What are the signs and symptoms of IBD?
Individuals with IBD experience symptoms only when their disease is flaring, or active. So, in some cases, symptoms can come and go, making it difficult to diagnose early on. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea, sometimes with blood
- Bowel urgency or fecal incontinence
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Anxiety and depression
Other symptoms that may happen that are unrelated to digestion include:
- Arthritis or stiff joints
- Mouth sores and ulcers
- Fatty liver
- Eye inflammation and redness
- Poor blood circulation
If inflammation goes on for too long and it is not controlled, people can develop:
- abscesses, which happens when inflammation gets too deep and tears into intestinal wall,
- Strictures – or narrowing of the intestinal tract, or
- Fistulas – abnormal connections or tunnels form between 2 organs that should not be there.
How is it diagnosed
Getting a diagnosis of IBD requires multiple tests. The initial tests are typically the less invasive ones – blood tests and stool tests. Additional testing will include either a colonoscopy (UC) or an endoscopy (CD). Your doctor may also do additional imaging using an MRI or x-ray.
Some of the common blood tests include c-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) – both are markers for inflammation. Stool tests look at calprotectin and lactoferrin, both are markers for GI inflammation.
Endoscopy or colonoscopies will take samples of your tissue and analyze them for mucosal or tissue damage, or abnormal cells.
It’s important to mention that there are 2 other forms of IBD. One is called microscopic colitis, where inflammation is only visible through a microscope. The other is indeterminate colitis. This condition has features of both UC and CD.
Medications and other treatment options
- Corticosteroids: these are powerful anti-inflammatory medications that are used on a short-term basis to stop symptoms. This includes prednisone.
- 5-Aminosalicylic Acid Medications (5-ASAs): these are used for mild to moderate IBD and are typically more effective for UC. They work on inflammation and help lessen diarrhea and abdominal pain.
- Immunomodulators: These medications suppress certain parts of the immune system so it stops attacking the GI tissues. These are usually taken after corticosteroids, and when symptoms are more manageable.
- Biologics: These medications also stop certain parts of the immune system from overreacting. These are often longer-term medications that may be combined with immunomodulators.
Along with or instead of medication, diet, and lifestyle can go a very long way to help relieve symptoms of IBD. In terms of diet, there are several options to choose from.
The next option is a paleo diet, with the more restrictive option as the autoimmune protocol elimination diet. Small studies have reported remission in just 6 weeks of following the AIP diet in patients with IBD.