Addressing IBD Misconceptions

As I’ve been living with my IBD diagnosis for three years now, I thought I would come on here and address some of the misconceptions that people often have about these diseases and bring some further understanding and awareness to these diseases.

IBD and IBS are the same thing

This is probably the most common misconception that people have about Crohn’s and Colitis.  IBD stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease while IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  While it’s true that both conditions lead to symptoms of chronic consipation or diarrhea and abdominal pain, what sets IBD apart is that it causes actual inflammatory changes of the bowel wall (ie ulcerations) which can lead to complications such as abscesses and infection, fistulas, and strictures.  Because of this IBD puts one at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.  IBD is also progressive in nature which is why medical intervention is needed to keep it in check.  IBS, on the other hand, is purely functional in nature.

Crohn’s and Colitis are the same thing

While Crohn’s and Colitis are both forms of IBD with many overlapping treatments, they aren’t actually the same.  Crohn’s is characterized by its ability to cause inflammation in any part of the digestive tract (mouth to anus) while Colitis is limited to the colon.  In this sense Colitis can be “cured” by removing the colon but this is usually only used as a last resort.

IBD is strictly a bowel disease

Anyone living with IBD hates this misconception because it is so much more than constipation, diarrhea, nausea and bloating.  Sometimes the extra intestinal manifestations or symptoms are just as debilitating if not worse than the actual bowel symptoms.

Here are some common extra intestinal symptoms that us IBDers can experience:

join pain/arthritis/sacroileitis

psoriasis/eczema

eye inflammation (iritis, uveitis etc.)

mouth sores and gum inflammation

anemia

fatigue

migraines

depression/anxiety especially regarding food and eating habits (disordered eating)

body dysmorphia due to weight loss from flares and weight gain from medications

thyroid dysfuction

Some of these are side effects of the IBD medications while others are due to the autoimmune nature of the disease.

Remission Means Cured

While medication can put the disease in remission or quiet symptoms, there isn’t actually a cure for IBD.  While some people may respond very well to medication and experience long periods of remission, most of us have to use a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes along with our medications to keep the disease in check and even then may struggle with daily symptoms and complications.

IBD Is Caused By Diet

They actually don’t know what causes IBD and everyones triggers are different.  While diet certainly plays a huge role in managing symptoms, it is not the root cause nor can a specific diet cure it.  Studies so far suggest that there may be both a genetic and environmental component to the disease.  The balance of the gut microbiome also seems to be a factor but there has been conflicting evidence on the use of probiotics in inducing remission.  It has been labeled as an autoimmune disease due to the fact that many patients experience a relief from symptoms when treated with immune suppressant medication.

Well there you have it!  I hope that I broadened your understanding of this disease and everything that comes with it.

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