Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD


Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD leads to chronic inflammation of the intestinal region. This inflammation can damage other organs as well. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the two main widespread inflammatory bowel diseases.  These are two alike but separate disorders. Both these conditions are the result of an abnormally active immune reaction that instigates inflammation in the lining of intestine and both has a tendency to wax and wane eventually. Though, ulcerative colitis is restricted to the colon, while Crohn's disease can engross any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from mouth to anus. Nutritional deficiencies mainly involving vitamins, minerals and fats, are more notable in Crohn's disease than in ulcerative colitis.

An abnormal immune response is cited to normal intestinal microorganisms that triggers the discharge of inflammatory molecules from white cells in the gut lining. These chemicals smash up the lining of the intestine, which leads to rejection of essential nutrients and excessive loss of fluids and electrolytes via the stool. There are also certain dietetic factors like long-chain fatty acids that worsen gut inflammation in IBD.

Ulcerative Colitis

In ulcerative colitis, the inflammation penetrates to two layers of the large intestines resulting in bloated intestines, which has ulcers and pseudopolyps or pieces of one of the layers that hang off. The rectum is more or less always affected and from the rectum, the inflammation will then continue to move up the large intestine.

Crohn’s Disease

In Crohn's disease, the inflammation goes through all layers of the small and large intestines resulting into development of fistulas or abnormal openings leading from one organ to another. The inflammation in ulcerative colitis is continuous, but that is not so in Crohn's where there is an area of inflammation, then normal tissue, and then further inflammation. This assigns Crohn's disease the alternate name of regional enteritis or the regional inflammation of the intestines.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

People with IBD complain of abdominal pain and diarrhea, however since ulcerative colitis affects the rectum so people with ulcerative colitis are inflicted with a bloody diarrhea. People with Crohn's disease typically suffer from a watery diarrhea and may also have a tender abdomen, fever and abscesses. If portions of intestines of affected people have become smaller from the disease, they may experience vomiting and a pain that remains for some time and then goes. People can also have air bubbles in their urine if they have a fistula from their intestines to their bladder.

Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The exact cause of IBD remains unknown, however environmental factors, inappropriate immune responses and genetics may play a role in the development of the disorder.

Abnormal Immune Response - The immune system combat the foreign invaders in the body by initiating an immune response and once the task is complete, it turns off. In case of IBD, an infection from bacteria or virus or something taken in from the diet or the surrounding environment, stimulates an immune response. But, the immune system does not turn off in people with IBD even after the elimination of the initial trigger. The immune system continually attacks the defensive immune cells that line the intestines and the immune cells develop chronic inflammation as a response to the continuous attack. The chronic inflammation results in various symptoms such as diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgency to have bowel movements, abdominal cramps and pain, and fever and weight loss.

Environmental Factors - The American College of Gastroenterology believes cigarette smoking and a previous history of smoking as the most considerable environmental factor resulting in IBD. According to the Centers for Disease Control certain types of diets and variations in exposure to sunlight, contamination with toxic waste and industrial chemicals also add to the development of IBD.

Higher rates of processed meat consumption also lead to development of IBD. An increasing number of studies are pointing to high dietary intake of meat and omega-6 fatty acids as a considerable risk factor in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases, while also suggesting that higher vitamin D levels may lower the risk. The researchers discovered that people with the highest intake of fruits and dietary fiber are least prone to development of Crohn's disease. People most likely to develop the disease were those with the highest dietetic intake of saturated fat, mono and polyunsaturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids, and meat. Likewise, ulcerative colitis danger was maximum among those with the highest ingestion of fat, polyunsaturated fat, omega-6 fatty acids and meat.

Genetic disposition – According to the American College of Gastroenterology 10 to 20 percent of people suffering from IBD have one or more other family members who are affected with IBD. CDC points out that people who have a sibling, parent or child affected with IBD have a greater tendency of developing the disorder.

Measures for Tackling Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

High quality animal-based omega-3 fat supplement – Taking high quality animal-based omega 3 fats will satisfy the body needs of the omega-3 fat DHA so as to have an impact on this disease.

Avoid sugar – Avoid all types of sugars primarily fructose, as these will augment inflammation by escalating insulin levels.

Avoid grains - Until the symptoms are controlled it is suggested to avert the intake of grains. Several people with inflammatory bowel disease also have gluten sensitivities. Furthermore, the grains tend to augment insulin levels, promoting inflammation.

Avoid artificial sweeteners – According to several studies, the artificial sweetener saccharin and sucralose (Splenda) may be the veiled reason behind the development of IBD. Another artificial sweetener Aspartame has found to be associated with tumor development and obesity. These are synthetic and poisonous to the human body. The research revealed that inflammatory bowel disease rates could perhaps be stopped or at least considerably lowered, if use of artificial sweeteners is avoided.

Optimize vitamin D levels - Vitamin D is nearly as effective as animal-based omega-3 fats. According to a study conducted by researchers from Osaka University and published in the journal Nutrition in 2011 discovered that patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis had drastically lower blood levels of vitamin D. They were also a possibility of insufficiency of vitamin K which plays a vital role in bone health and is obtained mainly from leafy green vegetables.

Get ample of Probiotics in diet - This will aid in healing of intestinal tract. Regular consuming of fermented foods or high quality probiotic supplement can be a way of adding beneficial bacteria to the diet. Probiotics can be found in capsules and yogurt, and may be useful in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases.

Diet Recommendations - Foods that are rich in fiber, fat and lactose may increase the diarrhea and abdominal pain. The most common problem foods are seeds, nuts, raw fruits and vegetables, and leafy greens. Additionally, products that contain caffeine and spicy foods can worsen the symptoms. Patients with IBD require a sufficient intake of calories and nutrients therefore protein from fish, poultry and eggs are suggested. Cooked fruits and vegetables, without skin or seeds are usually well accepted. Consuming enough fluids is also significant for patients with ulcerative colitis and 8 to 10 glasses of fluid are recommended per day.  When going through excessive diarrhea, patients may need nutritional supplements, mainly vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium and potassium. In most cases, strict adherence to dietary and lifestyle changes may truly result in long-term diminution of the disease.

Useful Herbs and Supplements
Alpha-linolenic acid is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. Omega-3 fatty acids have been known to decrease inflammation and may help avert chronic diseases. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that may be helpful for inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and a variety of other health problems. Other plants that provide ALA include canola (rapeseed), soybean oil, walnuts, and pumpkin seed.

Chamomile is one of the most accepted herbs and has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. It has been used to treat many conditions such as chest colds, sore throats, abscesses, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis) and stomach ulcers. It helps loosen up muscle contractions, mainly in the smooth muscles that make up the intestines.

Green tea may also help decrease inflammation associated with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Green tea has proved to help avert colon cancer; therefore, it would also aid those with IBD since they are at higher danger for colon cancer. Additionally, the leaves and roots of marshmallow are used for medicinal purposes and are associated with the prevention of IBD.

Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) has been used as an herbal therapy in North America for centuries. It contains mucilage, a substance that turns into a slick gel when mixed with water. It covers and soothes the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines. It also contains antioxidants that help ease inflammatory bowel conditions.

Some introductory clinical facts suggest that N-acetyl glucosamine oral supplements or enemas may help recover symptoms of IBD in children who have not shown any improvement with usual medical treatment.

People with IBD may have low levels of potassium and other important nutrients. Thus it is recommended to take potassium supplement to lower the deficiency. Foods rich in potassium are bananas, citrus juices (such as orange juice), avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, lima beans, flounder, salmon, cod & chicken.