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Common Digestive Diseases

CROHN’S & ULCERATIVE COLITIS

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). 

COELIAC DISEASE

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts abnormally in response to the ingestion of gluten.

DIVERTICULITIS

Diverticulitis is an infection found in your large intestine (colon).

WHAT IS CROHN’S & ULCERATIVE COLITIS?

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). In Crohn’s disease, inflammation can spread from the mouth to the anus while in ulcerative colitis, it only affects the colon and rectum. The inflammation affects the body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste, in a healthy way.

Common symptoms of Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis

  • Abdominal pain and diarrhoea
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Feeling generally unwell. Some people may have a raised temperature and feel feverish.
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Anaemia (if you are losing blood, eating less, or inability to absorb the nutrients from the foods)
    Test for Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis

    A series of tests is needed to diagnose Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, these can include the following.

    • Blood test
    • Stool sample
    • Endoscopy
    • Biopsy

    Complications of Crohn’s Disease

    Crohn’s Disease presents differently between individuals. Even if symptoms are more mild, it is still important to address them. It has been shown that if left untreated, the following complications of Crohn’s Disease may occur:

    there is an elevated risk of developing an abscess in the abdominal or perianal area (around the anus). An abscess is a pocket of pus caused by infection and inflammation.

    for example, from narrowing of the intestine due to scar tissue in the intestine, or due to adhesions. A blockage can cause vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, or diarrhoea and may need surgery to treat.

    A fistula is where inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease or Colitis, causes ulcers which extend through the bowel wall and cause a tunnel between parts of the intestine or nearby organs or through to the skin. Many types of fistulas require surgery to resolve.

    People with Crohn’s or Colitis have an elevated risk of developing colon cancer. The longer the disease is untreated the greater the risk.

    In particular, low iron or low vitamin B12 can cause anaemia, and greater inflammation can impact how well nutrients are absorbed.

    WHAT IS COELIAC DISEASE

    Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts abnormally in response to the ingestion of gluten.

    Common symptoms of coeliac disease

    • Severe or occasional diarrhoea and/or constipation
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Stomach pain, cramping or bloating
    • Any combination of iron, Vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency
    • Anaemia
    • Fatigue
    • Sudden or unexpected weight loss

    Test for coeliac disease

    1. Have a blood test done to check for antibodies (IgA & tTG) as these can indicate coeliac disease. It is important not to remove gluten from your diet at least 6 weeks prior to testing. It is possible to have a negative test and yet still have coeliac disease. If you have ongoing symptoms, test for IgA deficiency.
    2. Gut biopsy: if you have a positive blood test for coeliac disease, you will be referred to a gut specialist. Do not remove gluten from your diet yet as this test will confirm whether or not you have coeliac disease.

    Some people may not experience any symptoms at all, and if left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems.

    Where do I find gluten?

    Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.

    What are the Risks of Untreated Coeliac Disease?

    Some people with coeliac disease to not have severe symptoms. However, it is still important to avoid gluten as damage to the gut will still occur with exposure to gluten, even in small amounts.

    Over time, untreated coeliac disease can cause skin rashes (dermatitis herpetiformis), nutrient deficiencies including anaemia, or deficiency of calcium which will weaken bones (osteoporosis). Other complications include dental problems, neuropathy, fertility issues, internal hemorrhaging, pancreatic disease, increased risk of cancer of the small bowel and gall bladder, or liver and spleen disorders.

    WHAT IS DIVERTICULITIS

    Diverticulitis is an infection found in your large intestine (colon). These are small outgrowths, like small, ball-like “pockets” located in different parts of the large intestine.

    Common symptoms of diverticulitis

    • Severe tummy pain, usually in your lower left side
    • Constipation and/ or diarrhoea, or both
    • Blood in your stools
    • Fever

    Test for diverticulitis

    • Colonoscopy
    • CT Scan

    Manage diverticulitis symptoms with diet

    Mild diverticulitis is treated with antibiotics and a liquid-only diet to help your colon heal.

    A diet high in fibre and a healthy lifestyle will help you lower the risk of developing diverticulitis. Speak to our digestive dietitian specialist today to help you manage diverticulitis or to assess your symptoms if you are unsure of your condition.

    Dangers of Untreated Diverticulitis

    Treating mild diverticulitis effectively should prevent serious long term health effects. In more severe cases of diverticulitis, the colon can perforate. If left untreated this perforation can progress and may result in sepsis which can lead to organ failure and in many cases, death. It is important to get a timely and accurate diagnosis of your diverticulitis and treat accordingly.

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