What is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel diseases or IBD are chronic inflammatory conditions affecting the digestive tract (stomach, small and large bowel). With long term inflammation comes the potential for scarring and bowel damage which may require surgery if not properly treated. IBD can be considered an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune cells attack healthy cells by mistake. IBD should not be confused with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS which may have similar symptoms but does not cause bowel damage. IBD can produce debilitating symptoms which negatively impact your quality of life. 

There are two types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease commonly affects the last portion of the small intestine (ileum) where it joins the first portion of the large intestine (colon). It may also affect other segments of the GI tract. While the exact cause is unknown, the risk of getting Crohn's disease may be tied to your family history (genetic predisposition) or to other environmental factors (smoking, diet, exercise, use of certain medications…). In Crohn’s disease, the bowel wall becomes inflamed and develops open sores or ulcers which leads to blood loss in stool and impaired ability to absorb nutrients.

Crohn’s disease can cause a variety of symptoms including chronic diarrhea which may contain blood, abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. The severity of these symptoms over time is variable with periods of flares when symptoms worsen and remission when symptoms tend to improve or resolve completely. 

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis only affects the large bowel (colon). Similar to Crohn’s disease, the exact cause is unknown but thought to be related to imbalances in the immune system and gut bacteria in people with genetic predisposition to develop bowel inflammation. In ulcerative colitis, the large bowel wall becomes inflamed and develops open sores or ulcers which leads to loss of blood into stool.

Ulcerative colitis can cause a variety of symptoms including chronic diarrhea which typically contains blood, urgent need to move bowels, abdominal cramping and pain, fatigue, fever and weight loss. The severity of these symptoms over time is variable with periods of flares when symptoms worsen and remission when symptoms tend to improve or resolve completely. 

IBD FAQs

What causes IBD? 

The exact cause is unknown but thought to be related to imbalances in the immune system and gut bacteria in people with genetic predisposition to develop bowel inflammation. This is an area of active research.

What can I eat if I have IBD?

When IBD is under control, there is no need for dietary restrictions. When IBD is flaring most patient find trouble eating food rich in fiber like vegetables and salads which may cause symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Despite the link between diet and bowel symptoms, there’s no evidence however to support that specific foods could worsen or heal bowel inflammation from IBD.

Can I work or go to school if I have IBD?

The goal of modern IBD treatments is little or no bowel symptoms and no disruptions in school, work or life activities. With appropriate care these goals are achievable. We are here to help you.

If I have IBD, can I have a family?

In the majority of cases, male and female patients with IBD are able to have children. Only in certain advanced cases, the disease itself and some of the bowel surgeries used to treat it may negatively impact fertility. Pregnancy counseling is essential before attempting to conceive especially for the female IBD patient. To ensure that both mom and baby do well, it’s essential to have bowel inflammation under control before pregnancy. In general, adequate IBD control ensures good pregnancy outcomes. Our team of physicians at OU Medical Center includes qualified obstetricians who are well versed in caring for IBD patients.

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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73104

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