What are the Causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)? Try this Natural Treatment Guide

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inflammatory bowel disease

Individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have chronic intestinal inflammation. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and excess stomach gas.

Inflammatory bowel disease shares symptoms with many other conditions, such as celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, these two diagnoses are not considered inflammatory bowel diseases.

Lifestyle strategies and natural therapies may help relieve symptoms for people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. There’s also conventional medicine to relieve the symptoms.

This tells you everything you need to know about IBD including the causes, symptoms, and how to remedy it using natural methods.

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In this article:

What are Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)?

Inflammatory bowel disease is chronic inflammation (swelling and irritation) of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is used to describe conditions that cause long-term inflammation in the digestive tract. (1, 2 )

The digestive tract comprises the:

  • mouth
  • esophagus
  • stomach
  • small intestine
  • large intestine

The digestive track is responsible for:

  • breaking down food
  • extracting nutrients
  • removing any unusable material and waste products. (3)

Swelling or irritation anywhere along the digestive tract will interfere with this normal process. IBD can be very painful and disruptive. It can even result in a life-threatening condition although the such case may be rare.

Types of IBD

Although many diseases are linked under the umbrella term IBD

The two main diseases that fall in the category of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (1)

Crohn’s disease

This type of inflammation can affect any part of the digestive tract, including the large and small intestines. The damage often happens in patches rather than affecting the entire tract.

However, inflammation can occur on multiple layers of tissue in the intestines. (4, 6)

Ulcerative colitis (UC). This involves inflammation of the large intestine but only in the digestive tract. It can lead to other non-digestive issues.

Other less common diseases also fall under the umbrella term of inflammatory bowel diseases. These include: (7)

  • Microscopic colitis
  • Behcet’s disease
  • Lymphocyte colitis
  • Collagenous colitis
  • Diverticulosis-associated colitis

Symptoms of IBD

Symptoms of IBD vary depending on the location and severity of inflammation, but they may include: (8, 9)

  • diarrhea, which occurs when affected parts of the bowel cannot reabsorb water
  • bleeding ulcers, which may cause blood to show up in the stool (a condition known as hematochezia)
  • stomach pain, cramping, and bloating due to bowel obstruction
  • weight loss and anemia, which can cause delayed physical growth or development in children

People with Crohn’s disease may also get canker sores in their mouths. Sometimes ulcers and fissures also appear around the genital area or anus.

IBD can also be associated with problems outside of the digestive system, such as:

  • eye inflammation
  • skin disorders
  • arthritis

Causes & Risk factors of IBD

Researchers are still trying to determine why some people develop IBD.

Scientists hypothesized that it may be due to a problem with the immune system. This may be triggered when your body tries to fight off bacteria or a virus in the gastrointestinal tract. Something goes wrong and your immune system doesn’t stop it keeps attacking healthy tissue.

However, several factors can increase your risk of developing Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Family history and genetics

People who have a parent, sibling, or child with IBD are at a much higher risk of developing it themselves. This is why scientists believe IBD may have a genetic component, according to one 2016 research. (10)

The immune system

The immune system may also play a role in IBD.

The immune system normally defends the body from pathogens, which are organisms that cause diseases and infections.

A bacterial or viral infection of the digestive tract can trigger an immune response. The digestive tract becomes inflamed as the body tries to create an immune response against the invaders.

In a healthy immune response, the inflammation goes away when the infection is gone.

In people with IBD, however, digestive tract inflammation can occur even when there’s no infection. The immune system attacks the body’s own cells instead. This is known as an autoimmune response. (11, 12 )

IBD can also occur when the inflammation doesn’t go away after the infection is cured. The inflammation may continue for months or even years.


Smoking is one of the main risk factors for developing Crohn’s disease. Smoking also aggravates the pain and other symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease.

It increases the risk of complications too. But Ulcerative Colitis primarily affects nonsmokers and former smokers.

However, recent observational studies show that those who have ever smoked, have an increased risk of IBD, and, current smokers, also have an increased risk of Crohn’s disease and decreased risk of ulcerative colitis.

However, the Mendelian randomization analyses of the study found little evidence that smoking affects the development of IBD. (13)


IBD is present in all populations. However, according to research, certain ethnic groups, including white people and Ashkenazi Jews, have a higher risk of developing the condition. (14)

IBD rates are also rising among Black people in the United Kingdom, especially young people, according to a 2011 study conducted by Crohn’s and Colitis UK.

The research involved young people between the ages of 16 and 24 years since IBD symptoms tend to present at a younger age in 20 to 25 percent of people. (15)


IBD can happen at any age, but in most cases, it starts before age 35. (16)

Environmental factors

People who live in urban areas and industrialized countries have a higher risk of developing IBD, according to research published in 2019. (17)

inflammatory bowel disease

Residents of industrialized countries also tend to eat more fat and processed food, which has been shown to be connected to the development of IBD, according to a 2021 study.

This study involved over 100,000 people of varying socioeconomic backgrounds across seven geographical regions around the world. (18)

IBD is also more common among people living in northern climates, where it’s often cold.

