Thursday, March 17, 2016

Understanding IBD and Ulcerative Colitis

Uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal cramps, gassiness and frequent bathroom visits may just seem like annoyances that decrease your quality of life. However, if these symptoms increase or persist, or you also have diarrhea, pain, fatigue and weight loss, you should be examined for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which includes some disturbance in bowel function but is not a disease, IBD can produce destructive inflammation, which can lead to permanent intestinal damage. Depending on the extent of the damage and the length of time you have IBD, it could also put you at a higher risk for colorectal cancer.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a common type of IBD that may be affecting as many as 700,000 American men and women. It creates long-lasting ulcers (sores) in the digestive tract and causes inflammation in the colon and rectum. Symptoms include painful cramps, loss of appetite and loose, bloody and/or urgent bowels. Researchers aren't quite sure what causes UC and other inflammatory bowel diseases: most likely a complex interaction of genetic and environmental factors, with a possible link to the immune system. Though not seen as direct causes of UC or IBD, stress, smoking, and fatty and processed foods can aggravate the diseases' symptoms and should be avoided.

There is no known cure for IBD; it's a lifelong disease that has alternating periods of remission and flare-up. However, there is treatment available in the form of medication, combination therapy and surgery, if necessary. Your doctor may also be able to help you adjust your diet to avoid discomfort, possibly by avoiding spicy and high-fiber foods or by restricting your dairy intake.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so if you think you may be suffering from colon inflammation, especially if you have a family history of colorectal diseases, make an appointment with your primary care physician at or see a GBMC gastrointestinal specialist by visiting

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