Inflammatory Bowel Disease FAQ

 

What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term referring to certain chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the intestines. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two terms most often assigned to the different types of IBD. Although they are different diseases with a variety of forms, each disease causes the destruction of the digestive system, producing a similar group of life-altering symptoms.

 

What is the difference between IBD and IBS?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is easily confused with another condition known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). As much as 25% of the population in the United States report symptoms of IBS, and up to 50% of patients seen by gastroenterologists have symptoms of IBS.

IBD and IBS have similar symptoms, particularly cramping and diarrhea, but the underlying disease process is quite different. IBD is inflammation or destruction of the bowel wall, which can lead to deep ulcerations (sores) and narrowing of the intestines. IBS is a disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract for which no apparent cause can be found. A patient can possibly have both IBD and IBS.

 

What is the difference between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis?

Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. The inflammation of Crohn's disease can be patchy and noncontinuous and can deeply penetrate into the bowel wall. Even if the affected part of a Crohn's disease bowel is removed, the disease may recur.

Ulcerative colitis differs in that it affects only the colon. The inflammation does not go past the inner layer of the bowel wall. Ulcerative colitis can be limited to the rectum or can extend further up the large bowel. In some cases, it can affect the entire colon. The inflammation of ulcerative colitis is continuous, not patchy. Ulcerative colitis can be completely cured by surgical removal of the colon and rectum.

 

Does what I eat matter?

While little evidence exists that any particular food has a role in causing IBD, good nutrition is very important. A well-balanced diet helps make sure that patients get all the nutrients they need. Sometimes IBD reduces the body's ability to absorb necessary nutrients. In certain circumstances, IBD may be improved with diet restrictions, which should be discussed with a physician or a dietitian.

 

Is IBD a genetically inherited disease?

Approximately 25% of IBD patients have a direct relative who also has the disease, leading scientists to believe that it may be hereditary. A responsible gene, however, has not yet been identified. IBD affects men and women equally and can occur at any age, from young children to the elderly. Regionally, the diseases are most often found in the United States, Canada and Europe, although the number of cases is rising in the industrialized parts of Asia. Jewish Americans are four to five times more likely to develop IBD than the population as a whole.