Monday, February 19, 2007

Colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Explained Based on Presence or Absence of Inflammation

In reflecting on how I can help empower people to understand what is going on in their bodies, make changes to achieve better health and be more effective advocates for themselves when dealing with doctors I realized I may need to define some terms more clearly. So, this post will briefly introduce the definition of inflammation and how its presence or absence separates colitis from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS. However, these distinctions may not be valid on the ultra structural level or in the role of food proteins and altered gut bacteria and yeast in causation.

Colitis defined: Colitis is inflammation of the colon, also known as the large bowel or large intestine. Colitis can be acute or chronic. There are known causes of colitis and some forms of chronic forms of colitis that are of unknown cause. Colitis can be visually recognizable during scope examination of the colon or may be only found under biopsy examination of the lining or microscopic colitis.

Inflammation defined: Inflammation is the body’s response to infection and or injury. At times the body suspects it is under attack and responds by triggering the movement of infection fighting white blood cells to release antibodies and chemicals. These are intended to fight infection but can result in irritation or self-injury of the body. Inflammation of a body area is labeled by adding the suffix “-itis” to the body part. Therefore appendicitis is an inflamed appendix. Recognized since ancient times, inflammation has been classically described by the presence of signs and symptoms of redness (rubor), pain (dolor), heat (calor), swelling (tumor) and impairment of the function of the involved organ or tissue. If you have arthritis, joint inflammation, the joint is red, swollen, painful, warm and doesn’t want to function.

The difference between Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and colitis explained: By definition IBS has no colon inflammation and therefore there is no redness, swelling or ulceration of the colon lining. As a result IBS does not result in bloody diarrhea, microscopic blood or white blood cells (pus cells) in the stool though mucus may appear in the stool. This is the origin of an old fashioned term for IBS, mucus colitis, that is an inaccurate label, and should be avoided. The presence of significant pain and abdominal cramps in IBS also is the origin of the old term spastic colitis that similarly is inaccurate and avoided. Biopsies of colon tissue in irritable bowel syndrome are normal and do not show signs of inflammation therefore it is not considered an inflammatory bowel disorder.

New studies indicating IBS may involve intestinal inflammation, leaky gut and altered gut microbes: There are newer studies however that indicate IBS may be linked to ultra structural defects in the tight junctions of the intestinal lining cells affecting permeability as well as altered bowel microorganisms or gut flora (bacteria and yeast). Hopefully, this information will help my readers. I encourage you to read more on my website and my online articles as well review my earlier posts on the Food Doc Journal.

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