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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)


 What is IBD?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) describes two conditions that cause gastrointestinal (GI) tract inflammation: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease can involve any part of the GI tract, from mouth to anus, while ulcerative colitis only affects the colon (large intestine).

Causes of IBD

It’s not clear what causes IBD. The condition results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.  In people with IBD, the immune system overreacts to certain environmental agents (viruses or bacteria), producing inflammation.

Having a first-degree relative with IBD can make you five times more likely to develop the condition. Other contributing factors may include:

  • A diet rich in saturated fats and processed meats.
  • Certain medications.
  • Changes in gut microbiota (microorganisms that live in your gut).

Racial Disparities in IBD

Historically, IBD has been thought to affect White people primarily. However, the diagnosis in other ethnicities is becoming more common in recent years. One study conducted in the USA showed that the incidence of IBD increased by 39% for Whites between 1970 and 2010. The incidence for nonwhites increased by 134% in the same period.

Experts believe that the disease has been underdiagnosed in Black people. This means a longer period of untreated inflammation, and a higher risk of developing complications such as infections and bowel cancer.

Pay Attention to the Signs

Fortunately, IBD is a treatable condition. Talk to your doctor if you notice the following signs:

  • Blood in your feces
  • Urgency and increased frequency of bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Additional IBD resources and references

  • Flynn, S., & Eisenstein, S. (2019). Inflammatory bowel disease presentation and diagnosis. Surgical Clinics, 99(6), 1051-1062.
  • Barnes, E. L., Nowell, W. B., Venkatachalam, S., Dobes, A., & Kappelman, M. D. (2022). Racial and ethnic distribution of inflammatory bowel disease in the United States. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 28(7), 983-987.
  • Aniwan, S., Harmsen, W. S., Tremaine, W. J., & Loftus Jr, E. V. (2019). Incidence of inflammatory bowel disease by race and ethnicity in a population-based inception cohort from 1970 through 2010. Therapeutic advances in gastroenterology, 12, 1756284819827692.
  • Is IBD an underrecognized health problem in minority groups?  Harvard Health Publishing, 2021.

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