to run some tests on you.

Some of these tests include:

  1. Stool sample
  2. Blood tests
  3. CTs and MRIs to run a full detailed image of the tract.
  4. X-rays, such as barium enema, to check the extent of the damage.
  5. Biopsy; where a small part of the intestinal wall will be taken and examined.
  6. Endoscopic procedures, that is, using inserted cameras to get a view of the digestive tracts. Some include:
  1. Upper Endoscope; inserted to examine the esophagus, abdomen, and the first part of the small intestine.
  2. Colonoscopy; inserted to examine the entire large intestine
  3. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy; inserted to examine the last sections of the large intestine.
  4. Capsule Endoscopy; swallowed to enable your doctor to examine the small intestine, which is the toughest part to examine.

Treatments of IBD

There are several ways to suppress the symptoms, achieve remission, and prevent complications. These ways include:

1. Medications

Drugs are prescribed by your doctor according to the severity of your IBD. They include:

Anti-inflammatory Drugs

They reduce flare-ups and help maintain remission, but long-term use can worsen the symptoms. Therefore, if milder NSAIDs are not effective, fast-acting ones should be used to enable short-term use. Mesalamine, sulfasalazine, corticosteroids, etc, are types of anti-inflammatory drugs.

Immune Suppressants or Modulators

These drugs are used to stop the body’s immune system from attacking the bowel’s tissue and cells that in turn cause inflammation. They should be taken for the short-term, advisably 3 months to avoid side effects such as a risk of infection.

Biological Therapies

These drugs are antibodies that fight against certain substances that cause flare-ups in the digestive tracts.


These drugs kill bacteria or viruses that may trigger or make aggressive digestive tract inflammations

Anti-diarrheal drugs and laxatives

These drugs reduce the effects and symptoms of the inflammation.

2. Lifestyle

There are factors or habits in your life that can make your IBD symptoms worse. Changes in these areas can help you manage the symptoms and put the disease in remission.


Your diet matters a lot in trying to curb IBDs. 

  • Reduce your intake of fatty foods, spicy foods, high fiber foods, and dairy products. 
  • Eat-in small bits, rather than having a large quantity at a go. 
  • Avoid caffeine and alcoholic drinks. 
  • Drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.
  • Take your vitamin and mineral supplements to avoid or control nutritional deficiencies.


You tend to experience more severe symptoms when you are stressed. To manage your stress level, engage in:

  • Therapeutic exercises such as yoga.
  • Meditation to ease your inner mind.
  • Breathing exercises
  • Recreational activities
  • Hobbies.


Smoking is a serious risk factor in your digestive tract inflammation. First, the smoke is harmful, and then the nicotine, tobacco, and other substances contained in the cigarettes are high triggers to flare-ups. Therefore, to control IBD, you have to quit smoking if it is a habit.

3. Surgery

In severe cases of IBD, surgeries may be needed. Some surgeries include:

  • Closure of fistulas or perforated intestine.
  • Widening of narrowed bowels through strictureplasty
  • If you have Crohn’s disease, the affected parts of the intestines can be removed.
  • For ulcerative colitis, the entire large intestine and rectum can be removed.

Prevention of IBD

Since the main causes of IBD are not known, the risk factors may not be insurmountable but can be controlled. 

The ways to reduce the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease is by:

  • Controlling your diet and eating healthily
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising regularly to relieve stress

Inflammatory bowel diseases are very discomforting and come with severe pains. The complications can be destructive to vital parts of the body, so you should control what you do in order not to develop it, or to carefully manage it when it arises.


IBD symptoms play out differently based on the location and severity of the inflammation. Some include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Severe abdominal cramps and pains
  • Bowel obstruction or blockage.
  • Hematochezia; bloody stools.
  • Diarrhea 
  • Anemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sores in mouth, genital area, and/or anus.
  • Painful menstruation in females
  • Joint pains
  • Skin disorders
  • Arthritis, etc.


The triggering cause of IBD is unknown. There is no exact explanation as to what triggers the inflammation of the digestive tracts. However, research has stated that there are a couple of factors that play a role in kicking off IBD. 

There could be bacteria, viruses, antigens, or even your body's tissues that cause an autoimmune response to produce inflammatory reactions. There could also be environmental or genetic factors. 

But whichever it is, IBD is mostly based on factors that could start reactions rather than causes.


1. Can I have Crohn's disease without diarrhea?

Often, a person suffering from Crohn's disease is rather constipated than having diarrhea, since the affected area is the small intestine. The area becomes inflamed and swelling builds up, causing the intestine to be constricted and narrow. This leads to bowel obstruction.

2. How long does it take to recover from IBD?

Inflammation in the digestive intestine can not be cured but can go into remission. And it can take days to months for this remission to happen depending on how early you start treatments. It is therefore important to consult early with your doctor for the best treatments you need.

3. Can IBD be detected if in remission?

In remission, symptoms will go away and you will feel better, but that doesn't mean the inflammation is completely gone. You need to keep up with healthy practices to keep the symptoms from coming up again. The suppressed inflammation can still show with the use of endoscopic scans and tests.

4. Is drinking bad for IBD?

Alcohol contains substances that irritate the digestive tracts which will worsen the state of the diseases. So, as an IBD patient, it is advisable that you reduce your consumption and if possible stop it.

5. Can you work if you have IBD?

Having IBD does not mean you cannot work. As a way as you keep managing and controlling the symptoms from getting severe till they go into remission, you can keep working. But still, you have to it at a minimal level because stress can increase the rate of inflammation.