Ashley Baumohl, MPH, RD, CDN, CNSC is a surgical dietitian. She provides medical nutrition therapy at Lenox Hill Hospital and is based in New York, New York.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term that encompasses two chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract—ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. As many as 5 million people worldwide (including 1.6 million Americans) live with a form of IBD.
Symptoms of both forms of IBD overlap and include abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, and an urgent need to move the bowels.
While there is no cure for either form of IBD, there are effective treatments to keep the disease in remission. Medical and surgical advancements are occurring every year, and most people with IBD achieve remission and are able to preserve their quality of life.
There is no known specific cause of IBD, making it what is known as an idiopathic disease. Researchers believe that a malfunctioning immune system, genetics, and certain lifestyle factors contribute to the disease.
IBS is a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by abdominal pain and change in bowel habits. IBD is a disorder characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and, in the case of Crohn's disease, can also affect other organ systems such as skin, joints, eyes, liver. IBS is classified as a syndrome, while IBD is classified as a disease.
Because symptoms of IBD, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea, can mimic those of other gastrointestinal conditions, it can be challenging to get an accurate diagnosis. Keeping a diary of your symptoms is useful for your doctor, who will likely order blood and liver function tests, as well as imaging tests including a colonoscopy and a sigmoidoscopy.
A procedure in which a flexible, lighted tube equipped with a tiny TV camera, called a colonoscope, is inserted into the rectum and threaded through the colon to look for any evidence of cancer, polyps, ulcers, or other abnormalities. Colonoscopy is one of several tests used to diagnose IBD.
A chronic disease that causes inflammation along the digestive tract. Along with ulcerative colitis, it is one of two gastrointestinal disorders classified as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Symptoms of Crohn's disease include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, weight loss, and blood in stools.
A procedure used to visualize internal organs. An endoscope, a flexible tube with a lighted camera attached, is inserted down through the mouth, up through the rectum, or through a small incision made in the skin, depending on which part of the body is being examined. A colonoscopy, used to visualize the colon, is one type of endoscopy.
A non-invasive way to screen feces for blood that's not visible to the naked eye, known as occult blood. Typically, you are asked to provide three small stool samples and then send them to a lab for examination. If there's blood in your stool, this indicates a need for further testing.
A series of interconnected organs that are responsible for digesting food and excreting waste products in the stool. The GI tract is essentially one long tube, starting at the mouth and ending at the anus. Diseases of the GI tract include irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer.
A minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose intestinal symptoms and look for the presence of abnormal tissue in the rectum and sigmoid colon. Unlike a colonoscopy, a sigmoidoscopy only examines the rectum and the lower part of the large intestine, which is called the sigmoid colon. Sigmoidoscopy is often used to help diagnose IBD and in follow-up and surveillance of disease activity.
A form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The main sign of ulcerative colitis is inflammation of the colon and rectum, which causes a variety of symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract, including pain and bloody stool. Crohn’s disease is the other disease that is considered a form of IBD.
Hammer T, Nielsen KR, Munkholm P, Burisch J, Lynge E. The Faroese IBD Study: Incidence of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Across 54 Years of Population-based Data. J Crohns Colitis. 2016;10(8):934-42.
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. IBS vs IBD.
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