World IBD Day — making the invisible visible and removing the stigma around bowel diseases

Today is World IBD Day, a day dedicated to spreading awareness about Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, with the goal of improving diagnosis and increasing societal awareness of the difficulties faced by patients. The hope is that by opening up the conversation around IBDs and other gut disorders, we may mimic some of the positive progress we have seen happen for other conditions such as mental health — in lifting stigma, fear, and shame — bettering life for patients, their families and carers.

What is IBD?

What are the symptoms of IBD & what causes it?

Frequent diarrheoa — 5–30 times a day is not uncommon, and if you’ve ever had food poisoning and know how unwell and weak it can make you feel, you get an idea of how unwell IBD patients can become after weeks, months and sometimes years of experiencing this symptom.

Chronic constipation — this is less commonly seen, and is a symptom which can present as a result of inflammation of the rectum — the lower part of the gastrointestinal tract.

Fatigue — for some patients with particularly virulent disease, this can be severe enough to impact their ability to execute light tasks or even walk short distances.

Abdominal pain, nausea, and bloating — some patients don’t experience these symptoms, whereas others describe the pain they experience as ‘crippling’.

Blood and mucus in or on attempting to pass stool — this can occur as a result of damage to the GI tract due to ongoing inflammation. Blood in the stool is always a ‘red flag’ symptom and could indicate other medical conditions such as colon cancer, so if you spot this — either as fresh blood or blackish coloured bits (often described as looking like coffee grounds) — it’s imperative to see your GP for a referral to a gastroenterologist.

Extraintestinal symptoms — Although IBDs are illnesses of the GI tract, they are sometimes described as ‘systemic’ diseases. This is because the inflammation may affect other areas of the body. It’s not uncommon for IBD patients to experience joint, eye and skin issues, though extraintestinal inflammation can affect anywhere in the body.

One very important aspect, which often goes forgotten, is the mental health impact of having a lifelong illness that can be unpredictable and difficult to manage. One survey revealed that during a flare up, 80% of IBD patients suffered anxiety and 60% reported symptoms of depression.

If I think I have IBD, what should I do?

How does IBD affect the lives of patients?

Many young patients fear they may never have a ‘normal’ life, go on to find love, have a family or the career of their choice. For those of working age, career prospects can be curtailed, job security is a constant worry, and ability to be a great parent are a concern.

For all patients, embarrassment and shame is a running theme, a simple commute on a bus or train can be petrifying, and fear of eating, failing to get to the bathroom on time, and what the future holds, loom large. Managing expectations of friends and family can be difficult too, especially when often, the impact of the disease isn’t obvious.

And it’s not just patients who are affected;- parents lose around 20 working days per year in caring for their children with IBD.

How can I help a friend, family member, or colleague with IBD?

I’ve just been diagnosed, what does this mean for me & how can I get the support I need?

What treatments are available?

Are there any complementary therapies that can help?

What does the future look like for me?

About the author

She is the founder and CEO of Inessa — a leading and Amazon bestselling global supplement and wellness company, a respected clinical Nutritional Therapist and ND with a high profile client base, media contributor to premium publications, and international speaker.

Originally published at on May 19th 2020

Founder of Inessa, Nutritionist & ND, UC patient