Can IBD be cured?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a set of diseases, namely Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, that cause inflammation in the lining of your digestive tract. IBD also adversely affects your immune system; an incorrect inflammatory response to environmental triggers essentially causes the body to “attack” itself.
IBD is a condition that affects about 5-6 million people worldwide with around 1.6 million of the diagnosed in the United States alone. While the cause of IBD is not definitely known or completely understood, experts theorize that IBD is caused by a complex network of factors including, genes or family history, environment (dietary factors and stress) and the immune system (overactive or hypersensitive).
Crohn's Disease Symptoms
Crohn's Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the gastrointestinal tract and is characterized by inflammation of the gut, often affecting multiple layers of tissue. It is a chronic condition that can cause severe pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.
The symptoms can vary from person to person and may come and go over time, while some cases have few or no symptoms. Some of the most common Crohn's disease symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Intestinal inflammation
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Acute severe ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the large intestine. With ulcerative colitis, inflammation and sores can form on the inner lining of your colon and rectum.
The main symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:
- Abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding
What is the importance of inflammatory bowel disease?
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or race. Often inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) can lead to serious complications like ulcers which usually start as small sores on the inside lining of the intestines.
It's important to maintain a healthy diet and avoid eating foods that might cause inflammation or worse symptoms. This will help reduce IBD symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation along with blood in the stool. IBD patients should focus on lifestyle changes that will trigger a better immune response. IBD patients who do not make a lifestyle change may have to undergo surgery and will be at higher risk of further health complications.
What are the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
There are many severe symptoms someone suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease can experience. The most common IBD symptoms include fatigue, nausea, fever, mild diarrhea, cramping pains in the stomach, small intestine, or large intestine, and weight loss.
Additionally, IBD symptoms may be evident through spotting with bright red bleeding stools along with mucus or fresh blood present at times during bowel movements. Unfortunately, IBD symptoms can be very similar to IBS symptoms.
Diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
The diagnosis of IBD in a patient is not always straightforward and the symptoms may vary from person to person. The diagnostic tests carried out include a blood test, stool sample, colonoscopy, capsule endoscopy, magnetic resonance imaging, and biopsy.
Unfortunately, some people have genetic susceptibility to IBD due to certain genetic factors that they inherit from their parents. These people may experience an environmental trigger that can flare IBD that they inherited. Always be sure to inform your healthcare provider if there is a history of IBD in your family.
Diagnosis of Crohn's Disease
The mainstay of diagnosis for Crohn's disease is a combination of medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and imaging studies. The most common test used to diagnose Crohn's disease is the colonoscopy which allows your doctor to see inside your large intestine and small intestine. Endoscopic procedures can also be undertaken if deemed necessary for diagnosis.
Diagnosis of ulcerative colitis
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis can vary from person to person, but most people will have diarrhea mixed with blood at least once a day for over six weeks out of the year.
Diagnosis of ulcerative colitis can be made from the patient's family and physical examination along with a colonoscopy and laboratory testing.
Complications of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)
Many different complications can arise from inflammatory bowel disease IBD, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Some of these complications can flare at different times leading to life-threatening situations, while others can cause long-term health problems.
Some of the most serious complications of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis include:
- Digestive and kidney diseases
- Small intestine infections
- Blood clots
- Colon cancer
- Skin problems like sores and rashes
- Eye problems
- Joint pain
- Kidney stones
- Decreased bowel function
Is there a Cure for Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, but there are many ways that you can manage the condition naturally, also known as disease control.
Eating a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, exercising regularly, taking probiotics, and reducing stress through meditation and yoga are ways to keep the body healthy and help minimize symptoms.
Several natural supplements can be helpful for people with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and they include:
- Fish oil supplements: Fish oil is high in omega fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties and boost the immune system.
- Turmeric supplements: Curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties and can potentially be helpful in treating Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Digestive enzymes: Digestive enzymes can help to break down food properly and may help to reduce symptoms of gas, bloating, and constipation and also boost the immune system.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements like magnesium citrate powder and ginger extract capsules.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: There are drugs that can be prescribed by your doctor or bought over the counter that have anti-inflammatory effects, but we typically suggest more natural treatments if possible.
Holistic approaches like acupuncture can also help in symptom relief, known as maintenance therapy.
Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking may improve health and minimize inflammation-inducing chemicals. Changing your nutrition, sleep, and exercise regiments can also improve your condition.
Keeping a journal where you record what you eat each day along with any other stresses you encounter can help you and your doctor identify any food or lifestyle triggers.
Dietary changes are the first step in treating IBD. It plays a key role in controlling this condition as certain types of food can either aggravate or soothe inflammation associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
There are many foods that one should consider avoiding if you have IBD. Some of the foods are:
- Dairy products: Dairy often leads to inflammation and worsens symptoms like diarrhea and constipation. If you're struggling to give up dairy completely, try switching to lactose-free or vegan milk substitutes instead.
- Gluten-containing foods: Gluten is a protein found in many grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It can cause inflammation in the gut and aggravate symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
- Fatty and processed foods: They can cause inflammation of the digestive tract as well as increase the risk for other health problems like heart disease and diabetes. Lean protein sources, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole-grain products are better options.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages: The high sugar content can aggravate symptoms like diarrhea and constipation while also promoting weight gain. It is better to stick to water and unsweetened tea or coffee instead.
A Healthy Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, can reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and potentially improve some of its symptoms.
Food one should focus on are:
- Lean protein sources like poultry and fish
- Fresh fruits and vegetables like leafy green vegetables
- Whole grain products like brown rice and whole-wheat pasta
- Unsweetened dairy substitutes like unsweetened almond milk and unsweetened Greek yogurt
- Lentils and beans
Making healthy modifications to one's lifestyle and following the dietary recommendations listed above may make living with IBD considerably more manageable.
Treating IBD with Nutrition
A major way to prevent and treat inflammatory bowel diseases is to follow the Mediterranean Diet or Low FODMAP diet.
Peer-reviewed studies published by the American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that people who ate more fruits and vegetables had a lower risk for Crohn's disease.
Another study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that when more than five ounces of nuts are consumed per week, it lowers the risk of Crohn's disease.
Both meal plans focus on whole, all-natural foods instead of highly processed foods full of refined sugars and other preservative chemicals.
The Low FODMAP Meal Plan
A low FODMAP diet is a type of elimination diet that can be used to help manage symptoms of both IBD and IBS. The goal of a low FODMAP diet is to eliminate certain carbohydrates known as FODMAPS from your diet that are known to trigger digestive discomfort.
A great resource for finding delicious IBD-friendly meal ideas is the Monash University app. The recipes included in the Monash University app are especially good for people who have just started a low FODMAP diet, as they allow one to test out tolerance of different types of foods.
Click this link for a list of foods that you can and cannot eat on a Low FODMAP diet.
Low FODMAP Meals by ModifyHealth
If you are like most people in today's society then you either don't have time to cook or shopping and cooking for a certain diet is too difficult and time-consuming. That is why ModifyHealth cooks and delivers medically tailored meals based on the Low FODMAP and Mediterranean diet nationwide with FREE shipping.
Both the Low FODMAP diet and Mediterranean diet have been shown to potentially alleviate symptoms in IBD patients. If you'd like to try easing your IBD flares with the Low FODMAP or Mediterranean diet, then check out our meal plans at here.
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation
The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation is a national nonprofit and voluntary health organization dedicated to finding cures for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. The foundation funds research, provides educational materials about IBD, offers support services, and lobbies public policy makers on behalf of people with IBD. Their website is a great place to learn more about IBD – Crohn's and Colitis Foundation