Signs that Your Teenager May Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe several chronic diseases, such as ulceration and inflammation of the small intestine and colon. The most common IBDs are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is the inflammation of the walls of the colon and rectum; while Crohn’s disease is the inflammation of the entire digestive tract.


Inflammatory bowel disease has several signs and symptoms. The common symptoms of IBD include abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, diarrhea, rectal bleeding and vomiting. However, there are less common symptoms found in teenagers. Teenagers with IBD may feel tired, naseous and lethargic.


Inflammatory bowel disease is prevalent among children and teenagers. According to a survey conducted by Edinburgh University, 76% of children in Scotland are suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, and more children are affected each year. IBD is commonly untreated among children and teenagers because they are embarrassed to tell their parents about their bowel problems.


According to Professor David Wilson of the University of Edinburgh, pediatric gastroenterologists report that there is a steady increase of teenagers with IBD. Also, the age of onset of symptoms is much earlier among children and early teens compared to adults. Crohn’s disease is usually diagnosed in people aging from 15 to 29 years old; while ulcerative colitis is more common among people in their 30s and older.


Jack Satsangi, a professor  of gastroenterology at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, said that there is a link between IBD and the genetics of an individual. A person with IBD may have a defective NOD2. NOD2 is the gene responsible for the body’s response to intestinal flora and an appropriate response can lead to IBD.


However, genes cannot solely explain the cause of IBD among teenagers and children. Environmental factors, such as infections, gut bacteria and vitamin D deficiency, may also lead to inflammatory bowel disorder.  A study also suggests that milk fats found in processed foods can lead to abnormal growth of gut bacteria and cause inflammation.


Inflammatory bowel disease is not life threatening; however, treatment and remedies are important. The treatment of IBD depends on its form; Crohn’s disease is treated differently from ulcerative colitis. Treatment also varies depending on the severity of the disease. For example, anti-inflammatory steroids may be taken to control the symptoms of the disease. Another common medication given to people with IBD is mesalazine. For severe cases of IBD, patients may need to undergo surgery, like bowel resection, colostomy and strictureplasty.


Inflammatory bowel disease has several causes, making it hard to prevent. However, having a healthy lifestyle, in a way, can lessen the risk of having IBD. It is recommended that an individual with IBD should lessen dairy intake and opt for low-fat foods. Dairy and fatty foods can increase the presence of bacteria in the gut. Experimenting with the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fiber intake can also help lessen or prevent inflammatory bowel disease. It can also help to avoid eating “gassy” foods. Stress and fatigue can worsen the symptoms of IBD, so it is important to get enough sleep.