Can IBD be reversed?
This is a question we are asked every day here at Crohn’s & Colitis Dietitians.
IBD patients are understandably desperate to know whether their IBD can be cured and if they can enjoy life without debilitating symptoms.
The truth is that reversing IBD is a complicated topic, and it’s not as black and white as a simple yes or no. That’s why we’ve put together this Q&A-style blog, where we’ll be answering some of the most frequently asked questions from our patients about whether IBD can be reversed.
We hope you find it useful!
Is it possible to cure IBD?
Let’s begin with the hottest topic when it comes to asking if IBD can be reversed: can IBD be cured?
The short answer is no. Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure for either Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a chronic condition, which means it’s long-term, and in IBD’s case, it’s lifelong. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll always suffer from constant symptoms and frequent flare-ups, however, or experience the same symptoms throughout your life.
Long periods of symptom remission are possible with the right treatment and IBD management plan, and this for all intents and purposes can feel like a true reversal of your IBD. But from a clinical point of view, you will never be totally cured of Crohn’s or Colitis, and flare-ups are always possible.
The main goal of our dietitians is to help patients reach remission faster and for longer periods of time, and we know firsthand that it is 100% possible.
On the other hand, it’s important to be realistic when it comes to reversing IBD. Achievable goals and outcomes are key. For example, reducing bouts of diarrhea from fifteen times a day to two times a day. This isn’t a “cure”, but it’s a huge improvement.
While your IBD can never be completely cured, it is most definitely possible to enjoy lesser symptoms and flare-ups, and this is only what you deserve. We find that it takes an average of three to six months to see long-term, sustainable changes, depending on your personal symptoms.
IBD symptom reversal is not an overnight thing.
Are there different types of IBD remission?
Yes, there are four different types of IBD remission, which we’ll explain briefly here:
This remission is when you do not experience more serious IBD symptoms and generally feel better, but you can still have irritation symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea.
Symptom Remission means you don’t have irritation symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. It’s possible to be in clinical remission but still experience irritation symptoms, in fact this is extremely common. Keep in mind that no symptoms doesn’t always mean no inflammation.
This is when no signs of inflammation can be seen on blood or stool tests.
Endoscopic or historical remission means intestinal lining tests show no signs of inflammation. It’s different to biochemical remission and clinical remission as there are also signs of mucosal healing.
Find out more about the different forms of remission.
Will I have to take IBD medication forever?
Most likely, yes. Even if you are in a long period of remission, it is usually never recommended that you stop taking medication for Chron’s or Colitis.
A combination of different treatments is often most effective for managing IBD, including nutritional therapy and medication. Maintenance medication can help prevent flare-ups which is why it’s important to take, even if you feel better.
Common medications for IBD often include anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, and vitamins and supplements.
Many patients are worried about the side effects of weakening their immune system long-term, which is essentially what immunosuppressant drugs do. However, sometimes the risks of suppressing the immune system are lesser than the risks of leaving IBD untreated and unmanaged, and the complications this can lead to.
If you take this kind of medication long-term, your doctor should monitor you carefully, and be able to answer any questions or worries.
Is surgery always needed to treat IBD?
Surgery can be a big part of treatment and in some cases “reserving” IBD.
Whether surgery is required depends on your individual experience with IBD, and how much damage it has caused to your digestive system or colon.
Crohn’s and Colitis surgery can be a scary topic for some, and it’s not a decision that is ever taken lightly.
We like to remind patients that IBD surgery always has the aim of improving their quality of life, not making it more difficult. Many people feel much better after surgery, as it can reduce symptoms and flare-ups, and allow them to do things that they previously felt unable to do.
In extreme cases, IBD surgery can even be life-saving.
Some surgery for IBD is permanent, and some can be reversed. If you are expecting to undergo surgery for Crohn’s or Colitis, ask your doctors as many questions as you can and make sure you understand the scope and long-term implications of your surgery.
It may feel overwhelming at first, but being equipped with the right knowledge is crucial.
How do I reach IBD remission?
Your IBD remission journey will be personal to you and your individual experience with IBD.
But generally, a holistic combination of medication, nutritional support and therapy, and lifestyle factors such as stress management is the solution to reaching remission and effectively reversing the symptoms of IBD.
As specialist IBD dietitians, the nutritional aspect of IBD reversal is our area of expertise. Reducing pain, symptoms, flare-ups, and flare-up risk, improving digestive health, making sure intake is adequate, working on deficiencies and a good management plan are all factors in getting to IBD remission via nutritional therapy and support.
Whether you work with us one to one or join our extensive IBD program, we can support you in your IBD remission journey.
Book a consultation today to begin taking the steps to long-term IBD remission!