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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflamatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic or recurring inflammation of part or all of your gastrointestinal tract. The most common forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a form of IBD in which the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum become inflamed. Inflammation usually begins in the rectum and lower intestine and spreads upward to the entire colon. Ulcerative colitis rarely affects the small intestine, except for the lower section, the ileum.

The inflammation causes diarrhea, or frequent emptying of the colon. As cells on the surface of the lining of the colon die and slough off, ulcers (open sores) form and may cause the discharge of pus and mucus, in addition to bleeding.

Although children and older people sometimes develop ulcerative colitis, it most often starts between the ages of 15 and 30. It affects males and females equally and appears to run in some families.

Ulcerative colitis requires long-term medical care. There may be remissions--periods when the symptoms go away--that last for months or even years. However, symptoms eventually return.

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

The following are the most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Loss of body fluids and nutrients
  • Anemia caused by severe bleeding

Sometimes, symptoms may also include:

  • Skin lesions
  • Joint pain
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Liver disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rashes
  • Kidney stones

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Diet for Ulcerative Colitis

If you have ulcerative colitis, you know that sometimes it flares up, and it often depends on what you’ve had to eat. It’s important to understand that certain foods do not cause ulcerative colitis and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America says diet is not a major factor in causing inflammation. However, some colitis sufferers experience issues related to what they’re eating, so it’s smart to have an Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan to help control those flare-ups.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic condition that may recur at various times over a lifetime. It usually involves the small intestine, most often the lower part called the ileum. However, in some cases, both the small and large intestine are affected. Sometimes, inflammation may also affect the entire digestive tract, including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, duodenum, appendix or anus.

Living with Crohn’s requires vigilance and consistency – you need to stick to a routine. Crohn’s sufferers need to pay special attention to their diet, to where bathrooms are, to the timing of activities and to their medication. They need to know their bodies and be aware for signs of flare-ups. Attitude is also critically important – it’s easy to get down because there is no cure for Crohn’s – when you’re in the throes of a flare-up, it can be difficult to be optimistic.

Having Crohn’s Disease is not easy. It requires daily management to minimize the negative impacts of the condition, and every Crohn’s sufferer is a little different – different foods and activities can trigger symptoms in some patients and have virtually no impact on others.

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s can cause severe pain, abdominal swelling, cramping, bleeding, diarrhea and deterioration of the affected portion of the intestinal tract. More than one million people suffer from it. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain, often in the lower right area
  • Diarrhea, sometimes bloody
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Rectal fissure
  • Rashes

Managing Crohn’s Disease

While everyone is different, there are some activities that should definitely be considered off limits for people with Crohn’s:

Don’t eat whatever you want. If you’ve had Crohn’s for a while, you know this. But it bears repeating: A smart diet is the lynchpin of your daily battle with Crohn’s. Avoid fatty foods, fried foods, fibrous foods and milk. Steer clear of processed foods that can contain added sugar, fat substitutes and artificial flavorings that can be gastrointestinal irritants.

Don't ignore people trying to help. Talking about Crohn’s can be embarrassing, and you don’t need to talk about it to everyone. But some close friends and family members will want to help. Don’t be bashful about accepting their support and advice.

Don’t put your head in the sand. The more you know, the better armed you are to battle this condition. There are plenty of good resources with diet tips, health advice and other information that can help you feel better.

Don’t smoke. Along with plenty of other negative effects, cigarette smoking harms the digestive tract, as inhaled smoke enters the stomach and intestines. Tobacco is a known digestive tract irritant that can cause bloating, cramping and other issues.

Don’t ignore stress. Stress does not cause Crohn’s but it can exacerbate it. Acknowledge the stress in your life and find a healthy outlet for it, whether it’s talking to a confidant or hitting the gym, so that stress doesn’t fester.

Don’t skimp on sleep. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every night; less can impact your digestive system and cause a flare up. Make sure you get the right quantity of quality sleep.

Don’t drink alcohol. Simply put, beer, wine and mixed drinks can beat up your gastrointestinal tract.

Diet for Crohn’s Disease

If you have Crohn’s disease, you know exactly how difficult choosing your next meal can be. But it is possible to develop a healthy diet plan that provides the nutrients and calories you need, while also excluding trigger foods that inflame your symptoms.

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