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What is IBD


Inflammatory bowel disease, the umbrella term to describe a range of disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract.

There are two types of inflammatory bowel disease:

Ulcerative Colitis – Also known as UC, is a long-term condition that affects the large intestine. It causes inflammation and sores on the colon and rectum.

The inflammation and ulcers often bleed and produce pus, which can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain and can lead to dehydration and weight loss.

Crohn’s Disease – Crohn’s Disease, also known as regional enteritis or ileitis, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract.

Crohn’s Disease causes stomach pain, severe diarrhea, weight loss, and problems with the bowels.


Ulcerative Colitis Explained


Ulcerative colitis is a chronic, lifelong condition that inflames and damages the large intestine.

The inflammation usually affects the rectum and the lining of the colon, which is called the mucosa. 

The inflammation can be silent, not causing any symptoms, although in some cases, ulcerative colitis can lead to rectal bleeding and abdominal cramps. 

Signs And Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis include frequent bowel movements, rectal pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, and they are in the order of severity.

It also may lead to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Fever

Complications from the long-term inflammation of ulcerative colitis may include:

Your doctor can prescribe medication to alleviate pain for this disorder.



Causes of Ulcerative Colitis

The primary cause of ulcerative colitis is not known.

What we do know is that the immune system is involved. In many people, there is a genetic predisposition to ulcerative colitis. 

In addition, there are infections that can trigger the immune system to attack the colon.

Finally, there are an abundance of bacteria in the colon that can produce substances that cause inflammation. This inflammation will then cause ulcers in the colon.


How Common is Ulcerative Colitis

One out of every three people living in the United States will be diagnosed with a disease of the gastrointestinal tract during their lifetime.

It is estimated that over 700,000 people in the United States gets affected by ulcerative colitis and is found in all parts of the world.

Gastrointestinal diseases can be debilitating and include severe disorders such as Ulcerative Colitis.

However, some Gastrointestinal diseases are not as severe as others such as Gastroparesis and IBS.

Gastroparesis is a condition of the stomach that impairs it from functioning properly. IBS is irritable bowel syndrome. 

IBS causes the intestines to become over-distended and produce diarrhea.

How Ulcerative Colitis can be Diagnosed

Ulcerative colitis is usually diagnosed by Colonoscopy that is done by your Gastroenterologist.

The following treatments for Ulcerative Colitis include:

  • Immunomodulators
  • Antibiotics
  • Steroids
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Surgery



Treatment Options for Ulcerative Colitis

Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis is aimed at restoring the diseased colon to a healthy condition.

The treatment of choice is the combination of drug therapies that are formulated to work in different ways to reduce inflammation, get rid of infection, and get the body working to heal the intestine.


Crohn’s Disease Explained


The digestive system is the human body’s food-processing centre.

From the mouth to the anus, the gastrointestinal tract processes the food we eat.
Along the way, the body absorbs nutrients, eliminates waste, and protects against outside invasion.

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to attack the lining of your digestive track.

This attack produces inflammation that leads to:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss

Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition and has no certain cure, but diet adjustments can provide some relief.




Signs And Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

The following are the common Crohn’s disease symptoms. 

  • IBS
  • Constipation
  • A blockage or injury to the large intestine (colon)
  • Abdominal pain
  • A blockage in the small intestine can cause abdominal pain or cramping
  • Discomfort while passing gas (stomach acid backs up into the large intestine) 
  • Dizziness 
  • Difficulty passing air 
  • Upper abdominal pain 
  • Vomiting 
  • Malnutrition
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite 

Should you experience any of the above symptoms, you should see a doctor and get professional help in treating your disease as this can affect your quality of life.


How Crohn’s Disease Can Be Diagnosed

The diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is done on physical examination, various lab tests, clinical studies and MRI scans.

Diagnostic tests for Crohn’s disease can be classified as:

Blood test:

A blood tests check for white blood cells that may indicate inflammation or infection.
The test also checks for low red blood cell count, or anemia.

Stool test:

This test looks at a sample of your stool to check for bacteria or parasites.
It can rule out infections that cause chronic diarrhea.



Your doctor threads a long, thin tube called an endoscope through your mouth and into your throat. An attached camera allows your doctor to see inside.

During an upper endoscopy, your doctor may also take tissue samples.


Tips for Managing Crohn’s Disease


It is always advised that you have a gluten-free diet, so that you reduce the amount of gut bacterial strains that are more likely to cause a Crohn’s disease flare.

Opt for healthy low-fiber diet.

This includes fresh foods, especially vegetables. It is good to add plenty of fiber in your diet. This is essential, so that you can better absorb essential nutrients.


Best food for Crohn’s disease flare-ups:

  • Oatmeal
  • Grains
  • Low-fiber fruits
  • Peeled or poached fruit
  • Prepared vegetables
  • Juices
  • Lean meat
  • Oily fish


Foods to Avoid:

  • High-fiber foods
  • Vegetables with their peels
  • Popcorn, nuts and whole grains
  • Raw green vegetables
  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower
  • Red meat
  • Unhealthful fats, such as those in butter, coconut oil, and margarine
  • Salty foods, including processed foods and ready meals
  • Fruits with skins and seeds
  • Spicy foods
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Foods containing sugar alcohols, including many low-sugar or sugar-free products 


Treatment Options for Crohn’s Disease

Antibiotics may be used to cure Crohn’s disease.

The medication that a doctor will prescribe depends on the severity of the symptoms.

The severity of the symptoms depends on the frequency of your attacks.

As the frequency of your attacks increases, the severity of your disease symptoms will also increase.

Blood tests are used to test your levels of platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells. Platelets and white blood cells help the blood to clot.

Currently, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease.

However, some measures can be taken to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from it.

These typically include:

  • Dietary restrictions
  • Physical therapy
  • Usage of anti-inflammatory drugs like steroids and thiopurines.




There Is Hope…

Autoimmune diseases are genetic disorders that have a person’s immune system attacking its own healthy cells.

The symptoms are physical signs and not just a big picture of the patient’s health.

Although these remedies might alleviate the pain, it is recommended to get a professional diagnosis from your doctor or gastroenterologist in order to discuss the way forward.

If you would like to book an appointment with a gastrointestinal (GI) specialist or would simply like more information on a particular GI topic, don’t hesitate to use our online booking form or call Dr. Deetlefs at 021 551 867.


The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

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© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.