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On A Mission of Contributing to your Knowledge about Inflammatory Bowel Symptoms & Cures...

Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

No one knows for sure what causes inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Experts think that abnormal action of a person's immune system may trigger IBD. The immune system is made up of various cells and proteins . Normally, the immune system protects the body from infections caused by viruses or bacteria. Once the infection has cleared up, the immune system "shuts off."

But in people with IBD, the immune system seems to overreact to normal bacteria in the digestive tract. And once it starts working, the immune system fails to "shut off." This causes the inflammation, which damages the digestive tract and causes symptoms.

IBD runs in families. This suggests that inherited factors called genes play a role in causing IBD. Experts think that certain genes may cause the immune system to overreact in IBD.

Stress and eating certain foods do not cause IBD. But both can make IBD symptoms worse.

Can Inflammatory Bowel Disease cause other Health Problems?

Yes. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause a number of problems outside of the digestive tract.

One common problem that occurs because of loss of blood from the digestive tract is anemia. Anemia means that the amount of healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen to organs, is below normal. This can make a person feel very tired.

Other health problems include:

Some of these problems are caused by poor absorption of nutrients. Others are due to inflammation in parts of the body other than the digestive tract.

Some of these problems get better when the IBD is treated. Others must be treated separately.

How a Healthy Digestive System Works

A normal digestive system breaks down food into nutrients. Nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. The body needs nutrients for energy and to stay healthy.

The digestive tract runs from the mouth to the anus. When you eat food, it goes from your mouth, down your esophagus, and into your stomach. From there, it goes into your small intestine, where the nutrients are absorbed into your blood. Leftover water and solid waste then move down into your large intestine, where most of the water is absorbed back into the blood. Solid waste leaves the body out of the anus as a bowel movement.

How does Inflammatory Bowel Disease Interfere with Digestion?

When the small intestine becomes inflamed, as in Crohn's disease, it is less able to absorb nutrients from food. These nutrients leave the body in the bowel movement. This is one reason why people with Crohn's disease don't get enough nutrients, along with not having much appetite. Also, the undigested food that goes into the large intestine makes water absorption harder. This causes a watery bowel movement, or diarrhea.

In ulcerative colitis, the small intestine absorbs nutrients as it should. But inflammation in the large intestine keeps it from absorbing water, causing diarrhea.

Who Gets Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Although inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can occur in any group of people, it is more common among:

Smoking also seems to affect a person's risk of getting IBD. People who smoke are more likely to develop Crohn's disease but less likely to develop ulcerative colitis.

Experts think that as many as 1 million people in the United States have IBD. Most people with IBD begin to have symptoms between the ages of 15 and 30.