Day 2: IBD Explained.


This morning was SO typical – I woke up at 7a with a migraine. Yesterday was such a great day, I was so excited and inspired about this week and all of the things I had planned but instead my body said eh, I’m changing up the schedule. So I finally got out of bed at 1p, but, c’est la vie!

img_0986What is IBD? Inflammatory Bowel Disease, also known as, IBD, is the umbrella term for both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. It is much more than a ‘tummy ache’ or upset stomach. Yes, someone recently asked me if that was the issue. IBD is characterized by chronic inflammation of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract that damages bowel tissue over the course of the disease. Untreated, IBD can lead to many serious complications, from intestinal bleeding to the rupturing of the bowel or toxic megacolon. Your immune system is supposed to protect you from disease and infection, however, with IBD (which is a type of autoimmune disease) your immune system cannot differentiate good cells from bad cells and attacks the good ones by mistake, which causes inflammation.

It can be frustrating because there are no known causes. Research has hinted at a number of different factors, with genes and environmental conditions being the most commonly linked root, however factors such as stress, age, geographic location, smoking status and medication (like Accutane) have been named as contributors. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation reports that up to 20% of IBD patients have a relative with either Crohn’s or colitis. I guess my family now has a new statistic! It can present itself at any time, but most commonly occurs between 15 – 35 y/o, and affects both genders at the same rate. They are both treated with an combination of the following drugs: steroids, antibiotics, biologics, immunosuppressants, aminosalicylates and probably some more I have missed.

IBD is significantly different from Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS). While, yes, both cause abdominal pain, cramping, constipation or diarrhea, IBD produces additional symptoms such as weight loss, lesions, ulcers, rectal bleeding, joint pain, malnutrition, intestinal scarring, eye inflammation and fatigue. The most notable difference to remember – IBD presents inflammation in the GI tract while IBS only concerns the colon, which explains why IBD is treated with medication to assist in healing the intestines and rectum. IBS is mostly treated with intestinal antispasmodic medications if any medication, but the focus of treatment is generally lifestyle related.

Now that we know what IBD is and is not, here are some key differences between Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis: 


  • Affects the entire GI tract, but presents many problems in the small intestine, where it meets the large intestine
  • 70% of those with Crohn’s will require surgery in their life
  • Occurs in patches throughout the GI tract, with some areas being unaffected, and others severely inflamed
  • Extraintestinal manifestations include: arthritis, mouth ulcers, fistulas, strictures, skin lesions
  • Presence of abdominal mass and perianal abnormalities
  • President Eisenhower had Crohn’s Disease


  • Inflammation is localized to the large intestine
  • 30% of those with Colitis will require surgery in their life
  • Occurs in a continuous pattern, meaning there aren’t healthy areas and unhealthy areas, it is inflamed throughout the large intestine
  • There are 5 types of UC according to Mayo Clinic: acute severe, left-sided, pan colitis, proctosigmviditis, ulcerative proctitis
  • Extraintestinal manifestations include: pyoderma gangrenosum, with rare occurrence of skin lesions
  • President John F. Kennedy had Ulcerative Colitis


Hopefully this clears some things up for those readers not impacted by the disease and those trying to further understand.

Next up: everything about The Public Restroom Access Act!

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