You never knew when your abdominal pain and cramping was going to hit. You also had diarrhea, fatigue and blood in your stool. Your weight is decreasing day by day – and you weren’t even trying. This was not the stomach flu, but what was it? You had all the classic signs of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD — it was time to see a doctor to know for sure.
Washington University gastroenterologist Anas Gremida, MD, explains, “Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that cause chronic inflammation of the digestive tract”. The most commonly known conditions are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While ulcerative colitis is exclusively confined to the colon, Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract.
Symptoms related to IBD are nonspecific and can mimic many GI conditions therefore it is important to seek medical attention if your symptoms last for more than few days. Some of the commonly presenting symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea, urgent bowel movements, blood in the stool, constipation, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weight loss.
Patients with IBD can experience serious complications if their disease was not diagnosed and treated early such as malnutrition, bowel obstruction, fistulas in Crohn’s disease, and colon cancer.
Dr. Gremida knows that the condition can be isolating. Patients always worry about flare-ups, and often feel they have to stay at home or keep close to a restroom at all times. He knows they are sometimes embarrassed to talk to a doctor – but they shouldn’t be afraid to speak up, because they are not alone – as many as three million Americans have IBD. He and the Washington University team of gastroenterologists understand the psychological and social impact of IBD can be just as tough to handle as the physical ones.
Dr. Gremida adds, “We create a personalized treatment plan for our patients. It includes medications, diet and lifestyle changes to keep symptoms under control. We know that living with IBD can take a toll on the mental health and emotional well-being of our patients, we offer our patients the support of a GI psychologist to help them cope with the disease.”
There is no standard treatment that will work for all patients. Every patient is different and the treatment is customized according to each patient’s situation. There are different categories of medications that are commonly used to manage IBD. These medications differ in their mechanism of action, mode of administration and safety profile. These medications include anti-inflammatory aminosalicylates (such as mesalamines), antibiotics, steroids, biologics and immunomodulators. Aside from that, there are also non-prescription supportive medications that are used frequently such as anti-diarrheals, pain medications and vitamins.
Diet is a crucial part of the treatment plan. It’s not always easy knowing what foods are best for Crohn’s or colitis, and there is no single diet that works for everyone. Patients should work with their doctor and IBD dietitian to develop a personalized meal plan that best fits their body. Useful dietary tips recommended for most patients with IBD include: drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated, using simple cooking techniques such as baking, boiling, steaming and poaching. Avoid fast and processed food and keep journal of what foods may exacerbate your symptoms.
For more information on IBD, or to make an appointment with one of our IBD specialists, please call 314-747-IBD6 (4236).
Center for Advanced Medicine
4921 Parkview Place, Suite 8C
St. Louis, MO 63110