Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) have become increasingly prevalent worldwide, affecting both industrialized and developing countries. This rise in incidence is closely linked to modern lifestyle and environmental factors, as well as the rapid westernization of societies. This blog post delves into the causes, symptoms, and potential consequences of chronic IBDs, shedding light on this concerning health issue.
A Disease that is Also Spreading Among Young People:
Disturbingly, chronic IBDs are now impacting a younger population, with children and adolescents being increasingly affected. In Denmark, recent data indicates that a significant proportion of Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) patients are under 20 years old. Furthermore, over the past decade in France, the number of new cases has multiplied by approximately 20 times, and the trend is echoed worldwide. The silent but steady increase of chronic IBDs among young individuals is cause for serious concern.
What Are the Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases?
While the exact cause of chronic IBDs remains unknown, researchers believe that an abnormal immune response in the intestinal mucosa to specific antigens triggers these diseases. This immune imbalance may result from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental and personal factors. Although chronic IBDs are not hereditary, there is an increased risk among relatives of affected individuals.
The following factors may contribute to the development of chronic IBDs:
- Familial predisposition
- Environnemental pollution
- Cigarette smoking
- Dietary errors
- Altered intestinal bacterial flora leading to mucosal barrier dysfunction
- Pharmacological treatments, especially antibiotics and immune-modulating drugs
- Immune system alterations
- Intense psycho-physical stress
It is important to recognize that chronic IBDs, especially when they become persistent, significantly impact an individual’s social, psychological, and financial well-being, as well as their overall quality of life.
Symptoms and Progression:
The symptoms of chronic IBDs vary depending on the individual and the underlying cause. However, there are common recurring symptoms associated with these conditions, including abdominal bloating, discomfort and pain, and diarrhoea, occasionally accompanied by blood.
Evolution of Intestinal Diseases:
The chronic and recurrent nature of IBDs increases the risk of complications. Prolonged inflammation in the intestines can pave the way for various predisposed conditions. Individuals with chronic IBDs are at an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases, particularly celiac disease. Additionally, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease patients face a higher prevalence of intestinal oncological diseases.
Studies reveal that individuals who develop chronic IBDs during childhood, especially UC and CD, are more likely to develop colorectal cancer than those in other age groups. The cumulative incidence rates of cancer are higher in patients who were diagnosed during childhood, and there is concern that neoplastic evolution is inevitable in these young patients.
The escalating incidence of chronic IBDs worldwide, coupled with their onset during childhood, their chronic nature, and the heightened risk of developing cancer, calls for greater attention to be paid to this issue. To address this problem effectively, we must collectively take action for three key reasons:
- The causes of chronic IBDs are identifiable and avoidable with relatively minor sacrifices.
- There exists a strong bidirectional relationship between the mind and intestinal diseases. Imbalances in one can impact the other, highlighting the importance of holistic health.
- Chronic intestinal inflammation hinders nutrient absorption, weakens the individual, and creates an environment conducive to the development of various chronic diseases.
By increasing awareness, advocating for lifestyle modifications, and supporting further research into chronic IBDs, we can strive towards a future where the prevalence of these debilitating diseases is reduced, and the quality of life for affected individuals is improved.
Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to addressing and preventing chronic IBDs. Let’s work together to combat this growing epidemic and promote a healthier future for all.
Health coach and Cancer Support Specialist