crohn's, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome

UNDERSTANDING CROHNS, COLITIS, AND IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both types of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD).  Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract and may affect any part from the mouth to the anus.  Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory condition limited to the colon, otherwise known as the large intestine.  Symptoms of both disorders can include diarrhea, constipation, rectal bleeding, and abdominal cramps.  Both can also cause symptoms less specifically associated with the GI tract such as fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue.  Both Crohn’s and colitis are defined by an abnormal immune response where the immune system mistakes benign or beneficial cells and bacteria for harmful foreign substances. When this happens, the immune system can damage the gastrointestinal tract and produce symptoms of IBD.   Recent research indicates that hereditary, genetic, and/or environmental factors may contribute to the development of IBD.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is considered non-inflammatory and a syndrome (a group of symptoms), rather than a specific disease.  Symptoms of IBS typically include chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, or alternating bouts of the two. People with IBS are also more likely to have other functional disorders such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).  IBS does not produce the destructive inflammation found in IBD, so it may be considered a less serious condition, however, it can still cause chronic discomfort and affect quality of life.    Research suggests that IBS can be caused by stress and the way that the brain and gut interact.