Debunking 10 IBD Myths
There are a lot of myths floating around about inflammatory bowel disease and I figured what better time than during Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week to clear some up!
Again, please note that I am not a doctor. All of the answers below are based on my knowledge of the disease and some external research. If any of this is incorrect, please let me know!
Myth 1: It’s all in your head.
A lot of people assume that the symptoms IBD patients are feeling are in their head or become psychosomatic. IBD patients pain is very real- suggesting that it isn’t is very hurtful to those with these diseases!
Myth 2: There is a cure.
There is no cure for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. IBD patients can go into periods of remission in which the disease is inactive but there is no cure to date.
Myth 3: IBD is genetic/hereditary.
True (kind of)
While there is no specific gene associated with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, people who have blood relatives with Crohn’s or UC are more likely to develop either disease than those without a hereditary link. However, having relatives with IBD does not guarantee that you will develop it.
Myth 4: Your first diagnosis is always right.
I wish this was true because that would make getting started on treatment so much. For many patients, first diagnosis of Crohn’s and UC symptoms is false. When Dan was going through the diagnostic process, he was originally told that he had irritable bowel syndrome. Boy was his doctor wrong. Similarly, his younger brother was diagnosed with Crohn’s and then went for a second opinion who told him it wasn’t Crohn’s.
If you are in doubt of your diagnosis, do not be afraid to seek a second opinion. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Myth 5: IBD and IBS are the same thing.
Absolutely not! IBD is a disease where as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is a short-lived disorder. IBD patients experience chronic inflammation and pain where as IBS patients does not involve active inflammation. For most people, IBS episodes do not occur daily where IBD patients experience pain and symptoms every day.
Myth 6: Don’t take Advil (ibuprofen) or Aspirin if you have IBD.
IBD patients are at more risk for bleeding in the stomach, especially after having surgery. Since Aspirin and ibuprofen both can cause bleeding in the stomach, it isn’t wise for IBD patients to take these medications.
The one thing I will never forget that Dan’s surgeon said to us was that he should never, ever take Advil again.
Myth 7: IBD is only diagnosed in children.
Another 100% FALSE
While diagnosis can occur during childhood, most IBD patients aren’t diagnosed with the disease until later in life. Dan was almost 22 when he was diagnosed. My best friend was just diagnosed at 25 years old. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 10% of Crohn’s and Colitis causes occur in individuals 18 years old and younger.
Myth 8: Certain foods can cause IBD.
While foods can contribute or exacerbate IBD symptoms, there are no foods that “cause” the disease. This is something we are often asked- if eating a certain food too much is what caused the disease. Absolutely not. The disease is caused by the body mistaking normal gut bacteria for foreign invaders and then fighting it, causing inflammation. Eating dairy, high fiber, or any other food won’t cause you to have Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
Myth 9: Having IBD means you will get colon cancer down the road.
While having IBD puts you at a higher risk of developing colon cancer or other stomach cancers, it is not a guarantee.
Some IBD patients do develop colon cancer. Therefore, it’s important, because of the higher risk, to get regular checkups for cancer (which is one of the reasons why your GI does biopsies during a colonoscopy). If you do develop it, early detection is key. But no- having Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis does not mean you will have colon cancer.
Myth 10: IBD is uncommon.
Absolutely false! I thought that at one point before I met Dan but after meeting him and him being diagnosed, I keep finding out that more and more people I know have either Crohn’s or Colitis. In fact, around 1.4 million Americans suffer from IBD and more than 5 million worldwide have the diseases.