Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a global disease with accelerating incidence in newly industrialised countries, with an estimated >5million sufferers worldwide.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which begins at the mouth and extends through the stomach and intestines to the anus.

There are two forms, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease, collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal or GI tract but most commonly affects the small intestine and the start of the colon. Crohn’s Disease can cause patches of inflammation that damage multiple layers of the GI tract wall. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation of the colon and the rectum and unlike Crohn’s Disease, it causes continuous areas of inflammation that only affect the innermost layer of the colon wall.

Patients experience abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, blood and mucus in the stool, loss of appetite, weight loss, tiredness, fatigue and persistent diarrhoea.

It is a long-term condition with no cure. The condition is becoming more prevalent, more severe and more complex and are being diagnosed in more and more very young patients.

The causes of IBD are not yet fully understood, but the medical community believe that it occurs due to a problem with the immune system and genetically determined factors do appear to contribute to IBD susceptibility as IBD can run in families.

According to Crohn’s and Colitis Australia1,

  • 20-25% of people with IBD have another family member with IBD.
  • IBD is usually diagnosed in young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.
  • IBD is equally as common in males and females, and is present in most populations across the world, to varying degrees.

IBD and IBS significantly impact the lives of people suffering from either condition, often affecting all aspects of their daily existence. They are living a life blighted by continual pain and cramping, extreme bloating, and alternating constipation and diarrhoea. Patients must consider and carefully plan every journey outside their homes, ensuring there is always a bathroom within easy access.

IBD is a chronic condition, however symptoms may wane and wax depending on the degree of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. When inflammation is severe, the disease is in an active stage, however when inflammation has diminished, symptoms may disappear altogether, and the disease is considered to be in remission. For most people with IBD, the usual course of disease involves periods of remission interspersed with occasional flare-ups.

Treatment involves suppressing inflammation, with the goal of inducing and maintaining remission. Current pharmaceutical treatments have high failure rates and severe side-effects , leading over 30-50% of IBD patients to turn to complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs), in the hope of effectively managing their disorder.

While the personal impact is unmistakeable, there is also a significant effect on the wider community. There is a substantial economic impact on society with the total annual financial burden of IBD in the US-alone of an estimated $15-$32 billion in 2014.

1 For further information on IBD, visit Crohn’s and Colitis Australia – www.crohnsandcolitis.com.au