Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an autoimmune condition with serious consequences. This is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a functional bowel disorder with no significant physical conditions that contribute to the problem.
The two most common health conditions falling under the umbrella term of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.1 While ulcerative colitis often is localized to the large intestines and rectum, Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract beginning in the mouth and ending in the anus.
More frequently, portions of the small intestines are affected. Common symptoms of both include persistent diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue and abdominal pain. Physicians use radiographic imaging, endoscopic testing and stool tests to diagnose IBD.
The CDC reports that in 2015 and 2016, 3 million Americans were diagnosed with either Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, which was 1 million higher than the number of people diagnosed in 1999. Women and those who live in suburban areas, who are unemployed, and who are divorced, separated or widowed are at higher risk.
Those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease may experience complications from the condition.2 Complications common with both conditions include a higher risk of colon cancer, blood clots, skin, eye and joint inflammation and primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Complications associated only with Crohn’s disease include bowel obstructions, malnutrition, ulcers and fistulas. Those with ulcerative colitis are at higher risk for toxic megacolon, perforated colon and severe dehydration.
Small Changes Raise Risk of Chemical Colitis
One trigger for the rapidly rising incidence of IBD is a Western-style diet that increases inflammatory bowel disease activity. To further understand this pathway, researchers from the University of Alberta undertook an animal study to “identify the effect of a short-term diet high in sugar on susceptibility to colitis.”3
After only two days of eating a high-sugar diet, mice exhibited more severe symptoms to chemically induced colitis. The group was initially fed either regular food or a high-sugar diet. Severity of the disease was assessed daily and tissues were analyzed for cytokine expression. Additionally, gut microbiota were analyzed by RNA sequencing and short chain fatty acid (SCFA) concentrations.
Researchers found that the mice wh