Updated: May 18
May is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month; a time to raise awareness of these conditions that are more commonly referred to as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The Naturopaths at our Ballarat store can support people with IBD.
Both Crohn’s and Colitis – collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease - affect the bowel, but in different ways. Crohn’s causes inflammation in the full thickness of the bowel wall in any part of the digestive tract, whereas colitis is the inflammation of the inner lining of the large bowel.
IBD can have an impact on the day-to-day life of sufferers, with research indicating that people with IBD are three-times as likely to require sick leave, may have difficulty concentrating due to abdominal pain, can suffer from poor sleep or and may experience depression and/or anxiety as a result of the disease.
What are the signs of IBD?
Inflammatory Bowel Disease can present in a number of ways. Common symptoms include diarrhoea or constipation (or general altered bowel movements), nausea, stomach pain or cramping, weight loss, delayed physical growth (in children), mouth sores, pain around the anus due to inflammation, and fatigue.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is sometimes accompanied by other conditions such as anaemia, which can occur as a result of nutrient deficiencies. Other complications such as joint inflammation, skin problems and fistulas can also arise.
Is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) the same as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Whilst both conditions present with similar symptoms such as abdominal pains, cramping and urgent bowel movements, IBS and IBD are different in their severity and will be treated differently by the health care team.
IBS (a syndrome) is considered as a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that does not cause inflammation. It is not considered life-threatening and, whilst still a chronic disorder, IBS can often be managed with diet and lifestyle modifications. Like IBD, IBS can still be uncomfortable for the sufferer and can affect their quality of life, particularly when symptoms are present.
IBD (a disease) causes inflammation of the intestines, and can cause permanent damage to the intestines. Unlike IBS, IBD can be a risk factor for colon cancer. Treatment for IBD can include anti-inflammatory medication and sometimes surgery.
How long does IBD last for?
Unfortunately, IBD is not curable. However, symptoms may come and go. Attacks can last for days, weeks or months at a time. Diet and lifestyle may help to reduce the frequency, severity and duration of IBD attacks, but it is considered a lifelong condition.
What causes IBD?
The cause of IBD is unknown. However, research suggests that IBD could be brought on by a surplus of bacteria in the intestines after a virus with severe diarrhoea. IBD could also be the result of stress, changes in the gut microbes and/or abnormalities in the nervous system.
What foods should be avoided with IBD?
Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that IBD is caused by particular foods or food allergies, many IBD sufferers find that making some adjustments to their diet can lessen the symptoms of IBD.
A naturopath can work with IBD sufferers to help identify specific foods that could be contributing to their inflammation. Many people find that the following foods can exacerbate their symptoms:
- Fatty, greasy or fried foods
- Spicy foods
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and corn
- Caffeinated/sugary drinks
- Raw, high fibre foods
Can a naturopath help treat IBD?
In private consultations, our naturopathic team can help support IBD sufferers by reviewing colonoscopy/endoscopy reports, CT/MRI/X-ray, stool studies and blood tests.
Our naturopaths can also request further testing for things such as Calprotectin (to detect inflammation and some bacterial infections), Complete Microbiome Mapping Testing (to look for microbes that could be causing disease or disrupting normal microbial balance) or PCR Parasite Stool Testing (to test for parasites). The naturopath may also order tests to investigate possible nutrient and vitamin deficiencies.
A naturopath can be part of a wider health team for IBD sufferers by prescribing herbal remedies to help reduce inflammation, support any other medications that the sufferer may be prescribed; and supplement the diet with vitamins in which the patient may be deficient in.
The naturopath can also support the client by providing dietary advice and also address other health concerns (such as mental health or stress) that may be a by-product of living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
You can help raise awareness of Inflammatory Bowel Disease by supporting some of these organisations this May:
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation: https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/WorldIBDDay
Crohn’s and Colitis Australia: https://crohnsandcolitis.org.au/about-crohns-colitis/
Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month: https://crohnsandcolitis.org.au/how-to-help/crohns-and-colitis-awareness-month/