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Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Elucidation of the Immune System’s Response

Written by Nadia Wade


For some, it is a seemingly never-ending cycle of restroom stops throughout their busy daily routine. For others, it may be quite the opposite of having trouble expelling waste from the body. Often, sufferers experience frequent abdominal pain or discomfort that may inhibit their daily routine, trouble eating, and even difficulty with significant weight gain or weight loss. In addition, according to a survey taken by the Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Center of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, many of these same individuals experience hospitalizations, anemia, and poor sleep quality. Unfortunately, these symptoms previously listed are the reality for individuals who live with IBD or Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

What exactly is IBD?

The Immune system's job is to protect the body from outside factors such as viruses, bacteria, and anything else that the body may deem harmful. In this process, the body's white blood cells spring into action to combat the body's perceived harmful invaders and keep one happy and healthy. Unfortunately, with Inflammatory bowel disease, the immune system creates an error in this protective process and often acts irrationally. IBD results from the body's immune system mistaking either or both the small intestine and large intestine for a harmful invader and enacting the white blood cells to attack itself. This attack causes inflammation within the bowels and makes it difficult for individuals with this disease to maintain homeostasis-- a stable environment within the body-- due to the hyperactivity within the digestive system that is supposed to function properly and absorb nutrients. Because of the body's abnormal attacking behavior, IBD is classified as an autoimmune disease that attacks its tissue.

Types of IBD?

There are two dominant types of IBD, Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis(UC). Though both diseases have a similar symptomatic effect on the sufferers of these diseases, there is a significant difference in the location in which inflammation occurs to classify the two. In Crohn's disease, this inflammation often occurs within the small einstein, but Crohn's has also been known to happen in several places within the digestive system. Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive system from the mouth, all the way down to the anus. The second type of IBD, Ulcerative Colitis(UC), occurs in the colon or large intestine of the digestive system.

Are There Any Known Causes?

Unfortunately, there are no known "Causes" linked explicitly to how one may develop IBD, though there are some factors that doctors have been able to distinguish as triggers. Researchers discovered that environmental factors such as stress, diet, smoking, and general living conditions had been linked to IBD development (Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine). Physicians often recommend some specific diet to manage symptoms and daily routine to combat the symptoms that come with IBD.

Way to diagnose and Possible Treatments?

IBD is often diagnosed from the way a patient is presenting--showing signs of obvious discomfort or known symptoms and through microscopic testing from blood, stool, and tissue samples taken. Patients will often undergo an endoscopy and colonoscopy for physicians to retrieve a tissue sample of the intestines to have sent off for testing and screening of this disease. After the diagnosis is complete, the next step is working towards treatment and disease management. There is management with diet and avoidance of certain foods, and there is management using medicine. Two well-known drugs used to treat this disease are infliximab and Humira, which help reduce inflammation and improve the quality of life for individuals with IBD.


As said by Atul Gawande-- a notable writer, surgeon, and health researcher-- in his novel Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, "Our ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death but a good life to the very end.". Though IBD is a complex disease to manage and diagnose, there is hope in the future for treatments and how the world views and talks about conditions whose symptoms are not commonly discussed. Many may be unfamiliar with IBD because the symptoms can be easily overlooked and dismissed as the body's response to anxiety. Diagnosis is not often reached when the symptoms are so easily overlooked until the disease effect is severe. That being said, knowledge of this IBD must be spread among the public to help spread awareness and shine a light on such a life-altering disease.


About the Author: Nadia Wade

Nadia Wade is a senior in Tennessee. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and has been on a mission to squash the stigma around this disease and spread awareness. She will be pursuing a career in medicine during her undergrad and she cannot wait for what the future holds!


Works Cited:

  1. Danese, Silvio, et al. “Inflammatory Bowel Disease: The Role of Environmental Factors.” Autoimmunity Reviews, Elsevier, 15 Apr. 2004,

  2. Gawande, Atul, author. Being Mortal : Medicine and What Matters in the End. New York :Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2014.

  3. Habibi, Farzaneh, et al. “Quality of Life in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : the Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 26 Sept. 2017,

  4. “Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Symptoms, Causes, Treatment.” WebMD, WebMD,

  5. Lennard-Jones, J.E. “Classification of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” Taylor & Francis,

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