Researchers reviewing the impact of environmental factors on IBD have also found that having a sedentary lifestyle or job increases the risk of IBD. (19)

On the other hand, some studies, including a 2013 study, have shown that physical activity in the pre-illness period helped to reduce the risk of the onset of IBD. This reduction was found to be stronger for Crohn’s disease than UC. (20)


IBD tends to affect men and women equally.

According to a 2018 study, Ulcerative Colitis is generally more common among men over 45 years old than it is among women of the same age range. (21)

On the other hand, Crohn’s disease is more common among girls and women over the age of 14.


Possible complications of IBD include:

  • malnutrition with resulting weight loss
  • colorectal cancer
  • fistulas, or tunnels that go through the bowel wall, creating a hole between different parts of the digestive tract
  • intestinal rupture, which is also known as a perforation
  • bowel obstruction

In rare cases, a severe bout of IBD can make you go into shock. This can be life-threatening. Shock is usually caused by blood loss during a long, sudden episode of bloody diarrhea.

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To diagnose IBD, your doctor will first ask you questions about your family’s medical history and your bowel movements.

A physical exam may then be followed by one or more diagnostic tests.

  • Stool sample and blood test

Stool samples and blood tests can be used to look for infections and other diseases.

Blood tests can also sometimes be used to distinguish between UC and Crohn’s disease. However, blood tests alone cannot be used to diagnose IBD.

  • Barium enema

A barium enema is an X-ray exam of the colon and small intestine. In the past, this type of test was often used, but now, other tests have largely replaced it.

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy

These procedures use a camera on the end of a thin, flexible probe to look at the colon.

The camera is inserted through the anus. It allows your doctor to look for ulcers, fistulas, and other damage or abnormalities in the rectum and colon.

A colonoscopy can examine the entire length of the large intestine. A sigmoidoscopy examines only the last 20 inches of the large intestine the sigmoid colon.

During these procedures, a small sample of the tissue inside the intestine will sometimes be taken. This is called a biopsy. This sample can be examined under a microscope and used to diagnose IBD.

  • Capsule endoscopy

This test inspects the small intestine, which is much harder to examine than the large intestine. For the test, you swallow a small capsule containing a camera.

The camera takes pictures as it moves through your small intestine. Once you’ve passed the camera in your stool, the pictures can be seen on a computer.

This test is only used when other tests have failed to find the cause of Crohn’s disease symptoms.

  • Plain film or X-ray

A plain abdominal X-ray is used in emergency situations where intestinal rupture is suspected.

  • CT and MRI scans

CT scans are basically computerized X-rays. They create a more detailed image than a standard X-ray. This makes them useful for examining the small intestine. They can also detect complications of IBD.

MRIs use magnetic fields to form images of the body. Since they don’t require radiation, they’re safer than X-rays. MRIs are especially helpful in examining soft tissues and detecting fistulas.

Both CT scans and MRIs can be used to determine how IBD affects much of the intestine. (22, 23)

Conventional Treatment for IBD

There are a number of different treatments for IBD.


Anti-inflammatory drugs are the first step in IBD treatment. These drugs help decrease inflammation of the digestive tract. However, they have many side effects.

  • Corticosteroids

Glucocorticoids, a subcategory of corticosteroids, are examples of anti-inflammatory drugs used for IBD. They include:

  • budesonide (Uceris)
  • prednisone (Prednisone Intensol, Rayos)
  • prednisolone (Millipred, Prelone)
  • methylprednisolone (Medrol, Depo-Medrol)

These drugs are available in a variety of forms, including:

  • oral tablets
  • injections
  • rectal foams

They’re usually given at the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time. (24, 25 )

  • 5-ASA drugs (aminosalicylates)

5-ASA drugs (aminosalicylates) also decrease inflammation, mainly in the last part of the small intestine and in the colon.  (26, 27)

They include:

  • balsalazide (Colazal)
  • mesalamine (Apriso, Asacol HD, Canasa, Pentasa)
  • olsalazine (Dipentum), which is only available as a brand-name drug
  • sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)

In 2019, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) released treatment guidelines for adults with extensive mild to moderate UC. For this group, they strongly recommended: (28)

  • standard-dose oral mesalamine
  • diazo-bonded 5-ASA drugs, such as balsalazide and olsalazine

The AGA prefers these over low-dose mesalamine, sulfasalazine, or no treatment at all. However, the AGA also says it’s fine to take sulfasalazine, as long as you’re aware that it comes with the risk of more severe side effects.

People who do not respond to standard-dose mesalamine or diazo-bonded 5-ASA drugs should try a combination of rectal mesalamine and high-dose oral mesalamine.

  • Immunomodulators

Immunomodulators may be an effective option if corticosteroids and 5-ASA drugs aren’t enough. They prevent the immune system from attacking the bowel and causing inflammation. (29)

They include:

  • methotrexate (Otrexup, Trexall, Rasuvo)
  • azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran)
  • mercaptopurine (Purixan)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these drugs for the treatment of IBD. However, your doctor may prescribe them anyway. They refer to this as off-label drug use.


