Posts Tagged ‘IBD’

Soothing An Irritable Bowel

April 26th, 2021

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a syndrome, a set of symptoms that occur together and are associated with a particular abnormality or condition. The most common symptoms of IBS, which affects your large intestine, or colon, include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, and a change in bowel habits.

There are three types of IBS. One is IBS with constipation (IBS-C). With IBS-C, it may be difficult to move your bowels. You may not move your bowels often, and you may feel an urge to move your bowels but can’t. With IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), another type, you may frequently have loose stools, feel an urgent need to move your bowels and have cramps or belly pain.

A third type is IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M), which is characterized by symptoms of both IBS-C and IBS-D. With IBS-M, you may have both hard and lumpy bowel movements and loose and watery ones on the same day.

It’s important for your health care provider to determine which type you have because certain medicines work well on one type but can make the symptoms of another type worse. Your provider may diagnose IBS even if you don’t fit neatly into one of these types. Many people have normal bowel movements on some days and abnormal bowel movements on other days.

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but researchers believe that a combination of factors may lead to its development. Different factors may lead to IBS in different people.

We do know that IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which leads to problems with how your brain and GI system work together. These problems cause your digestive tract to be very sensitive and change how your bowel muscles contract. Symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation occur as a result.

In addition, several risk factors for IBS have been identified. You may be at a higher risk if you have a family history of IBS; suffer with emotional stress, depression, or anxiety; have food intolerances; experienced difficult early life events, such as physical or sexual abuse; have a severe infection in your digestive system; or have an overgrowth or change in the bacteria in your small intestine.

Further, research suggests that genes may make some people more likely to develop IBS.

IBS doesn’t lead to other GI conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease or cancer, but its symptoms can be uncomfortable enough to interrupt your daily life. If you suffer with the symptoms of IBS, don’t wait to see your health care provider.

To diagnose IBS, your provider will review your symptoms, looking for a pattern that suggests IBS. The provider will also review your personal and family history, and perform a thorough physical exam. During the exam, your provider usually checks for abdominal bloating, listens to sounds within your belly and taps on your abdomen to check for tenderness and pain.

Your provider may use blood tests, stool samples, and x-rays to help rule out other diseases that have symptoms similar to those of IBS. Depending on your symptoms, medical history, and other factors, your provider may recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to get a detailed look at your colon. These tests are typically done to rule out more serious diseases of the colon.

There is no cure for IBS. Treatment is directed at relieving symptoms. For many people with IBS, the key to managing symptoms is to avoid those things that trigger them. Triggers may be certain foods or even stress and anxiety. It may help to keep a “food diary” for a while to learn which foods trigger symptom flare-ups for you.

Your provider will design a treatment plan that suits your specific needs, but typical treatment options include dietary and lifestyle changes. Dietary changes may include: avoiding caffeine (it stimulates the intestines), increasing fiber in your diet, limiting cheese and milk (be sure to get calcium from other sources), avoiding deep-fried and spicy foods, and drinking plenty of water. A nutritionist can help you plan a healthy diet that meets your needs.

Lifestyle changes include: exercising regularly, quitting smoking, using relaxation techniques to de-stress, and eating smaller meals more often. If your symptoms don’t improve with these dietary and lifestyle changes, your provider may recommend medication.

Specific medications are used to treat the constipation of IBS-C and the diarrhea of IBS-D. Your provider may prescribe antidepressant medications if you have depression and anxiety along with intense abdominal pain. Probiotics, which are “good bacteria,” may be used to help improve your IBS symptoms.

Because we don’t know what causes IBS, you can’t do anything to prevent it. But if you have IBS, you can prevent symptom flare-ups by learning your triggers it and avoiding them. Living with IBS can be challenging, but if you follow your provider’s treatment plan, you can manage it and live a healthy life.

Is It Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis?

