Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term used to describe two chronic digestive disorders, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. They share similar symptoms, including severe diarrhoea and/or constipation, abdominal pain, weight loss, blood in the stool, fever and fatigue.
Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the large bowel while Crohn’s disease results in inflammation which can occur in any part of the digestive tract, but typically where the small and large bowel connect.
IBD cases are on the rise
For people with these debilitating, lifelong conditions it can be a challenge to manage many of the symptoms and live a normal life.
There are several types of treatment but sadly no medical cure for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which affects at least 300,000 people in the UK although the actual figure may be much higher as many people are believed to be undiagnosed.
A study published in 2015 reported that IBD is on the rise in every continent. It already affects more than a million people in the US and around 2.5 million across Europe and has been shown to have a significant impact on quality of life, leading to some people feeling stigmatised due to some of the embarrassing symptoms it causes.
The latest research studies offer the promise of even more effective treatments in the future for IBD sufferers. Here is our roundup of some of the recent highlights:
A paper published in the journal Nutrients questioned whether dietary changes might be an effective way to treat Crohn’s disease.
The scientists were inspired by previous research into the Crohn’s Disease Elimination Diet which showed remission rates ranging from 62-71%. The 25-year old man who was the subject of the paper gave up eating animal and processed foods for 40 days for religious reasons and noticed he had a “complete resolution of symptoms” while he was following a plant-based diet.
He was so impressed he began following a plant-based diet permanently, although with occasional lapses. Each time he lapsed he noticed a return of symptoms, which disappeared once he got back on track with his new regime. He also took up yoga, running and strength training.
After six months, a colonoscopy revealed “no visible evidence of Crohn’s disease” and he was able to come off his medications. Researchers believed the reason might be that a plant-based diet promotes microbial diversity in the gut and promotes the growth of bacteria that ferments fibre. Although this is only one man’s experience, the results are interesting and further research in this area is needed.
Step on the road to more personalised treatment:
Researchers have developed a new blood test that can predict the severity of IBD and could enable more personalised treatment plans in the future.
The researchers from Cambridge University developed a test that uses a biomarker to identify which patients are likely to have mild IBD and which ones will be more seriously affected.
Individuals who are likely to have mild symptoms can avoid taking strong drugs that have more unpleasant side-effects. The new test is an important step on the road to more personalised treatment rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Preventing intestinal barrier damage:
A study involving specialists from Harvard Medical School in Boston, the University of Illinois in Chicago, the University of Chicago in Illinois and the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University in China aimed to address the problem of epithelial barrier damage in patients with IBD. This is the tissue that prevents harmful leakages between the inside of the intestines and the surrounding abdominal space.
They identified a molecule – Divertin – which prevented inflammation-related damage to the epithelial barrier and halted the progression of IBD in mice.
The researchers believe these experimental findings could be the first step in better treatment and prevention of IBD in the future by providing a new and nontoxic approach to restoring the intestinal barrier.
If you have IBD, or if you suspect you might be one of the millions of sufferers who are undiagnosed contact us for specialist diagnostic and treatment advice.
Windsor Bowel Clinic are specialists in treating a full range of gastrointestinal disorders including IBD. Our specialist consultants will ensure prompt, accurate diagnosis after which we will discuss your treatment options.
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