Things You Wish Your Friends Knew About IBD

If You Love Someone With IBD, Here Are the Things They Want You to Know

People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have a strong sense of community. Some may feel that people who don't have IBD can't really understand what it's like to live with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Whether or not that's true, people with IBD are often tasked with educating family, friends, and coworkers about their disease. While most people are happy to talk and educate about these poorly understood diseases, sometimes the assumptions and myths about IBD in the public consciousness can be frustrating. Here are some of the aspects of IBD that people who live with these diseases often wish they didn't have to explain.

Boiling Kettle
Do you feel stressed out? It's no wonder, if you have a chronic illness. The important thing to remember is that you didn't give yourself an illness by being stressed. Image © Lise Gagne / Getty Images

Many people still erroneously believe that stress causes IBD. In some cases, people with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis may have been diagnosed during a stressful time in their lives, but that certainly does not mean that the stress caused the IBD. It might only mean that the stress caused the IBD to start exhibiting more severe symptoms. IBD is in our genes, and so far we don't know how to prevent it, and we don't know the exact cause.


Hamburger And Fries
When the topic of IBD comes up, a discussion of diet is often not far behind. There is some evidence that diet could increase the risk of IBD. Image © Lars Ruecker / Getty Images

Still other people believe that IBD could be caused by eating the "wrong" food or diet. Many people with IBD talk about how their diet is often under intense scrutiny, or even criticized. Of course, healthful eating is important to everyone, but it has not been shown that eating processed foods or "junk foods" or any other type of food leads to developing IBD. We still don't know what causes IBD.


Young people and teens are one of the groups that are more at risk for developing IBD. Image © Matthias Tunger / Getty Images

Unfortunately, IBD is not a rare disease. Many people say they have not heard of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis until they or someone they are close to were diagnosed, but this may be largely due to a lack of public awareness about IBD. In fact, it's estimated that 1 in 200 people have a form of IBD. Some people with IBD are uncomfortable talking about their disease, for many valid reasons, so you may even know people with IBD and be unaware of it.


Polyp Removal
People with IBD at at an increased risk of developing cancer of the colon and rectum. Image © SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI / Getty Images

It's true—diarrhea is a major symptom of IBD and it can be one of the most troubling to people who are trying to go about their lives at work and at school. However, diarrhea is not the only symptom of IBD. IBD also brings fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition, not to mention potentially serious complications such as bone loss, fistulas, fissures, arthritis, and liver disease. These complications can be difficult to live with and could even lead to long hospitalizations and disability.


Toilet Paper Roll
You will be spending a fair amount of time on the toilet. Make sure you have proper supplies such as wet wipes, toilet paper, and a magazine. Photo © S S

Popular culture abounds with "bathroom humor" and often people with diarrhea or other digestive symptoms become the focus of jokes. People with IBD often have a sense of humor about themselves and their disease, but there is a limit. People with IBD would appreciate being treated with compassion and respect when it comes to the more embarrassing aspects of digestive disease.


Exhausted Woman
Getting out of bed and carrying on the business of the day can be a real challenge for people with IBD. Image © Alex and Laila / Stone / Getty Images

People with IBD are often accused of being lazy or "faking" their illness. It's often because these diseases don't necessarily leave a person "looking sick." Someone with IBD may look relatively healthy but in fact may be dealing with extreme fatigue from anemia, lack of sleep, or as a side effect of medications. Getting more sleep won't necessarily help this kind of fatigue. What does help is friends who understand that breaking social engagements or not being available for a night out isn't by choice, but is instead due to the exhaustion.


We Love Our Friends—We're Just Sick A Lot

Everybody needs friends, and people with IBD are no exception. We all need good friends in our lives, and people with IBD are some of the most loyal and caring people you will ever meet. If you take some time to understand what we're dealing with, your relationship with a person who has IBD will be so rewarding.