Dubai, United Arab Emirates — More than 10 million people worldwide live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the digestive tract, but can also affect other areas of the body. Victor Chedid, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic, shares more details about IBD and tips to manage its symptoms.

People often associate IBD with bouts of diarrhea, but it is a serious and chronic condition whose other symptoms can include rectal bleeding, fatigue, weight loss and stomach and joint pain. The two main types of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

"Ulcerative colitis only impacts the colon and causes inflammation in the entire colon, while Crohn's disease can impact several parts of the digestive system, from the mouth to the anus," Dr. Chedid says.

For some people, IBD is only a mild illness. For others, it is a debilitating condition that can lead to life-threatening complications. Periods of active illness followed by periods of remission are likely.

"Some patients might develop what we call extraintestinal manifestations of their inflammatory bowel disease," Dr. Chedid says. "And these can impact organs beyond the intestines."

There is no cure for IBD. Previously, diet and stress were suspected, but now doctors know that these factors do not cause IBD, but may make it worse. One possible cause of IBD is a malfunction of the immune system. When the immune system tries to fight off an invading virus or bacterium, an atypical immune response causes the immune system to attack the cells in the digestive tract too.

Several gene mutations have been associated with IBD. Heredity also seems to play a role as IBD is more common in people who have family members with the disease.

There are medications to reduce inflammation. Also, watching what you eat can help alleviate symptoms:

Limit dairy products.
Eat small meals.
Drink plenty of liquids.
Consider multivitamins.
Talk to a dietitian.

"We have to have a focus on diets that are high in anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants, and low in foods that are processed that can be pro-inflammatory," Dr. Chedid says.

See your doctor if you experience a persistent change in your bowel habits or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of IBD.

JOURNALISTS: Dr. Chedid is available for interviews in English, Arabic and French.

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