Inflammatory Bowel Disease, most commonly manifesting as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease, affects approximately 1 million Americans. It is one of over a hundred Autoimmune Illnesses, in which the body's defense forces (immune system) mistakenly attacks the body — in this case the small or large intestines.
Although standard medical therapies consist largely of steroids (prednisone), immune suppressants and modifiers (e.g., Remicade), salicylates (Asacol — a good treatment) and sometimes surgery to treat complications, the good news is that natural therapies can be very effective to both treat the cause of the inflammation and the inflammation itself.
Symptoms include persistent diarrhea, crampy abdominal pain, fever, and intermittent rectal bleeding. It is the latter two symptoms that distinguish inflammatory bowel disease from the more common (and more benign) spastic colon and irritable bowel syndrome. Most people with CFS and fibromyalgia, and much of the population, has spastic colon, and this responds well to treating bowel infections such as candida, SIBO (bacterial), and parasitic bowel infections. Inflammatory bowel disease is not always limited to the intestines, and can also affect the joints, eyes, skin, and liver.
Although Crohn's disease most commonly affects the end of the small intestine (the ileum) and the beginning of the large intestine (the colon), it may involve any part of your intestines. In ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, bowel involvement is limited to the colon. In Crohn's disease, there can be normal healthy bowel in between patches of diseased bowel. Ulcerative colitis causes a more continuous inflammation which usually begins at the anus.
Most often your physician will diagnose the problem by doing a colonoscopy (looking up your bottom with a long flexible tube) and biopsies. Blood tests can also help distinguish between Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis.
Your doctor may recommend Asacol and occasionally antibiotics, which are good medications for these illnesses and not very expensive. They may also recommend "biological modifiers" such as Remicade, which can cost over $2,000-$5,000 per injection (often netting a tidy profit for the doctor) and which only work for about two months and then need repeating. By one year it is only still effective in about 20% of cases. They are very heavily marketed to physicians because they are so profitable for both the company and the doctor. I recommend keeping these in reserve as "rescue therapies" to be saved for when all else fails (better than surgery). By using the treatments above, you may avoid the need for both the cost and toxicity of these medications — by staying healthy!