These diseases can cause a lot of pain, and many of them cannot be cured. IBDs like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease lead to digestive tract inflammation, which can cause bloody stool, weight loss, abdominal pains and chronic diarrhea. Sufferers often experience alternating periods of flare-ups and symptom-free spells. IBD can adversely affect the body’s ability to absorb various nutrients, putting patients in danger of malnutrition.
A recent study that analyzed data taken throughout Canada uncovered an increase of 7.2 percent per year of IBD among children aged five and younger in the period between 1999 and 2010.
The researchers point to a number of factors that could be behind this sobering statistic. While genetics can play a role, many feel that low levels of Vitamin D and the environment are also to blame.
Pediatric Gastroenterologist Dr. Eric Benchimol said doctors are seeing more young patients than ever before with IBD. He thinks that the depletion of good bacteria in one’s digestive tract also plays a role.
He stated: “By not exposing immune systems to certain types of bacteria, the gut is not being able to be populated with a normal healthy composition of good and bad bacteria.”
Current treatments far from ideal
IBD cannot be cured, and many of the current treatments leave a lot to be desired. Surgical removal of the colon is extreme and does not even always cure the condition completely. While some people turn to medications to manage it, these carry their own side effects. One class of drugs commonly used to treat the condition, thiopurines, were linked with a sevenfold increase in the risk of bone marrow and blood diseases.
Almost 250,000 Canadians are currently living with IBD, and around 30 new cases are diagnosed each day in the country. In the U.S., around 1.4 million Americans are affected by IBD.
Canada is not the only place where pediatric IBD cases are on the rise. France is also noting a spike in children with these illnesses, and French doctors find the high numbers very worrying.
Lifestyle changes can help
While there isn’t a precise and complete cure for the condition, making some lifestyle changes can help alleviate some of the disease’s most unpleasant symptoms, like cramping and diarrhea.
A study out of Baylor College of Medicine that reviewed 19 different studies discovered that people who had the highest intake of dietary fiber and fruit were the least likely to end up developing Crohn’s disease, while those who were the most prone to it had the highest intake of meat and omega-6 fatty acids. When it comes to ulcerative colitis, higher vegetable consumption appeared to reduce the risk, while fat consumption raised it.
A different study, this one out of Osaka University, found that people suffering from these illnesses had lower levels of vitamin D in their blood, as well a vitamin K.
Research shows that people who avoid saturated fats and sugars and increase their fruit and vegetable intake can note improved symptoms of IBD, and those who adhere to these changes can even sometimes experience remission from the disease. Vitamin B6 and Vitamin D have also been linked to relief from symptoms.