man clutching his stomach

Genetics vs. Environment: What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Today, let’s talk dirty. Once in a while, you will have trouble pooping. If it happens more often than not, it may be a symptom of a lingering gut condition. You may already have inflammatory bowel disease.

Also known as IBD, it is chronic inflammation affecting the digestive tract. Two of the most common illnesses are:

  • Ulcerative colitis (UC), which features lesions or ulcers in the intestinal lining, especially in the colon
  • Crohn’s disease, which is inflammation in any part of the digestive tract (from mouth to anus)

IBD is more common than you think. The 2015-2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that around 685,000 adults in the western states like Utah have the condition.

To diagnose IBD, gastroenterologists can perform different tests, including an endoscopy in Salt Lake City. In this procedure, the doctor will insert a flexible tube into your throat and down to the rest of the digestive tract.

This instrument comes with a camera that feeds images and videos in real-time. This way, the doctor can confirm signs of IBD quickly.

However, it also pays to know more about the condition. Is it genetic? Does food have to do with it? What other diseases can arise with IBD?

Can You Blame It on Genetics?

IBD may be a common condition in the United States, but it remains a topic even scientists still need to understand. For instance, what causes it? Can you blame it on genetics or the environment?

A 2011 study involving different family groups in Utah seemed to suggest IBD has a genetic component. They learned that families could have as high as 20-fold increased odds of developing either UC or Crohn’s disease.

The risks of having IBD were also higher among first cousins, as well as first- and second-degree relatives.

woman experiencing a stomach ache

The Role of Diet in IBD

Many studies, though, also point toward diet as a contributing factor. One of its significant effects on gut health is changing the microbiome.

The microbiome or the gut flora is a community of microorganisms that interact with one another and the host (which is your body).

In 2019 research, scientists showed that some types of food, such as added sugars, can change the composition and diversity of the microbiome. These alterations may eventually lead to symptoms or the development of IBD.

Another study, this time by the University of Alberta researchers, corroborated the relationship between food and IBD.

They further said that it could only take two days of excessive consumption of high-sugar diet to change the microbiome.

As to how this additive could increase the risk of IBD, they believe it’s because sugar can feed harmful bacteria like E. coli. It can trigger an abnormal immune response, such as inflammation.

IBD and Colon Cancer Risk

IBD doesn’t only lead to abdominal pain, changes in bowel movement, and bloating. It could also boost the odds of colorectal cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there could be over 130,000 new cases of such cancer in 2020. At least 53,000 patients will die. This cancer is one of the top three leading types of cancer in the country, excluding skin cancer.

IBD is a disease that’s not easy to manage. However, a 2018 study revealed that the incidence of colon cancer due to IBD significantly decreased over the last 30 years due to active surveillance and inflammation control.

As soon as you notice changes in your bowel movement or digestive health, visit your doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and intervention can help save your life.

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