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Irritable bowel disease (IBD) is a group of chronic disorders that affect the gastrointestinal tract. The two most common types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Symptoms of IBD can vary depending on the individual, but may include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue.

IBD can also lead to other complications such as malnutrition, dehydration, and anemia.

There is no known cure for IBD, but there are treatments available to help manage the symptoms and prevent flares. Treatment options include medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes.


What Exactly Is Irritable Bowel Disease?


Irritable bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic inflammation of the intestines that can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.

The two main types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

IBD can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to those of other gastrointestinal disorders.

Treatment for IBD typically involves medications to reduce inflammation, but some people may require surgery.


Types of Irritable Bowel Disease


Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus.

It is a chronic condition, which means it can last for a long time and may flare up at unpredictable intervals.

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Treatment for Crohn’s disease usually involves a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.



Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine, or colon, in which the lining of the colon becomes ulcerated and inflamed.

The inflammation typically affects the innermost layer of the colon, known as the mucosa. Ulcerative colitis typically begins in the rectum and spreads upward.

The most common symptom of ulcerative colitis is bloody diarrhea.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Weight loss

Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong condition that has no cure.

However, it is possible to manage the symptoms with medication and lifestyle changes.


What Are the Common Causes Of IBD?


There are many possible causes of irritable bowel disease (IBD), and the exact cause of a person’s IBD may not be known.

Possible causes include a malfunctioning immune system, genetics, and certain environmental factors.

The immune system is responsible for protecting the body against infection and disease. However, in people with IBD, the immune system mistakenly attacks the digestive tract, causing inflammation.

This inflammation can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.

Genetics may also play a role in IBD.

Studies have shown that IBD is more common in people who have a family history of the condition.

Additionally, certain ethnic groups are more likely to develop IBD, suggesting that there may be a genetic link.

Finally, certain environmental factors may contribute to IBD. For example, exposure to certain bacteria or viruses has been linked to the development of IBD.

Additionally, stress and diet may also play a role in triggering IBD.


How Does IBD Affect Your Body?


IBD can cause a variety of symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and weight loss. The inflammation can also lead to ulcers, fistulas, and intestinal bleeding.

IBD can be a very debilitating condition, and it can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

There is no cure for IBD, but there are treatments that can help to manage the symptoms and minimize the inflammation.

If you have IBD, it is important to work with a healthcare team that can help you to create an individualized treatment plan.




How is IBD Diagnosed?


There is no single test used to diagnose IBD. The diagnosis is made based on a combination of factors, including a person’s medical history, symptoms, and results from a physical exam and various diagnostic tests.

The first step in diagnosing IBD is usually a consultation with a doctor. During this appointment, the doctor will take a medical history and ask about the symptoms the person is experiencing.

The doctor will also perform a physical exam.

Based on the information collected, the doctor may order one or more of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Endoscopy: An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it. The endoscope is inserted through the mouth and down the throat into the stomach and intestines. This allows the doctor to directly visualize the inside of the digestive tract and look for any signs of inflammation.
  • Biopsy: A small sample of tissue is taken from the digestive tract during endoscopy and examined under a microscope. This can help confirm the diagnosis of IBD and rule out other conditions.
  • Blood tests: A blood test can be used to look for certain markers of inflammation in the body.
  • Stool tests: A stool sample may be examined for evidence of inflammation or infection.

Once IBD is diagnosed, the doctor will work with the person to develop a treatment plan.




What Is the Treatment For IBD?


There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for IBD, as the condition can vary considerably from person to person.

However, there are a number of effective treatments available that can help to control the symptoms and flares of IBD.

Medical therapy for IBD usually involves the use of anti-inflammatory medications, immunosuppressants, and/or biologic agents.

These medications can help to reduce inflammation in the gut and improve symptoms. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to remove affected portions of the intestine.

Dietary changes can also be helpful in managing IBD symptoms. A diet that is low in inflammatory foods and rich in fiber and healthy fats can help to reduce gut inflammation and improve symptoms.

Probiotics and other supplements may also be helpful in reducing inflammation and promoting gut health.


Lifestyle Changes for IBD


There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing IBD but making lifestyle changes can be an important part of your treatment plan. Some lifestyle changes that may help manage IBD include:

  • Eating a healthy diet: Eating a diet that is high in fiber and low in fat can help reduce symptoms and promote healing.
  • Exercising regularly:
    Exercise can help reduce stress and promote a healthy immune system.
  • Reducing stress:
    Stress can trigger IBD flares, so finding ways to reduce stress in your life can be helpful.
  • Quitting smoking: Smoking can make IBD symptoms worse and can also increase the risk for complications.

Making these lifestyle changes can be difficult but working with your doctor and a registered dietitian can help you develop a plan that works for you.




Being aware of the disease is the best way to fight it.

A little knowledge goes a long way. If you have IBD, you are not alone. If you suspect that you might have IBD, contact your doctor for a consultation.



When to See a Doctor


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

Dr Eduan prides himself on his ability to help his patients to the best of his ability by embracing good listening skills, effective communication, compassion and knowledge and skill honed during years of private gastroenterology practice.

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.