January 14th, 2019

Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s and UC have many things in common: they both cause inflammation, swelling and sores in the lining of the digestive tract, and they’ve got many symptoms in common. Yet, they’re distinct disorders that affect different areas of the GI tract.

It’s estimated that 1.6 million Americans suffer with IBD. It occurs in men and women equally, but is more common in Caucasians than in other ethnic groups. Crohn’s and UC can occur at any age, but are most often diagnosed before age 30, especially Crohn’s, which is most common between the ages of 15 and 30.

There are a couple of factors that differentiate Crohn’s and UC. For one, Crohn’s can develop anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth to the rectum, while UC is confined to the large intestine (colon). In addition, Crohn’s can penetrate into the deep layers of the lining of the digestive tract, while UC stays in the top layers.

There’s another difference between Crohn’s and UC. In Crohn’s, the inflammation can “skip” portions of the intestine. It can affect two separate sections and leave areas of normal tissue in between diseased portions. UC doesn’t do that. It affects a continuous portion of the large intestine.

Both types of IBD have similar symptoms, which can be aggravated by outside factors such as diet and stress. Those factors can trigger flare-ups of Crohn’s and UC. Symptoms of these disorders include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloody stools
  • Urgency to have bowel movements
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of Crohn’s disease and UC, but they run in families so researchers suspect genetics are a factor. Both Crohn’s and UC are disorders of the immune system, which is the body’s natural defense system. The immune system releases defensive substances in response to foreign or invading cells it detects in the body.

It’s believed that in Crohn’s and UC, something triggers the immune system to mistakenly recognize cells of the lining of the GI tract as “foreign” and attack them, causing inflammation. Inflammation comes from the Greek work for “flame”. It literally means, “to be set on fire.” That explains most of the IBD symptoms.

Because the symptoms of Crohn’s and UCs are similar, your doctor will need to use tests to diagnose which disorder you have. Proper diagnosis is critical because treatment is based on the type of IBD you have.

While Crohn’s and UC both have abdominal pain as a symptom, the pain of UC is typically found in the lower left side of the abdomen. Knowing this may help your doctor determine which set of tests to order for you, because tests differ for the diagnosis of Crohn’s and UC.

If your doctor suspects Crohn’s, he or she may order certain endoscopy tests to get a better look at your digestive tract. Endoscopy is a minor procedure during which a small instrument with a camera and light on its end is threaded through your GI tract to look for abnormalities.

For Crohn’s disease, your doctor might use an instrument that is inserted into your rectum to look at the bottom half  of your digestive system. This is a colonoscopy. Your doctor also might use a scope that is inserted into your mouth to examine the upper part of your digestive system. This is an upper endoscopy.

For UC, doctors often use a test with an instrument inserted into the rectum that examines the rectum and lower colon. This type of endoscopy is a sigmoidoscopy. Your doctor may also suggest you get a total colonoscopy, which examines the entire colon.

If you’re diagnosed with Crohn’s or UC, your doctor may prescribe certain medications. He or she may start you on a course of corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medicines. A medication to suppress your immune system may also be prescribed. Later, your doctor may add a biologic, such as STELARA® or ENTYVIO®, as a combination therapy.

You may be asked to keep a diary to try to uncover foods or situations, such as those that are especially stressful, that trigger flare-ups of these disorders. Once you identify your triggers, you can work to decrease or eliminate them with diet and lifestyle changes.

Medical treatments are the mainstay for Crohn’s and UC, but in severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Surgery is generally used in cases where there are complications from the disorders. These complications may include bowel perforation, excessive bleeding, development of a cancerous growth or severe, uncontrollable inflammation.

For Crohn’s, surgery may involve removing diseased sections of the digestive tract. In severe cases of UC, the surgical removal of the entire large intestine and rectum may be required.

Whatever you do, don’t self-diagnose. If you’re suffering any of the symptoms of IBD, see your doctor and let him or her diagnose Crohn’s or UC the right way!


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