Breaking Myths About IBD
Published: December 2, 2022
Receiving a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can be overwhelming. We find that no matter where people are in their disease journey, there are always questions and the need for help and education about the disease, treatment options, and how you can help yourself cope with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) diagnosis. There are also many assumptions that people who are unfamiliar with the disease may have about what IBD is, what causes it, and how it can be treated. During Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week (December 1 – 7), let’s break some common misconceptions about IBD:
You can have both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
You cannot have both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. There is a type of Crohn’s disease, known as Crohn’s colitis, that affects just the colon. However, having Crohn’s colitis is not the same as having both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. A person may also be diagnosed with indeterminate colitis if a clear distinction between Crohn’s and colitis cannot be made but that does not mean you have both. Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and indeterminate colitis all fall under the IBD umbrella.
IBD is caused by the foods you eat.
IBD is not caused by what you eat. Although certain foods can make symptoms worse for patients, IBD is not caused by a specific food or diet. Here is more information on diet and nutrition and IBD.
Surgery can cure IBD.
Surgery can help improve the quality of life for patients significantly, but it is not a cure for IBD. For those with ulcerative colitis, a helpful option could be to have their colon removed; however, they might still experience other symptoms as they work with their healthcare team.
IBD and IBS are the same
IBD and IBS are very different. IBD stands for inflammatory bowel disease and IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. Although they can cause similar symptoms, they are not the same thing. IBD is a chronic digestive disease whereas IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder. IBD causes inflammation and damage to the GI tract; IBS does not. Learn more here.
Only adults can get IBD.
Although it is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35, you can be diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis at any point during your life. In fact, there as many as 80,000 children in the United States living with IBD. There are plenty of resources to help you and your child manage their condition and receive any help you may need.
IBD only affects the gut.
In addition to gastrointestinal symptoms, IBD can cause issues in the joints, bones, eyes, skin, liver, and kidneys. In fact, between 25-40% of IBD patients experience such symptoms. Learn more about other complications of IBD here.
Stay informed on the latest in treatments, research, and living better with IBD through our MyIBD Learning educational program offered through in-person, virtual, and on-demand formats. Each MyIBD Learning program is created for patients and caregivers of all ages, whether you are newly diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis or have been living with the diseases for a long time. They are an excellent opportunity to learn from leading healthcare professionals, ask your questions, and engage with the IBD community. You may visit the patients and caregivers section of our website to find out about all of the educational and support resources we provide to people living with IBD and those who care for them.
Luci de Haan is the Foundation's Senior Marketing Director, Impact Communications.