5 Steps (and Treatment Options) to Manage IBD


man holding stomach

Are you considering talking to your doctor about your bowel problems? Have you recently had a diagnosis and are unsure how to deal with it?

An estimated 3.1 million adults in the United States are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, with up to 70,000 new diagnoses per year.

There is no cure for IBD, but managing the disease is essential to control symptoms, reduce flare-ups, and improve quality of life.

Symptoms of IBD range from mild to severe

IBD is a chronic disease that can negatively affect daily life. Symptoms and when they occur vary from person to person, depending on which part of the intestine is affected and how active the disease is.

It is important to monitor symptoms. If you feel something is wrong, listen to your body. If your symptoms do not subside after a few weeks, see your doctor. Symptoms may include:

  • rectal bleeding
  • intestinal obstruction
  • lack of energy
  • unintended weight loss
  • stomach ache
  • Changes in bowel habits

Learn more about 11 common symptoms of IBD and the difference between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

5 steps to manage IBD

1. Early detection is key. Get the correct diagnosis.

“Early and proactive approaches are key to controlling inflammation,” says Peter Manon, M.D., gastroenterologist and director of the Frederick F. Paustian Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. “The main risk of not managing lifelong chronic disease is developing complications. Successful medical therapy can control the disease, improve quality of life, and avoid hospitalization and surgery. ”

Some people with IBD have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a non-inflammatory chronic disease, that causes similar symptoms (but without rectal bleeding or bowel obstruction). IBD is not the same as IBS and is not treated in the same way. Although IBD and IBS may share certain symptoms, they are two different gastrointestinal diseases.

It is important to distinguish between these to get the right treatment for the right condition and to avoid overtreating IBS as if it were IBD.

2. Discuss appropriate treatment with your doctor.

Determines how aggressive initial treatment should be by finding out whether people are at risk of more active disease.

3. Discuss treatment options and management plans specific to you.

Questions to ask:

  • What are your signs of a flare-up (more active inflammation)?
  • How do I know if a drug is working for me?
  • How often will tests and imaging be required to monitor progress?

4. Make sure you have proper access to your doctor and stick to your appointment.

Management is essential for successful disease management. Please maintain an appointment to discuss your symptoms and management status and if any adjustments are needed. It’s common to see your doctor every one to two months while you’re working to get your IBD under control. Once your symptoms are under control and your medication is stable, you can see your doctor every 6 to 12 months.

5. Stay up-to-date on vaccinations and other health checks.

Certain viruses and illnesses can be more serious for people with IBD and those taking certain medications.

IBD treatment options

“We have more treatment options than ever before, but despite this, the incidence of complications has not changed over the years,” says Dr. Manon. “Diagnosis often occurs in the teens or 20s and is lifelong. It is estimated that about 7 in 10 people with Crohn’s disease will undergo at least one surgery within the first 20 years. Up to 10% of people with ulcerative colitis will need a colectomy.”

“With the exception of vedolizumab, there is no single IBD treatment developed specifically for ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. It specifically targets molecules on white blood cells.All other drugs are being developed for other diseases such as rheumatism and dermatology.”

New approaches and clinical trials

More recent therapeutic approaches include JAK inhibitors that act to block intracellular inflammatory signals. Another new class of drugs blocks white blood cells from leaving the lymph nodes and inhibits their involvement in intestinal inflammation.

Additional drugs that target specific molecules to reduce inflammation are currently in clinical trials.

Can IBD cause cancer?

Intestinal inflammation causes continuous cell turnover of the intestinal lining. This increases the likelihood of genetic abnormalities. Those 8 years or older after her colon-related IBD diagnosis have an increased risk of colorectal cancer (patients with ulcerative proctitis only, or less than 1/3 of her colon-related patients with Crohn’s disease involving Crohn’s disease of the small intestine can also occur. There is an increased risk of colon cancer.

The risk of cancer remains when IBD is well managed, but the risk may be lower than when it is uncontrolled. “The risk of cancer remains high compared to the average person,” added Dr. Manon. “After a period of time, the risk is high enough that we recommend an early colorectal cancer screening program.”

Does an anti-inflammatory diet reduce inflammatory bowel disease relapses?

“When you look at diets such as the Mediterranean diet and carbohydrate approaches, they often don’t seem to have a significant impact on inflammatory status,” says Dr. Manon. “But it can help improve people’s quality of life and can also benefit other aspects of their health. If you want to try a dietary change, especially consider a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you are, talk to your doctor about the potential risks first.”

In general, we recommend that you work on the following:

  • low or no sugar
  • Little or no processed food
  • A high-fiber diet from a variety of sources

Receive comprehensive care with IBD management and treatment

The Frederick F. Paustian Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease offers a comprehensive approach to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of IBD. Gastroenterologists work with colorectal surgeons, nutritionists, specialty pharmacists, insurance specialists, nurse case managers, and physician expanders to provide rapid response to acute problems.

Research scientists are also part of the team and are involved in ongoing clinical trials and translational research. We are currently accepting registrations for innovative feeding research in partnership with the Nebraska Food for Health Center on our Lincoln campus.

Need help diagnosing, treating or managing IBD? 800.922.0000 for a promise.



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