Inflammatory Bowel Disease (or IBD)

An estimated 600,000 people suffer from some form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (or IBD). IBD refers to inflammation of the colon, which comprises the small and large intestines, and the rectum. IBD is divided into two main types: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes ulcers (open sores) in the lining of the rectum and colon, and is usually restricted to the lower part of the colon. For unknown reasons, ulcerative colitis affects white people and those of Jewish descent more than other population groups. It affects mostly young adults between the ages of 15 and 30.

On the other hand, Crohn’s disease causes inflammation and ulcers higher up within the intestinal wall, usually affecting the small intestine (ileum). In some cases, it may also involve the mouth, esophagus, and stomach.

Evidence suggests that Inflammatory Bowel Disease is due to a dysfunction of the immune system. Initially, the immune system is overstimulated due to a foreign invader, such as bacteria (H. pylori), viruses (cytomegalovirus), or food proteins (lactose, gluten). The immune system gets turned on initially to fight these perceived foreign invaders, but then it is unable to shut off. This creates an abnormally overactive immune system that causes repeated inflammation of the colon. 
Subpages (1): The Immune System