Finding a Diagnosis: Inflammatory Issues

Jul 28, 2017 by

You can have me read this article to you instead of reading it yourself…

 

 

Or you can read it the old-fashioned way below…

 


 

When the body’s immune system attacks its own gut or anything inside of it, it leads to an “inflammatory condition”.  This is the case in two of the most common chronic GI conditions.  Because inflammatory conditions can be so damaging to health and have such serious consequences, it’s very important to rule them out before self-treating any type of GI symptom.

IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)

IBD is a condition that results in real damage to the GI tract. In fact, IBD has been described as a digestive tract on fire, and the inflammation associated with this fire can lead to pain, diarrhea, bleeding, and weight loss. IBD can be limited to only one small area of the GI tract or can spread throughout the entire system; it can produce tolerable levels of discomfort or be so damaging that sections of intestine must be surgically removed.

Types of IBD

Colitis:

This involves inflammation that is limited to the colon. Some of you may have heard of ulcerative colitis, which is the type of colitis that is caused by the body attacking its own colon. Other forms of colitis include those caused by bacterial or viral infections. It presents as diarrhea, cramping and pain, bleeding or bloody stools, fever, fatigue, and a constant urge to go.

Crohn’s Disease:

This involves inflammation as a result of the body attacking the GI tract. This can occur anywhere along the GI tract, although it is most commonly found in the intestine. The symptoms seen with Crohn’s can be very similar to those with colitis, except that there is typically more pain and less blood.

What if I Think I Have This?

Unlike IBS (which we discussed here and is also covered thoroughly here), IBD can be directly diagnosed through tests, including blood draws, imaging, and biopsy of the GI tract through endoscopy or colonoscopy.

The symptoms of IBD are often quite distinctive and persistent. In fact, one of the major signs that you should request a diagnosis from a doctor is when diarrhea has been present for at least 6 weeks, accompanied by weight loss.

We talk about IBD in-depth over here, so click on over and read more if you are concerned that this might be happening for you.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease has received significant media coverage in recent years due to the focus of the national attention on a specific food component – gluten.  It is incredibly important to understand the difference between diagnosed Celiac disease and any type of gluten sensitivity.

Defining Celiac

Celiac disease is another condition in which the body attacks its own intestine, leading to extensive damage. When gluten is consumed and discovered in the intestine by the body, the body’s immune system launches an attack on the intestinal tissue. These attacks are so persistent and severe that they begin to make the intestine incapable of absorbing nutrients.

The primary GI symptoms of celiac disease are diarrhea, cramps, bloating, lactose intolerance, increased reflux, and weight loss. It’s very likely that someone with Celiac Disease will also have vitamin and mineral deficiencies, anemia (low iron in the blood), and fatigue.

There is a clear potential for overlap between the symptoms of Celiac and other GI conditions. However, in most cases, the extent to which these symptoms occur with Celiac would be considered very extreme for other conditions.  So if you feel that this might be describing you, it is important to confirm one way or the other.

Those with Celiac may experience issues with the peripheral nervous system, be at increased risk for other conditions in which the body attacks itself (autoimmune diseases), and be at an increased risk for certain types of cancer. So a firm diagnosis of the presence or absence of celiac disease is incredibly important for self-care, awareness, and access to appropriate medical care and monitoring.

What If I Think I Have This?

Celiac can be quickly diagnosed with a blood test, which leads me to a very important point:

You cannot be tested for Celiac disease unless you are currently eating gluten

To ensure that you are receiving the proper care and advice, seek a medical diagnosis of this condition prior to attempting to self-treat, which may limit your access to the best care and knowledge.  If you are concerned that the information covered here has described your symptoms, absolutely speak with your doctor about this possibility.  Please have this discussion and any tests prior to deciding to experimentally remove gluten from your diet.

If these tests are positive, most doctors will want to follow up with an endoscopy in order to confirm the presence of damage to the intestine and also to understand how severe it has become.  If you have already implemented a gluten-free diet in an effort to alter your symptoms, you CANNOT be tested for Celiac disease. You would be required to bring gluten back into your diet in order to receive a diagnosis.

I discuss gluten sensitivity and gluten-free diets, a much more popular topic these days, over here.  So if you do not think that Celiac is your problem but you are worried about a gluten sensitivity, take a look.

 

 

 

And that’s exactly where we’re headed next – food sensitivities.  Head over there if you still haven’t seen something that matches your symptoms.  If you missed it, we also talked about what happens when the GI tract stops functioning normally.

You can also skip ahead to the step-by-step guideline on how to figure out what is causing your symptoms.

Next: Food Sensitivities

Or refer back to the Unclear (or No) Diagnosis Section

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