abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite. A slew of
conditions can produce these symptoms. Thatís why it can be
difficult to accurately diagnose and treat ďgut issues.Ē
disease and ulcerative colitis are two similar type of
digestive disorders under the heading of Inflammatory Bowel
Disease or IBD. (Not to be confused with Irritable Bowel
Syndrome (IBS), which produces similar symptoms but without
the visible damage to the digestive tract as is common with
IBD is an
autoimmune disorder, meaning that the bodyís own immune
system attacks the lining of the intestines, causing painful
irritation, diarrhea and bleeding. In ulcerative colitis, only
the colon, or large bowel, is affected. Crohnís disease can
strike any part of the intestinal tract.
What causes IBD?
Besides an overactive immune system, we still arenít sure.
There appears to be a genetic link (the disease is more common
in people of Jewish descent). Somewhat distressing is that the
incidence of IBD in industrialized countries is increasing,
according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
distress does not appear to cause IBD although some studies
found that stress can aggravate symptoms. A diet high in fat
may also slightly increase risk.
Blood and stool
tests and a scope (endoscopy) of the intestines are the common
ways to diagnose IBD. Once diagnosed, medications and diet can
help curb symptoms.
nutrient-absorbing cells of the body are damaged with IBD,
nutrition is vitally important. Most people with this
condition require extra vitamins and minerals from
supplements; chewable or liquid forms are generally
meals and snacks throughout the day are usually better
tolerated than large meals. And skip the fried fast foods as
much as possible.
To help heal
inflamed tissues in the gut, protein foods should be part of
every meal. Think easy to digest foods such as eggs, tofu,
fish, poultry, yogurt, tender lean meat and lactose-free milk.
foods may need to be limited during the active stages of IBD;
they can irritate an already inflamed digestive tract.
Bananas, melons, cooked vegetables like carrots and sweet
potatoes may provide soothing nourishment to an irritated
Water and other
non-caffeinated, non-sugary drinks are extremely important to
hydrate intestinal cells and to replenish fluids lost due to
diarrhea. Aim for at least 8 cups a day. Sip, donít gulp.
To keep up the
balance of good disease-fighting bacteria in the intestines,
include foods that provide probiotics such as kefir or yogurt
and prebiotics (the food for good bacteria) which include
bananas, watermelon (no seeds, please) and smooth almond
As always, seek
individualized care with a gastroenterologist (specialist in
digestive diseases) and a registered dietitian nutritionist.