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Health Information Join Our Studies: Alternative Treatments for Irritable Bowel Disease

Irritable bowel disease (IBD) is characterized by recurring and long-lasting irritation and discomfort in the digestive tract. It can advance to bleeding sores or ulcers in the lining of the digestive tract. Unfortunately, the incidence of IBD is on the rise.

Rush has launched a research initiative to look at the impact that diet and complementary and alternative medicine can have on IBD. "We want to control flare-ups of the disease," says Ece A. Mutlu, MD, an expert in IBD and celiac disease. "Unfortunately the treatments for IBD can be somewhat toxic. That's why we're looking at how diet and stress relate to the flare-ups. It may be that if we can lower stress and get the right diet, we may be able to control the disease."

There are two main types of IBD, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which afflict approximately one million Americans. These diseases cause chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract, causing a variety of symptoms.

The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, often in the lower right area
  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding

The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding

"Both of these diseases are an autoimmune response to the bacteria or bacterial antigens inside the intestines," says Mutlu. "Basically, the immune system is having an abnormally aggressive reaction to the bacteria."

One study looking for participants is for Crohn's disease. "We're investigating whether a food supplement that contains good bacteria may help control flare-ups," says Mutlu. "We're trying to get the right mix of bacteria. Imagine making a picture with different colors. It could be terrible or harmonious depending on the composition and quantity of certain colors. We're trying to create a harmonious environment in the intestines with the right types and composition of bacteria."

Another study looking for participants is for ulcerative colitis. "We're looking at the relationship between stress and ulcerative colitis flare-ups," says Mutlu. "The study includes education about stress and training in certain stress reduction techniques." Participation in both studies includes free visits with a health care provider, as well as free lab work.

"One of the many advantages of coming to Rush is that we're looking for alternatives to IBD treatment that may have less side effects," says Mutlu. "Our hope is to find a number of solutions to controlling these debilitating diseases."

If you are interested in participating in the dietary study for Crohn's disease, please phone Susan L. Mikolaitis at (312) 563-3892. Contact Eimile Dalton at (312) 942-2845 for more information about the ulcerative colitis and stress study.

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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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