Off-label drug use simply implies when a drug that’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for one purpose is used for a different purpose that hasn’t yet been approved.

However, a doctor can still use the drug for that purpose. This is because the FDA regulates the testing and approval of drugs, but not how doctors use drugs to treat medical conditions in their patients.

So your doctor can prescribe a drug however they think is best for your care.

  • Biologics

Biologics are genetically designed drugs that may be a choice for people with moderate to severe IBD.

Some biologics block tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF is an inflammation-triggering chemical that the immune system produces.

Excess TNF in the blood is normally blocked, but in people with IBD, higher levels of TNF can lead to more inflammation. (30, 31)

TNF-alpha inhibitors include:

  • adalimumab (Humira)
  • golimumab (Simponi)
  • infliximab (Remicade)

Other biologics include:

  • certolizumab (Cimzia)
  • natalizumab (Tysabri)
  • ustekinumab (Stelara)
  • vedolizumab (Entyvio)

Biologics are not available as generic drugs. Biosimilars, which are cheaper and have been reverse-engineered to produce the same results as biologics, are available for some of these drugs, though.

In 2020, the AGA released treatment guidelines for people with moderate to severe UC. The guidelines recommend that people who’ve never tried a biologic before opt for infliximab or vedolizumab over adalimumab. Adalimumab is less effective. (32)

You can self-administer adalimumab, which may make it more convenient than the other drugs. If convenience is a concern, it’s fine to choose adalimumab instead.

Other drugs

Other drugs block separate pathways causing inflammation and include:

The UC drug tofacitinib (Xeljanz). The AGA recommends taking this oral drug only if you’ve tried taking tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) inhibitors and they aren’t successful in resolving symptoms.

However, the FDA has ruled that manufacturers of this drug class, Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, must inform JAK inhibitor users of the severe side effects including cardiac events, cancers, and blood clots.

Antibiotics. These kill bacteria in the small intestine that may trigger or aggravate the symptoms of Crohn’s. Antidiarrheal medications and laxatives. These can help keep your bowel movements regular.

Natural Remedy

 Here is the Natural Treatment Guide for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases:

1. Lifestyle choices

Lifestyle choices are the best way to manage and live comfortably with IBD without developing any serious symptoms or severe complications.

2. Stay hydrated

Drink at least two liters of water every day depending on the weather. This helps you make up for fluids lost in your stool.

3. Avoiding triggers; like dairy products and stressful situations. This can help improve symptoms and reduce flare-ups.

Pay attention to understanding how your digestive system reacts to any food you eat including fruits so you can identify the food and drinks that trigger your symptoms.

Also, consider the time you eat the food or drink to know if the time of eating is contributing to your symptoms as well.

Exercising and if you smoke, quitting smoking. These actions can help preserve your health if you have IBD.

3. Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements can help with nutritional deficiencies. For example, iron supplements can help treat anemia.

Talk with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your diet.

3. Surgery

Surgery can sometimes be necessary for people with IBD because it may help correct complications that have gone too badly.

 Some IBD surgeries include:

  • strictureplasty to widen a narrowed bowel
  • closure or removal of fistulas
  • removal of affected portions of the intestines — for people with Crohn’s disease
  • removal of the entire colon and rectum  for severe cases of UC)

Your doctor will likely recommend a routine colonoscopy to monitor for colorectal cancer since those with IBD have a higher risk of developing it. (11, 12)


You cannot prevent the hereditary causes of IBD. But you may be able to reduce your risk of developing IBD or prevent a relapse of symptoms by:

  • Make lifestyle choices as I mentioned above
  • Eating nutrient-rich foods
  • Exercising regularly
  • Quitting smoking, if you smoke

IBD can cause some discomfort, but by actively following your doctor-advised treatment plan, you can manage the disease and live a healthy, active lifestyle.

Bezzy IBD is a free community that connects you with others living with IBD through 1:1 messaging and live group chats while also providing access to expert-approved information on managing IBD.

Download the app for iPhone or Android.

You can also visit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation for resources and more information on IBD, including UC and Crohn’s disease.

It can also be helpful to talk with others who understand what you’re going through.


Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for conditions that cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine (colon). It is usually milder than Crohn’s disease but can have serious complications.

Crohn’s disease affects the entire digestive tract, including the small and large intestines, and usually causes patches of inflammation.

There is a strong need for finding the best inflammatory bowel disease diet for you. This will depend on identifying triggers and foods that soothe your symptoms and will take trial and error.

Inflammatory bowel disease cannot truly be cured, but many people with IBD achieve good control of the condition by sticking to lifestyle choices as mentioned above.

Most people have long periods of good health (remission) with occasional flares of symptoms. However, medications are often required to correct conditions that have gone bad.

But even while taking this medication you need to make lifestyle choices to identify your triggers. This can also help you achieve maximum results faster.

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