Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), is the umbrella term that encapsulates two major chronic autoimmune diseases—ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease.
But let’s dive a little deeper. What exactly is an autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease?
Autoimmune: The bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract (GI tract, or gut) attacks the healthy cells in your intestines,
Inflammatory: Causing inflammation, pain, and incredibly inconvenient symptoms,
Bowel Disease: With no clear cause and no cure.
It may sound a little morbid, I know; but we are getting to the happy part in just a little bit.
Colitis & Crohn’s
Now let’s break down the two types—ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease:
Ulcerative colitis is where the inflammation is isolated in the colon (also known as the large intestine). Ulcers develop on the colon’s lining, which can cause pain, extreme discomfort, and frequent bowl movements.
With Crohn’s Disease, inflammation can be found anywhere in the GI tract—at any place from mouth to anus. Unlike colitis, the inflammation of Crohn’s Disease affects deeper layers than just the intestines’ lining. The inflammation can also be found in patches, which means it can skip portions of the GI tract.
These are the most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s. However, it is unfortunately not limited to just these; other symptoms shared by both colitis and Crohn’s include fatigue, joint pain, loss of appetite, and mouth ulcers.
Though the exact cause of IBD is unclear, medical professionals believe it might be a combination of environment, genetics, and immune system dysfunctions.
Keep in mind that stress is not likely a sole cause of IBD, but it can certainly increase the chances of and the severity of flare ups.
Remission & Flare Ups
Okay, I know what you’re thinking—this isn’t comical, Jenna! Where’s the joke here?
Well, though there is unfortunately no joke or exaggeration in this description, there is hope—remission.
Remission is the stage achieved through diet, medication, and/or surgery in which the patient experiences few to no painful stools, blood, urgency, or other IBD symptoms. In essence, it basically feels like you don’t have the disease!
Whether it’s diet or medication keeping you in remission, there is still the chance of getting flare ups. A flare up is when you exit remission due to experiencing the symptoms you had before. Flare ups can be caused by specific foods that irritate your GI tract, forgetting to take your meds, stress, smoking, or taking other drugs (particularly antibiotics and anti-inflammatories).
To avoid flare ups and to stay in remission, it’s important to figure out what foods cause irritation and avoid those foods; to take the correct medication at the right times; to pursue healthy and de-stressing activities; and to ask your doctor when it’s okay to take other drugs.
If you are new to learning about IBD, I hope this information helps 🙂 I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in November 2014, and I’m still learning things to this day!
If you’d like to use this blog as a resource as you or your loved one go through their IBD journey, or if you’re just interested in learning more about IBD, I post weekly installments of my ulcerative colitis journey along with that chapter’s related resources and links.
To view helpful infographics, links, resources and more, you can follow The Comical Colon on Twitter, Facebook’s page or interactive group, or sign up for The Comical Colon Community Newsletter to receive a weekly email of bonus resources, inside stories, and laughs!
The Comical Colon dives into the both the raw and the optimistic that my colon has shown me along my comically imperfect journey. I’d love for you to be a part of it.