Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Overview

What is inflammatory bowel disease? 

The Digestive Health Institute at Children's Hospital Colorado

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) that can affect any part of the tract from the mouth to the anus. In this disease the lining of the intestines become inflamed and develops tiny open sores called ulcers.

The combination of inflammation and ulceration can cause abdominal discomfort and bloody diarrhea. 

IBD is divided into 3 separate diseases: Crohn’s Disease (CD), ulcerative colitis (UC) and IBD undetermined (IBDU) or indeterminate colitis (IC).

While CD, UC, and IBDU are types of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), they should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a disorder that affects the muscle contractions of the colon. Chronic intestinal inflammation is not part of IBS.

What causes inflammatory bowel disease?

IBD is the result of an abnormal response by the body's immune system. Normally, the cells and proteins that make up the immune system protect from infection. In people with IBD, however, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria and other materials in the intestine as foreign or invading substances. When this happens, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the intestines to fight the “foreign invaders” but instead they produce chronic inflammation and ulcers.