April is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Awareness month and we wanted to clarify some misunderstandings about this disease and other conditions. Namely, there is a big difference between IBD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Inflammatory Bowel Disease can be divided into two main types – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). These diseases involve a lot of inflammation in the GI tract – this inflammation can be seen with a colonoscopy, and both of these conditions can have serious complications like abscesses and increased risk of other diseases like colon cancer.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the GI tract – meaning it’s not a disease and doesn’t damage the digestive tract. IBS rarely has serious complications, unlike IBD does. It can certainly be stressful and limit one’s life, however.
Celiac disease is it’s own separate entity, and this even differs from gluten sensitivity.
All of these conditions have symptoms that overlap, like diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation. IBD and IBS are typically diagnosed in younger adults, while celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can occur at anytime throughout life.
Conventional treatment of IBD is very different from IBS. IBD is treated with strong anti-inflammatory medications and sometimes even surgery for complications. IBS however isn’t really treated by conventional medicine other than maybe a prescription for fiber.
The only “cure” for celiac disease is strict avoidance of wheat, and the protein in it, known as gluten. People with gluten sensitivity don’t necessarily have celiac disease and some may be able to tolerate varying amounts of gluten in their diet, whereas those with celiac disease cannot.
In regard to IBD and IBS, patients that we see here at Natural Health Associates often have a similar story from their treatment experience in the conventional medical system and that is they’ve all been told “diet has no effect” on either condition!
Interestingly, if a person with IBD is put on a tube-fed diet, this can help to resolve many symptoms of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Yet, patients with these conditions are told diet has no effect! How can that be? IBD is also more common in Westernized countries – think diet!
With IBS, each person has certain foods and other conditions that can worsen or aggravate their symptoms. So yes, food definitely plays a role (and there’s a lot more to it than just adding fiber to your diet!)
At Natural Health Associates, we can work with you in great detail to address the causes and symptoms of Irritable Bowel Disease (as well as IBS!). Diet is an important aspect, as is lifestyle and stress management.
We also use very detailed testing that looks at the digestive process as a whole, bacterial balance, GI infections and inflammatory markers to really asses what’s going on at a deeper level to guide our treatment. Additionally, our team of naturopathic and functional medicine doctors, acupuncturists and dietitian can work together on a solution for you.
Have questions? Please call to set up a complimentary 15 minute consultation with one our clinicians.