What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) represents a group of intestinal disorders that cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract.

The digestive tract comprises the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. It’s responsible for breaking down food, extracting the nutrients, and removing any unusable material and waste products. Inflammation anywhere along the digestive tract disrupts this normal process. IBD can be very painful and disruptive, and in some cases, it may even be life-threatening.

What are the main types of inflammatory bowel disease?

Many diseases are included in this IBD umbrella term. The two most common diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation in any part of the digestive tract. However, it mostly affects the tail end of the small intestine. Ulcerative colitis involves inflammation of the large intestine.ype your paragraph here.

What are the possible complications of inflammatory bowel disease?

Possible complications of IBD include:

  • malnutrition with resulting weight loss
  • colon cancer
  • fistulas, or ulcers that go through the bowel wall, creating a hole between different parts of the digestive tract
  • intestinal rupture, or perforation
  • bowel obstruction

In rare cases, a severe bout of IBD can make you go into shock. This can be life-threatening. Shock is usually caused by blood loss during a long, sudden episode of bloody diarrhea.

How is inflammatory bowel disease treated?

There are a number of different treatments for IBD.

Anti-inflammatory drugs are the first step in IBD treatment. These drugs decrease inflammation of the digestive tract. However, they have many side effects. Anti-inflammatory drugs used for IBD include sulfasalazine and its byproducts as well as corticosteroids.

Immune suppressants (or immunomodulators) prevent the immune system from attacking the bowel and causing inflammation. This group includes drugs that block TNF. TNF is a chemical produced by the immune system that causes inflammation. Excess TNF in the blood is normally blocked, but in people with IBD, higher levels of TNF can lead to more inflammation. Immune suppressants can have many side effects, including rashes and infections.

Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria that may trigger or aggravate IBD symptoms.

Antidiarrheal drugs and laxatives can also be used to treat IBD symptoms.

Lifestyle choices are important when you have IBD. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to compensate for those lost in your stool. Avoiding dairy products and stressful situations also improves symptoms. Exercising and quitting smoking can further improve your health.

Vitamin and mineral supplements can help with nutritional deficiencies. For example, iron supplements can treat anemia.

Surgery can sometimes be necessary for people with IBD. Some IBD surgeries include:

  • strictureplasty to widen a narrowed bowel
  • closure or removal of fistulas
  • removal of affected portions of the intestines, for people with Crohn’s disease
  • removal of the entire colon and rectum, for severe cases of ulcerative colitis

Routine colonoscopy is used to monitor for colon cancer, since those with IBD are at a higher risk for developing it.

How can inflammatory bowel disease be prevented?

The hereditary causes of IBD can’t be prevented. However, you may be able reduce your risk of developing IBD or prevent a relapse by:

  • eating healthy foods
  • exercising regularly
  • quitting smoking

Visit the 
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation for resources and more information on IBD, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

​Information on this page was sourced from www.healthline.com/