We’ve all had an upset stomach from time to time. And while it’s anything but comfortable, it isn’t usually anything beyond typical tummy troubles. But when sporadic digestive issues evolve into constant belly pain, diarrhea and unexplained weight loss, it may be sign of inflammatory bowel disease—or IBD. On top of that, the latest data shows this chronic disorder is afflicting more people than ever before.
Since 1999, the number of U.S. adults with IBD has close to doubled. In a recent study, researchers from the CDC found that 3.1 million adults now struggle with the disease. They based this finding on data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).
What exactly is IBD?
IBD is an umbrella term. It refers to a number of conditions that cause swelling, redness and damage to the intestines. It’s also important to note that IBD is a type of autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks itself, causing parts of the digestive tract to become swollen and inflamed. As a result, the body can’t absorb nutrients or water as it should.
Two of the most common are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The former mostly harms the large intestine. Crohn’s disease, on the other hand, can spread throughout the whole digestive tract.
IBD vs. IBS: What’s the difference?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may sound like similar conditions. They may even share some symptoms, like diarrhea and stomach pain. But IBD and IBS are very different.
IBD is a chronic condition that damages the digestive tract over time. IBS may last for months to years, but it doesn’t cause lasting injury to the body.
What are the symptoms of IBD?
The symptoms of IBD can be quite debilitating. Some people with it even suffer from anxiety and depression. Physical symptoms may include:
Constant stomach pain
Diarrhea, which may sometimes be bloody
Lack of appetite
These symptoms tend to come and go. Medicines may help prevent flare-ups. You may also be able to ease symptoms by curbing stress and not eating certain foods, such as those that are spicy and fried.
What causes IBD?
Genetics and a family history of the disease increase the likelihood of developing it. For those with an increased risk, environmental factors like smoking, using antibiotics at a young age, not being breastfed, having low levels of vitamin D and eating lots of red meat and sugar-filled foods can trigger it.
Identifying digestive destroyers
There’s no doubt about it, stomach issues can be some of the worst to deal with. So instead of battling symptoms on your own, seek the help of an expert who can help tame your tummy troubles.