The gut is composed of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine. It breaks down food absorbs all the nutrients and expels any unusable or waste products.
Inflammation anywhere in your gut will disrupt the body’s normal process. This condition can be excruciating and unsettling. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening.
There are various diseases under this class of illness. The most common are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The former can cause inflammation in any area of the digestive tract, but it usually affects the tip of the small intestines. On the other hand, the latter involves inflammation of the large intestine.
Symptoms of Bowel Disorders
The symptoms of this inflammatory disease vary widely according to the type of infection, its location, and severity. Some of the common symptoms that are seen in different IBD include:
- Lack of appetite
- Blood in stool
- Painful and difficult bowel movement
- Feeling those bowels are not empty after a bowel movement
- Stomach pain and cramps
- Mucus in stool
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
Additionally, inflammatory bowel disease may also be associated with symptoms that are not related to the digestive tract. This includes the following:
More so, children with this disorder may experience stunted growth and experience joint pain. People with IBD can experience flare-ups wherein the symptoms appear to be worse. These periods also vary in intensity, duration, and number.
Causes of Bowel Disease
The real cause of these bowel disorders is still unknown. But experts view genetics, underlying problems with the immune system, and other factors are associated with IBD.
- Genetics – people with a sibling or parent with IBD are more at risk to have it as well. Up to 20 percent of people with ulcerative colitis have a family member with IBD.
- Immune System – in the case of IBD, the immune system also plays a role in its development. In typical cases, your immune system defends the body from pathogens that cause diseases and infections. When there is a bacterial or viral infection in your digestive tract, it triggers an immune response.
- The digestive tract may become inflamed as the body tries to fight the infection. Afterward, the inflammation will go away. But with IBD, the inflammation can happen in the digestive tract even if there is no infection. The immune system fights the body’s cells, and swelling goes on for months or years even after if the disease is cured.
- Bacterial or Viruses – enterovirus and E.coli are linked to Crohn’s disease.
- Environmental factors – other factors like using oral contraceptives, smoking, antibiotics, and vaccinations may also cause IBD.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To diagnose whether you have IBD, your doctor will take your full medical history and ask you about your bowel movements and cure stomach pain. They will conduct a physical exam before requesting for some diagnostic examination. Some of the tests include:
Stool Sample and Blood Test – these tests will help your doctor look at possible infections and diseases. A blood test helps identify Crohn’s disease from ulcerative colitis.
Barium Enema – this X-ray examination of the colon and small intestine is a common test to identify diseases of the digestive tract.
Flexible Colonoscopy and Sigmoidoscopy – this method uses a camera attached to a flexible probe to observe your colon. The apparatus will be inserted via the anus to determine the presence of ulcers, damage on the rectum, and bowel or fistulas.
A colonoscopy can examine the whole length of the large intestine, while a sigmoidoscopy can only look into 20 inches of the large intestine. During this procedure, the doctor may take a sample of the bowel wall to be examined for biopsy.
Capsule Endoscopy – examining the small intestine is harder than the large intestine. For this procedure, you will be asked to swallow a capsule with a micro camera. As it moves into your digestive tract, it will take pictures. And then, after it passed in your stool, the photos will be accessed on the computer.
Plain X-ray – is used during emergencies, particularly when your doctor suspects an intestine rupture.
CT Scan (Computer Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – these tests are computerized and will give more detailed images that are useful for examining the small intestines. CT scans can detect complications of the IBD, and MRI helps detect fistulas.
Treatment Options for IBD
Inflammatory bowel disease has no cure. Treatment of this condition focus on reducing symptoms, avoid complications, and achieve and maintain remission. Here are the most common treatment available.
Anti-inflammatory medications of various types and potency are used in IBD treatment. These drugs reduce inflammation, but they may have side effects. Some of the conventional medicines used for the treatment of IBD are sulfasalazine, corticosteroids, and mesalamine.
Likewise, doctors may also prescribe immunosuppressants or immunomodulators to help stop the immune system in fighting the cells in the digestive tract and cause the inflammation. Similar to anti-inflammatory medicines, immunosuppressants also have side effects like infection or rashes.
Other medications that are used for the treatment of IBD are antibiotics to kill bacteria in the gut. Antidiarrheal and laxatives are prescribed to manage symptoms of this disease.
Lifestyle choices and changes are essential if you suffer from IBD. You need more fluids to compensate for what is lost in your bowel. As much as possible, minimize the consumption of dairy products and stressful situations. Besides, quitting your vices and exercising regularly can improve your health and condition.
Taking vitamins and supplements can help with nutritional deficiencies. It may also help in managing your IBD. Consult your doctor if you wish to add supplements to your diet.
Surgery is a last resort in treating IBD. It is sometimes necessary for people with severe IBD. An operation may include strictureplasty to expand a restricted bowel, removal of affected areas of the gut, removal or closure of fistulas, removal of the colon or rectum in severe cases.
People with IBD are also at a higher risk of developing colon cancer; thus, routine colonoscopy is done to monitor the condition.
What are the normal conditions?
Many people are not sure about what normal bowel movement is all about. Bowel movement is a difficult topic to discuss with anyone, even with doctors. It leaves many wondering whether their bowel movement is healthy or not.
There is no complete description of what a regular bowel movement is all about. Bowel movement differs from one person to another. Rather than compare the “normal” in a type or frequency that fits everyone, there is a range of what is considered normal. Look out for signs that your bowel movement has changed from your normal range. You can bring these changes upon your next visit to your doctor.
Risks of Having IBD
Some factors increase your risk of developing this disease. These include the following:
Age – most people with IBD are diagnosed to have the condition before turning 30 years old. However, it is more common in 50 to 60 years old.
Race and Ethnicity – this condition can occur across all races, although white has the highest risk.
Genetics – if you have a family history of this condition, you are at a higher risk of developing it as well.
Smoking – cigarette smoking is one of the main risk factors in developing Crohn’s disease, a type of IBD.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory medications – medications such as ibuprofen, diclofenac sodium, and others may increase the risk or worsen IBD.
Where you live – people living in industrialized places are more likely to have IBD. Environmental factors such as diet plays a role in developing this IBD.
Complications of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The symptoms of IBD can lead to complications that can worsen your condition. These are the common complication for both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Colon Cancer – people with IBD have an increased risk of having colon cancer. Screen for colon cancer is mandatory for people with IBD. Speak to your doctor when you need to have this test.
Inflammation in joints, eyes, or skin – during IBD flare-up, certain diseases such as skin lesions and arthritis may also happen.
Side effects of medication – there are medications for treating IBD, which are associated with small risks of having cancer. Corticosteroids are related to the risk of osteoporosis and high blood pressure.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis – IBD may cause scars in the bile ducts and make it narrow. This may lead to liver damage.
Blood Clots – this disease increases the risk of risks in clot arteries and veins.
When to Seek Medical Attention?
In severe cases of IBD, you have to seek emergency medical care to prevent dehydration. Your doctor may give you IV fluids, or depending on your situation, you may undergo surgery.
Watch out for red-flag symptoms such as:
- Fever, vomiting, and anemia – if you know you have IBD and you experience these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
- Rectal bleeding – if you experience having a considerable amount of blood in your feces, or some bleeding that won’t go away, you require urgent medical care as soon as possible.
- Weight Loss – weight loss for no apparent reason, especially if you are at risk of IBD, means you need a medical check-up.
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