Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a generalized term for a host of conditions marked by chronic inflammation of at least part of the digestive tract; the most common diseases that fall under this classification are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The former is a disease that causes long-term inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine and rectum; the latter causes deep inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract, affecting either or both of the large and small intestine.
While doctors long believed that diet and stress were the primary causes of IBD, it is believed now that this is false. Heredity plays a role, but most physicians point to the immune system response as the causal factor. When the body is trying to fight off a virus or bacteria, the immune system can produce an abnormal response, one wherein the cells of the digestive tract are attacked along with the virus or bacteria. A variety of tests can be performed to determine if one is suffering from IBD or another illness, including tests for anemia, a colonoscopy, an upper endoscopy, a CT scan, or an MRI.
While there is no cure for IBD, drug therapy or surgery are valid treatment options. Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to address the primary symptoms of IBD, as are immune system suppressors. Surgery can remove damaged sections of the intestines or address abscesses that form in the lining of the digestive tract. Altering one’s diet can reduce flare-ups of IBD, as can smoking cessation and practices to reduce one’s overall stress. As additional research is conducted, it is hoped that a more permanent solution to the symptoms of IBD can be developed.