Do you feel bloated after eating a meal? Suffer from bouts of diarrhea or constipation? Experience severe heartburn after eating certain types of food? These are symptoms which could indicate you may have an inflammatory bowel disease.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the term for a group of intestinal disorders that cause prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract, one of the largest organs in the body.
The digestive tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Because the digestive tract is responsible for the important roles of breaking down food, extracting the nutrients, and removing waste, when it is inflammed systematic issues can occur.
Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term that includes many conditions, the two most common being Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). The main difference between Crohn’s disease and UC lies in which the parts of the digestive tract each condition affects. Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation to any part of the digestive tract, most commonly the small intestine, while UC only involves the inflammation of the large intestine. Because of this, the symptoms of these two diseases vary slightly:
Symptoms of Crohn’s consist of abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, bloating, bowel obstruction, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, anemia, and fatigue.
Symptoms of UC consist of rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Both Crohn’s and UC are considered autoimmune conditions and according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, approximately 1.6 million Americans suffer from IBD. Although the root cause of IBD is unknown, it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, lifestyle, and infectious contributors. In fact, newly published research has linked Crohn’s disease with a particular fungal infection for the first time.
In regards to lifestyle factors that contribute to IBD, diet is the most important. A diet high in sugar and processed foods can cause a PH change within the intestine, decreasing the production of the microflora our bodies need to ward off disease. A decrease in the production of microflora, a “leaky gut syndrome” can occur, due to a thinning and weakened state of the lining leading to food allergies or sensitivities, eczema, and inflammation. Decreased absorption of vitamins A, D, B6, as well as, minerals such as zinc, selenium, potassium, iron, and iodine also occur.
The digestive system is not only responsible for the absorption of nutrients and vitamins which our body requires to maintain optimal health, our digestive system also has a role in balancing our moods, the ability to handle stress, obesity, cholesterol levels, and heart dysfunction. In the case of IBD, if it is left untreated, serious autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease, Celiac disease, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, may occur. This is, in part, due to the fact that our digestive tract plays a very important role within our immune system necessary in warding off harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. Our digestive health constitutes 75% of our immune system for fighting off disease. Poor digestive health not only diminishes the ability to fight disease and increases a patient’s risk of developing an autoimmune disorder, but it can also affect the function of your metabolism, needed in maintaining a healthy weight.
Although there is no cure, treatment for inflammatory bowel disease can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life and may include diet and lifestyle changes, supplements such as probiotics, and medication.
Holtorf Medical Group physicians are trained to recognize digestive problems and implement effective treatments, which may include dietary changes, supplements or other digestive aids. If you believe you have a digestive problem, contact a Holtorf Medical Group team member today.