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What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Published on , Last Updated on June 11, 2013

woman with stomach pains

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Facts

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is one name for two very similar diseases, both of which cause destructive swelling and inflammation in the intestinal tract – Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.

These two conditions are characterized by nearly identical symptoms, making it difficult for even trained professionals to distinguish between them. Nearly one and a half million people in the United States alone suffer from one of these two diseases.

The Foundation for Clinical Research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease defines IBD as a disease in which some part of the bowel (esophagus, stomach, small intestine and the colon) is inflamed. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) report the following facts about IBD:

  • About 1.4 million Americans suffer from IBD, with approximately 30,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
  • According to a 1990 study, the medical costs of IBD in the U.S. totaled $1.4-$1.8 billion annually.
  • Surgery and inpatient care were estimated to account for roughly one-half of this amount.
  • The disability costs of illness (lost labor productivity) were estimated to be $0.4-$0.8 billion, making the total estimated annual cost of IBD $1.8-$2.6 billion.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease all depend on the type of IBD the person has.

Crohn’s Disease:

Crohn’s Disease is arguably the more severe of the two forms of IBD. Crohn’s Disease causes severe inflammation and swelling deep within the lining of the digestive tract. The swelling can be so painful that it forces the intestines to expel waste prematurely in the form of loose stool or diarrhea.

The two most widely reported symptoms of Crohn’s Disease are diarrhea and abdominal pain along the right side. Other symptoms of Crohn’s Disease may include unintentional weight loss, arthritis, skin problems, fever, and rectal bleeding (chronic bleeding may eventually lead to anemia). It is estimated that 50-80% of Crohn’s patients will eventually require surgery to repair a complication from Crohn’s. These complications include hemorrhage, obstruction, fistulization or refractory disease.

Ulcerative Colitis:

Ulcerative Colitis causes inflammation in the lining of the colon and rectum. The symptoms are similar to those seen in patients suffering from Crohn’s disease, except that Ulcerative Colitis does not affect the small intestine, mouth, esophagus, and stomach. The main difference between the two conditions is the depth of inflammation in the intestinal wall.

The two most widely reported symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis are abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Sufferers of this condition have also reported fatigue, unintentional weight loss, and a change in appetite, skin lesions, and fever. Unfortunately, it is estimated that a mere 20% of patients in the United States with ulcerative colitis get the necessary surgery to treat the disease.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Unintentional Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding from the intestines
  • Ulcers in the intestines
  • Mucus in stool
  • Inflammation of the rectum
  • Draining around the rectum
  • Bloating or feeling of fullness
  • Intestinal Gas
  • Joint, skin, or eye irritations

Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Since the exact causes of IBD remain unknown, IBD is also called an idiopathic disease (a disease with an unknown cause). The good news is that IBD is not a contagious infection. It cannot be passed from person to person.

The following are possible conjectures as to what causes IBD and who is at risk:

Family History With IBD:
If you have a close family member or relative such as a parent, sibling or child with IBD, then you are at risk. Approximately 10-20% of those with IBD symptoms have a family member that also has (or had) IBD.

Race and Ethnicity:
People of Euro-Caucasian or Jewish ancestry, possess a significantly higher rate for developing IBD. It’s also believed that within Jewish populations, the rates of inflammatory bowel disease are higher in Ashkenazi Jews (of European descent).

Immune System:
Researchers speculate that a virus or bacteria interacting with the body’s immune system may contribute toward the development of IBD symptoms. This debilitating disease is believed to be the result of an overactive immune response, which may be linked to an imbalance of probiotic bacteria in your digestive tract.

Environmental Factors:
Where you live, particularly if you live in an urban area or in an industrialized country, may place you at risk in developing IBD. Diets high in fat and refined foods also play a role in IBD. It is recommended that you eat more high fiber foods.

Both Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis diseases can produce especially gruesome effects in young children because one of the hallmark symptoms is persistent, bloody diarrhea. Loss of blood can quickly lead to anemia, malnourishment, and ultimately even stunted development of a growing mind and body. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America reports that adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35 are most susceptible toward developing inflammatory bowel disease. Approximately 10-20% of those afflicted will develop symptoms before the age of 18.

Promising News for Treating IBD

According to research published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, certain strains of probiotic bacteria, such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Butyricicoccus pullicaecorum, may be the most effective way to alleviate the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) [1]. These newly utilized strains of probiotics naturally produce large quantities of butyric acid, and may hold the key to improved IBD treatment options. Researchers speculate that these strains may also produce additional anti-inflammatory compounds that may help with IBD.

In light of these findings, many experts are optimistic that safe, more effective treatment options for IBD are soon to follow.

How Does Regular Body Cleansing Help Prevent IBD?

  • With regular colon cleansing and the addition of soil-based probiotics, surgery can be avoided and the intestinal lining can begin to repair itself.
  • Eliminates built-up toxins and keeps the intestinal walls clean of toxic material.
  • May Prevent and reduce the inflammation of intestinal tissue.
  • Strengthens the intestinal walls, reinforcing weak spots that could be susceptible to Crohn’s Disease.
  • Reduces the acid concentrations in the intestinal lining to prevent the development of ulcerated tissue.
  • Helps clean existing ulcerations and speeds up healing time of ulcerated tissue.
  • Sets up a hospitable environment for the natural balance of probiotic strains needed to help repair the intestinal lining.
  • Helps restore proper mucous secretion, thereby lubricating the intestinal walls. This creates less irritation and friction around sites of ulceration.
  • Helps restore proper bowel function, preventing the possibility of multiple surgeries.

Proactive Health Tips in Alleviating IBD Symptoms

  • Green tea is a well-known digestive stimulant. It reduces intestinal gas and may even aid in preventing and treating inflammation-based digestive disorders such as IBD.
  • Bromelain Enzyme, most commonly extracted from pineapple, has the unique quality to digest proteins, reduce inflammation and treat overall indigestion. Bromelain may aid in bacteria-induced diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Eating blueberries — according to a recent clinical study conducted at Lund University in Sweden — can ease and protect against intestinal inflammation. They also found that these beneficial effects on the body are increased by the consumption of probiotic bacteria along with the berries.

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM


  1. Filip Can Immerseel, Richard Ducatelle, Matine De Vos, Nico Boon, Tom Van De Wiele, Kristin Verbeke, Paul Rutgeeerts, Benedikt Sas, Petra Louis, Harry J. Flint. Butyric acid-producing anaerobic bacteria as a novel probiotic treatment approach for inflammatory bowel disease. J Med Microbiol February 2010 vol. 59 no. 2 141-143.

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