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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

IBD describes disorders that cause chronic inflammation, and ulcerations in the small and large intestine. Two of the most common IBD disorders are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

How are Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease different?

Although the symptoms of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s are very similar, there are a few differences between the two disorders. Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon while Crohn’s can occur along any part of the digestive tract. In Crohn’s, healthy parts of the intestine are interrupted by inflamed areas, while in ulcerative colitis, the inflamed area is continuous. Lastly, ulcerative colitis only occurs in the inner most layer of the colon wall, while Crohn’s can occur in any of the layers.

How common is Crohn’s and what demographic is most commonly affected?

Generally, onset is between the ages of 10 and 30 years old, and women are affected more than men. In westernized countries, Crohn’s has a prevalence of 50 per 100 000 people.

What are the characteristic symptoms of Crohn’s?

Fever, abdominal cramps and pain, chronic or nocturnal diarrhea, and weight loss.

Does diet affect IBD?

Diet does not play a major role in minimizing IBD symptoms, however it is important that patients with IBD have a well-balanced diet. IBD is often associated with decreased nutritional status, so diet recommendations for IBD patients focus on getting adequate nutrition, and avoiding foods that may increase symptoms. Calcium is important to protect bones, fibre may not be tolerated during flare ups and certain vitamins (for example, B12) may be required. Occasionally, a dietitian and a dietary intervention may help patients.

Do I have a higher risk of developing cancer because I have IBD?

People with IBD are at an increased risk of developing colon cancer.  Getting screened regularly with endoscopies will help identify polyps that could potentially develop into cancer.

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