Aging can have a negative impact over an autoimmune disease known as IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease. Aging can worsen certain ailments, however there are steps that you can take to help curtail flares as you age.
IBD is short for inflammatory bowel disease and is used to describe a collection of diseases that cause significant inflammation along the intestinal and digestive tracts. The two major illnesses known to cause inflammatory bowel tracts include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Ulcerative Colitis– This ailment, sometimes referred to as UC, mainly impacts the colon (large intestine) and results in the accumulation of sores (ulcers) in specific portions of the organ.
- Crohn’s Disease– Unlike UC, Crohn’s disease may affect any region of the digestive tract, ranging from the mouth to the colon. However, in many instances, the colon and small intestines are most impacted.
Doctors and medical researchers cannot pinpoint one specific cause. However, these members of the healthcare community believe that IBD is precipitated by immune system irregularities. The immune systems of stricken individuals experience a heightened sensitivity to certain microscopic organisms (viruses and bacteria) and other environmental irritants that trigger inflammation and other symptoms.
Physical manifestations often vary depending upon the specific inflammatory disorder, the disease’s location within the digestive tract, the condition’s severity and the afflicted person’s overall health. That said, these ailments typically produce certain common symptoms such as abdominal pain, weight loss, decreased appetite, digestive issues like constipation, gas, bloating and diarrhea and, in severe instances, bloody stools, internal bleeding, and significant damage to the impacted regions.
In many cases, IBD occurs in spurts known as flares. Flares occur periodically, often linger for a period of weeks (severe flares can last for months) and could be triggered by stress, other underlying illnesses and diet.
Correlation With Aging
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are born from inflammation. As individuals age, they might experience increased systemic inflammation because of weakening immune systems. In those with underlying inflammatory conditions like colitis or Crohn’s disease, such typical occurrences could result in potentially more serious flares. Additionally, those diagnosed later in life often experience advanced progression of these illnesses.
Ailments such as Crohn’s disease are believed to trigger early menopause in afflicted women. Menopause is a natural life cycle that usually occurs in the late 40s or early 50s. The event is characterized by a systemic decline in the production of reproductive hormones and ultimate cessation of menstrual cycles. Subjects with Crohn’s, on average, enter menopause in their early to mid-40s.
While it may be difficult if not impossible to prevent the onset of an IBD, there are steps affected people, particularly aging individuals, can take to limit the occurrence of or alleviate flareups. Potential safeguards include:
- Consuming A Healthy Diet – Every patient’s body is different and may therefore possess different sensitivities to foods. However, the consumption of a diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants (substances known for their inflammation-combating properties) and the avoidance of possible trigger items like greasy, spicy or excessively fatty foods and caustic products like alcohol and tobacco might reduce the occurrence of flares.
- Receive Frequent Medical Monitoring– Consulting with one’s doctor often could enable them to monitor the progression of the disease and potentially identify possible flare triggers.
- Reduce Exposure To Stress– Stress is an infamous trigger. While eliminating very single stressor from one’s life is impossible, those affected with IBD are strongly advised to identify and eliminate all unnecessary stress-causing people, events and activities. Furthermore, they are encouraged to find relaxing, stress-reducing hobbies such as exercising, reading or cooking.
- Adhere To Therapeutic Protocols – Those who are prescribed medications should take these drugs as directed. If a specific medication is not providing the necessary relief, patients are advised to consult with their doctors to identify other potential treatment options.