Saturday, June 2, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) the same as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

You may have heard of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and wondered if it is the same as IBD. While often confused because their names are similar and their symptoms can seem comparable, the two are not the same.

Yes, both diseases affect the digestive tract. However, with inflammatory bowel disease, inflammation is the key characteristic. In irritable bowel syndrome it is thought that problems arise because of changes to bowel function or the way the brain senses what is going on in the bowel; inflammation does not play a role. It is possible to have IBS if you have been diagnosed with IBD. It is also possible to have just one or the other.

Is there a special diet for people with IBD?

The short answer is, “NO.” Because everyone is unique, there is no standardized “IBD Diet” that will be the solution for those who have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Beware of fad diets, new “health foods” that your friends are raving about, and do not stop eating. You need all the well-balanced nutrition that healthy foods can provide you.

Check out our booklet, “Food for Thought” for more details on what you should be doing with your diet if you have been diagnosed with IBD.

Does stress cause IBD?

Researchers do not know the cause(s) of IBD, but they DO know that stress is not one of them. Stress however, can aggravate your symptoms and possibly trigger a flare-up, in conjunction with a number of other factors.

The reverse is also true; IBD can cause stress. In other words, the presence of fatigue, gut pain, diarrhea, and sleep disturbances from having to get up during the night to go to the bathroom, can be stressful. As well, fatigue can be the result of the disease process itself and not just sleep disturbances.

Can I donate blood if I have IBD?

Having IBD does not automatically prevent you from donating blood. However, sometimes the medications that you are taking pose a problem. Contact your local blood donor clinic to find out if you are eligible to give. And remember – “It’s in you to give.”

How do I find a Gastroenterologist?

A referral to a gastroenterologist has to come from your family physician. Talk to your family physician and get a referral to a specialist who can work with you to control the symptoms of your IBD. While we do not make referrals to gastroenterologists, we've put together links to organizations that can help you find a doctor.

Where can I get help to pay for my IBD medications?

In Canada, when you are a hospital patient, the cost of your drugs is covered by provincial health plans.

However, when you are discharged, the cost of prescription medications has to be paid by you. For some, a company benefit plan may provide a subsidy. For others, a private insurance plan may cover the costs.

If you do not have a drug plan and require assistance to pay for your medications, you may be eligible for assistance from your provincial Drug Benefit Plan. Unfortunately, drug benefit assistance guidelines vary from province to province in Canada, so you need to investigate what medications are eligible in your place of residence.

Google your “provincial Drug Benefits” (e.g., Saskatchewan Drug Benefits) to find out information specific to you and your situation.

How effective is fecal transplantation as a treatment option for IBD patients?

Fecal transplantation, (also known as 'Stool transplant, 'Human probiotic infusion' and 'Stool enema'), is an experimental procedure that has not shown efficacy for the treatment of IBD  in controlled clinical trials to date.  Research is ongoing in this area. There are potential known and unknown risks associated with experimental treatment of this nature.

Is the vaccine for the H1N1 flu virus safe for people with Crohn's or colitis? Would people with IBD qualify to be included in the first administration of vaccine due to our suppressed immune systems?

The chance of contracting H1N1 flu is not increased in patients with a diagnosis of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Therefore, there won't be priority for IBD patients. However, those patients on immunosuppressant drugs (azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine, methotrexate, or anti-TNF agents) may be at increased risk. (Dr. Remo Panaccione, Director, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic and Gastroenterology Training Program and Associate Professor of medicine, at the University of Calgary, says he personally recommends the seasonal flu vaccine to his patients who are on immunosuppressant drugs.) Different jurisdictions around the world are handling this differently because there is not much knowledge in the area.

The issue surrounding the H1N1 vaccine should be discussed with your doctor, as the local regulations will differ from province to province.

Does the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC) have anything local where I can get ongoing information?

Absolutely “YES”! CCFC has local chapters across the country. Participating in the activities of your local chapter will help you learn more about IBD, and give you the chance to meet other people with similar concerns and questions. Do yourself a favour, and become a member of CCFC.

What is the GEM project?

In 2007, the CCFC was very proud to announce the launch of the Michael J. Howorth Genetics, Environmental and Microbial (GEM) project. The GEM Project, named in honour of the previous CCFC National Executive Director, is a $5.5 million research investment over six years. During this time, researchers will investigate how early genetic and environmental interactions can set the stage for events that will eventually cause Crohn’s disease.

Researchers aim to recruit up to 5,000 healthy subjects (between the ages of 6 and 35 years), identified as being at high-risk for developing IBD. High risk is defined as having a sibling or parent (“first degree relative”) with Crohn’s disease. When recruited, biographical and environmental information of these healthy subjects will be collected, baseline intestinal permeability will be measured, and stool and blood studies will be collected and stored. Researchers expect some of these at-risk subjects to develop Crohn’s disease during the follow up period. At that point, the stored biological material will be studied in parallel with matched controls from the same group of at-risk subjects to look for genetic, environmental, immunological and microbial features which may explain onset of symptoms.

I want to make a difference. How do I enroll in the GEM Project?

Please click here to quickly find out more information about the GEM Project and whether or not you fit the criteria for the research study. Thank you for your interest.

What is the purpose of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada?

We are so glad you asked! CCFC’s Mission is to “Find the Cure”. We are dedicated to raising money for research into the cause of IBD – and we know that the cure will be found. In the pursuit of that cure, we also know that medical treatments will be discovered that will alleviate the suffering and pain that IBD patients experience.

CCFC is also dedicated to helping people learn about their disease. Through our website, patient information booklets, our magazine “the Journal” and education events, we are there to support you in your journey of discovery about inflammatory bowel disease.

Join with us and together, we will find the cure for IBD.

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