Debunking the Myths: All About Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

In this article, we address 12 ongoing misconceptions about IBD. Along with other subjects, we will explore treatments, stress, personality, and symptoms outside the digestive system.

12 misconceptions about Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a condition that affects the gastrointestinal system, causing symptoms such as abdominal cramps, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. It is estimated that in 2015, around 3 million people in the United States had IBD, and globally, it affected approximately 6.8 million people in 2017 [^1^].

Despite its prevalence, there is a considerable amount of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding IBD. To help separate fact from fiction, we have teamed up with Dr. Abhik Bhattacharya, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NY. Let’s dive into the common myths and uncover the truth behind them!

1. Myth: IBD is the same as IBS

IBD and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may sound similar, but they are actually distinct conditions. While IBS is a disorder of the interaction between the gut and brain, resulting in symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and pain, IBD is a disease of a dysregulated immune system that attacks the gastrointestinal system [^1^].

It’s important to understand the difference between the two, as the treatment for each condition varies. So, if you experience gastrointestinal symptoms, consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause.

2. Myth: Stress causes IBD

Stress does not directly cause IBD. However, it can worsen symptoms and trigger flares in some individuals. Living with a chronic illness like IBD can be stressful, but it is essential to manage stress effectively for overall well-being [^1^].

3. Myth: IBD is linked to a specific personality type

There is no scientific evidence supporting the idea that a specific personality type is linked to IBD. While some older studies have examined the relationship between personality traits and IBD, there is currently no known connection [^1^].

IBD is a complex disease influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and immunological factors. Personality traits alone do not play a significant role in its development.

4. Myth: Some people have both Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the most common forms of IBD, but they are different conditions. It is not possible for an individual to have both simultaneously. However, in rare cases, it can be challenging to determine the initial diagnosis, which becomes clearer over time [^1^].

If you suspect you have IBD, consult with a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

5. Myth: No treatments can relieve IBD

Thankfully, there are numerous treatment options available that can effectively manage IBD symptoms. Medications such as biologics (e.g., Remicade, Humira) and small molecules (e.g., Zeposia, Xeljanz) have shown great efficacy in treating IBD [^1^].

It is vital to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the most suitable treatment plan for your specific condition. New medications are constantly being developed through clinical trials, offering hope for better management of IBD.

6. Myth: Everyone with IBD needs surgery

Not everyone with IBD requires surgery. With the advancements in medication options, the need for surgery has significantly decreased over the past two decades. Early and appropriate treatment can prevent complications and reduce the likelihood of requiring surgery [^1^].

While a small percentage of individuals with ulcerative colitis may still require surgery, the goal of treatment is to preserve bowel function and avoid surgical intervention [^1^]. Regular consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial for proper disease management.

7. Myth: People should not take IBD medications during pregnancy

Contrary to popular belief, most medications used to treat IBD are safe to use during pregnancy. In fact, it is essential to keep the disease in remission during pregnancy, as active IBD can pose risks to both the baby and the mother [^1^].

Extensive research has been conducted on the safety of IBD medications during pregnancy, providing valuable data for healthcare providers. However, it is important to consult with a gastroenterologist and obstetrician to determine the most suitable treatment options during pregnancy.

8. Myth: If your symptoms go, you can stop medication

Once you achieve remission with IBD medications and your symptoms subside, it may be tempting to discontinue the medication. However, this is not recommended. Stopping medication without medical guidance can lead to a relapse of symptoms and a decreased response to future treatments [^1^].

Maintaining long-term remission and preventing disease progression often requires ongoing medication and close monitoring by a healthcare professional.

9. Myth: A gluten-free diet cures IBD

While a gluten-free diet can be beneficial for individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it does not provide a cure for IBD. IBD is a complex immune-mediated condition that cannot be eliminated simply by eliminating gluten from the diet [^1^].

It is advisable to consult with a registered dietitian or a healthcare professional who specializes in IBD to develop a personalized dietary plan that suits your specific needs.

10. Myth: IBD only affects the gut

Despite its primary impact on the gastrointestinal system, IBD can also have extraintestinal manifestations, affecting various organs such as the skin, eyes, joints, hepatopancreatobiliary system, and more [^1^].

These extraintestinal manifestations can present additional challenges in managing IBD. Understanding the potential complications of IBD can help guide comprehensive treatment approaches.

11. Myth: IBD is curable

As of now, there is no known cure for IBD. However, researchers are continually working to better understand the disease and develop more effective treatments. Progress is being made, but a cure for IBD remains a work in progress [^1^].

Stay informed about the latest research and advancements in IBD management to ensure you receive the best possible care.

12. Myth: People with IBD cannot lead a normal life

Contrary to popular belief, individuals with IBD can lead fulfilling and normal lives with proper medical management. With advancements in treatment options and appropriate lifestyle adjustments, many people with IBD achieve remission and enjoy a good quality of life [^1^].

Prominent figures across various fields, including lawyers, doctors, athletes, actors, comedians, and even political leaders like Eisenhower and Kennedy, have lived fulfilling lives while managing IBD [^1^].

If you have been diagnosed with IBD, remember that you are not alone. Support groups, healthcare professionals, and online resources can provide valuable guidance and encouragement as you navigate life with IBD.

📚 References:

  1. Medical Myths: All About IBD

🔍 Further Reading: