10 myths about inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease is often surrounded by various myths and data with little scientific validity. Discover 10 misconceptions about IBD.

Last update: February 22, 2022

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of disorders of the digestive tract characterized by cramps, diarrhea and blood in the stool. Despite having a high worldwide prevalence, it is surrounded by a large amount of erroneous data. We tell you 10 myths about inflammatory bowel disease.

IBD includes ulcerative colitis (UC), Crohn’s disease (CD), and indeterminate colitis. Studies estimate an annual prevalence of 40 cases of UC per 100,000 inhabitants and 20 to 40 cases of CD per 100,000 inhabitants. Fortunately, timely diagnosis and treatment determine a better quality of life.

There are various myths about the symptoms, treatment and evolution of inflammatory bowel disease. Most of these confounds are the result of unreliable studies or popular knowledge passed down from ancient times.

Some of the most common IBD myths are as follows.

1. IBD is caused by excessive stress

Stress is a condition associated with high blood pressure, as well as various diseases mediated by the immune and endocrine systems. However, it has been shown that this is not responsible for causing IBD. On the other hand, stress can promote outbreaks and intensify the symptoms of the pathology.

This is the reason why many people tend to associate stress as a direct trigger for this condition. In this sense, professionals recommend practicing meditation exercises and sports activities.

2. Certain personalities increase the risk of IBD

In ancient times, IBD was thought to be included in a group of diseases linked to euphoric and aggressive personalities. Nevertheless, the underlying cause is of genetic and biological origin, but not emotional.

It has been shown that psychoanalysis sessions could delay the start of appropriate treatment and worsen UC cases. Therefore, before starting any therapeutic plan, it is advisable to consult a specialist doctor.

IBD is not a psychological pathology.

3. There is nothing I can do to treat and relieve IBD

It is true that IBD does not have a definitive cure. But it is possible to follow an adequate treatment to remit the symptoms.

There are a large number of therapeutic options, depending on the severity of the condition. Treatments can range from dietary changes, biologic drugs, and immunosuppressive therapies to surgical procedures.

4. It is possible to have ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease at the same time

UC and CD are conditions that debut with similar intestinal symptoms in up to 40% of cases, according to some research. However, are very different conditions from the point of view of the damage they generate in the intestinal mucosa and the type of long-term complications.

On the other hand, there is a small group of people with IBD in whom the differential diagnosis between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is difficult. In these cases, we speak of indeterminate colitis and not of a superposition of both.

5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the same thing as IBD

IBS is a fairly common condition. It is the result of an abnormal interaction between the brain and the intestinal wall. It presents with diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal pain. This could explain the confusion.

However, IBD is a pathology associated with a malfunction of the immune system that causes damage to the intestinal walls. This fact promotes the appearance of blood in the stool, colic, diarrhea, weight loss and fatigue. Despite their similarity, IBS and IBD are not the same condition.

6. All people with IBD require surgery

In the past, most people with IBD were referred for surgery to relieve the disease. Currently not all patients should be operated on. This is thanks to immunosuppressive therapies.

The therapeutic goal is to prevent the patient from requiring a surgical procedure, due to the high risk of complications. However, surgery remains the method of choice when it does not improve with other measures or to reduce the probability of developing colon cancer.

7. Medicines cannot be consumed during pregnancy

Special attention should be paid to the consumption of medications during pregnancy. Most of the drugs used to treat IBD are safe to control dangerous outbreaks in pregnancy.

Professionals recommend consulting a doctor to create an effective treatment plan without risks for the baby’s development. One of the most common pharmacological contraindications in pregnancy is the administration of methotrexate.

8. It is possible to abandon treatment when symptoms improve

It is common for IBD symptoms to subside and disappear after following medical indications in detail. However, discontinuation of treatment increases the risk of recurrence and could even worsen the course of the disease.

Sometimes, therapeutic abandonment can favor drug resistance, so that the disease would no longer respond to the drug. For this reason, it is recommended to continue taking what is prescribed, even if you no longer have any symptoms.

Drugs for IBD cannot be stopped. It is a chronic treatment.

9. A gluten-free diet must be maintained for life

Gluten-free diets are useful for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, this is not the case for all patients with IBD.

In fact, avoiding some foods could have serious nutritional consequences. Therefore, before making changes in the diet, you should consult a nutritionist.

10. IBD only involves the walls of the intestine

In most cases, people consider that IBD only affects the mucosa and walls of the small intestine and colon. However, This pathology can spread and compromise other organs and tissues.

Crohn’s disease can affect the entire digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Similarly, studies associate IBD with a wide variety of extraintestinal manifestations in the eyes, skin, joints, kidneys, liver, gallbladder, and lungs.

Despite the diagnosis, it is possible to lead a normal life

One of the most common myths about inflammatory bowel disease is that you can’t lead a normal lifestyle. This is false.

With proper medical management and some adjustments in habits it is possible to continue carrying out our daily activities without any problem. If in doubt, consult your trusted doctor.

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