Spotlight on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)June 15, 2021
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease is made up of various chronic conditions that affect the large and small intestines. The most common of these are Crohn’s disease, and Ulcerative colitis.
According to Crohn’s and Colitis of Canada, 1 in 140 Canadians suffer from either Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
These conditions have many common features such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
IBD patients can experience long periods of time without any symptoms, but acute attacks occur intermittently, lasting from weeks to months. Imaging and blood tests are required to make a diagnosis, however determining the functions of the four keys of the GI tract can help the clinician in proper treatment.
Crohn’s disease is a relapsing and transmural (across the entire intestinal wall) inflammatory condition of the GI mucosa. It can affect any part of the GI tract, but most commonly affects the terminal ileum and colon. Inflammation and ulcerations occur, interspersed with normal tissue along the tract. Clinical presentation depends on the location of the ulcerations in the tract, but can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Signs of bowel obstruction
- Right lower quadrant mass
Other characteristics of Crohn’s disease are ulcers, fissures, strictures and complications such as intestinal obstruction, abscess formation, fistulas and colon cancer.
Ulcerative colitis is a relapsing and non-transmural inflammatory condition that affects the inner lining of the colonic mucosa. This results in areas of ulceration, and abscesses without skip lesions (normal tissue between lesions). Patients with Ulcerative colitis typically present with bloody diarrhea or bowel movements accompanied by the passage of pus or mucous with stool. Other symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss (in severe cases)
Ulcerative colitis increases the risk of colon cancer.
Cause and Risk Factors of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The exact cause of inflammatory bowel diseases is largely unknown. It appears to be related to genetics, environmental triggers and the immune response.
It has been shown that a diet high in refined sugar, a high carbohydrate intake and foods high in trans fat (such as fast food) may precede the development of Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis.
Besides these factors, the mucosal immune system of the gut plays a major role in the development of IBD. Usually the mucosal immune system is responsible for the balance or pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators. In IBD, this immunological balance is impaired and shifted toward the pro-inflammatory state. In a pro-inflammatory state, there is increased levels of cytokines resulting in tissue damage and inflamed mucosa.
One proposal to the increasing incidence of IBD is the fact that certain lifestyle factors have a profound effect on the gut microbiome, which can lead to IBD. An imbalanced gut microbiome can contribute to the development of IBD by causing dysregulated immune-mediated tissue damage.
Using the principals of functional medicine and naturopathic medicine, at Bay Wellness, we always aim to treat the cause of the symptoms, rather than naming the condition. When treating IBD or other digestive concerns, we want to:
- Remove the allergens and toxins
- Remove any harmful organisms
- Replace any missing digestion components
- Re-inoculate the gut microbe population
- Repair the gut integrity
This is the basic form of treatment for all digestive concerns but the specifics and details will vary from patient to patient, depending on the cause of their symptoms.
Although living with Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative colitis can be frustrating, it doesn’t have to control your life. At Bay Wellness Centre, we utilize multiple healing modalities to remove the barriers to treat and resolve the cause of the symptoms. Interested in learning more about how we treat digestive concerns? Have a look at this previous post on digestive health.