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What is IBD?

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) are conditions with chronic inflammation of all or part of the digestive tract. This area of your body can become very red, painful, swollen and may have ulcerations (sores). It is characterized by periods of activity (called flares) and periods of no symptoms (called remission).  There are two major types of IBD: Crohn Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

What is IBD?

These are the main differences between Cronh disease and Ulcerative colitis:

Crohn Disease

Crohn's diagram_alternative_edited.jpg

Anywhere from Mouth to Anus

Skip Lesions

Extends through all layers of the intestine wall

Location of Inflammation

Patterns of Inflammation

Depth of Inflammation

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative_Colitis diagram_edited.jpg

Only large Intestine

Continuous inflammation

Affects only the surface lining of the colon

Who Gets It?

Who Gets IBD?


IBD can occur at any age.  An increasing number of kids are diagnosed in their early teen years and as young adults. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more cases in young children (less than 10 years of age)


WHY DID I GET IT? We don’t know of a single, specific cause for why people get IBD. However, we do know that there may be several contributing factors:


  1. Genetic: if you have a family history of IBD or are of a certain ethnicity, you may be at an increased risk (although most family members of people with IBD are healthy)

  2. Environmental triggers: infection, gut bacteria, or food triggers have been suggested; some of these exposures can happen many years before getting sick.

  3. Autoimmune reactions: IBD is an “autoimmune” disease where your immune system attacks your bowel for unknown reasons. Something has happened in your body to cause inflammation but your body cannot control or switch off that inflammation normally.

But most importantly- There is nothing that you did (or didn’t do) to cause this!

Symptoms of IBD
What Is an IBD Flare?

Symptoms of IBD


These are very diverse. Everyone is different. Common symptoms include: diarrhea (bloody or non-bloody), stomach pain, weight loss, decreased appetite, low energy, poor growth or delayed puberty. You might also have joint pain, rashes, pain around your bum or unexplained fevers.



What Is a Flare?


A flare is when your symptoms or blood work gets worse or when you develop new symptoms. This tells us that your inflammation in your intestine has become more active.  Sometimes people have mild flares, which can go away on their own. Other times, flares can become more severe, and you might have to take extra medications or change your medications to get your symptoms under control. However, some flares can start without you feeling much, which is why we need to monitor you closely.


Always monitor your health and be aware of any “RED FLAGS” that may be occurring.

 RED flags include:

  1. Increased stool frequency or urgency

  2. Blood in your stool

  3. Abdominal (belly) pain

  4. Having to poop at night (particularly diarrhea)

  5. Low energy or appetite

  6. Fevers, mouth sores or rashes

  7. Poor growth or not gaining weight

  8. For teenage girls, not getting you periods when you are supposed to

  9. Or any other symptom that is outside of your normal behaviour


If you notice any “RED” flags, notify your GI nurse, who will discuss your symptoms with the rest of the EPIC team. The sooner we get on top of managing your symptoms, the more likely we are to decrease the chance of you developing a full blown flare.  It is important to know your “normal” bowel activity. This includes your normal bowel frequency but also what your stool normal looks like. Below is a chart that allows you to track what your stool looks like.



Your Future


Our goal is that you go back to having a normal, healthy and active life. Currently, there is no cure for IBD. However, there are lots of excellent treatments to help manage and control the condition and almost all our patients live a normal life all the time (but typically need medications for this). You will be followed by your IBD team, which includes doctors, nurses, and dietitians, to make sure you are getting the best treatment


Generally speaking, if you don’t treat IBD, it doesn’t go away. It usually gets worse and increases your risk of needing surgery. Taking medications is the price you have to pay to get you, and keep you, well. We will start you on a treatment plan to get you into remission (we call this induction therapy). Clinical remission is when you have no symptoms and mucosal remission is when there is no inflammation in your intestine. You will then also need treatment to keep you well over time and avoid/minimize flares (we call this maintenance therapy).






























1.Canadian Digestive Disease Foundation. Retrieved July 13, 2015:

2. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Annual Report. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada. Retrieved January 2013:

3. Gut Sense. Retrieved September 21, 2015.

4: NASPGHAN: Monitoring Disease Activity in Pediatric IBD: Release Date December 15, 2009

Your Future


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