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American Family Children's Hospital

Myths about Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

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(608) 890-5000


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Multidisciplinary Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic

Frequently Asked Questions

Myth: IBD is caused by too much stress.

Facts: Stress does not cause IBD. However, stress can increase symptoms and lead to a flare. Having ways to manage stress is an important component of keeping your IBD under control. Examples of this include exercise and mindfulness.


Myth: I have IBD because I eat too much junk food.

Facts: Eating too much junk food or having a "bad diet" does not cause IBD. There are some foods which may increase symptoms and make you feel worse. It is a good idea to keep track of what you eat and determine if any foods trigger specific symptoms for you. Symptom tracking tools can help you do this.


Myth: Everyone with IBD ends up with surgery and a stoma eventually.

Facts: Some patients have surgery because their symptoms are no longer responding to treatment or they experience complications that are better treated with surgery than with medications. Some patients may need surgery to decrease the possibility of developing colon cancer. Sometimes stomas, which are an opening where the intestine empties into an external bag, need to be created. Not all patients with IBD undergo surgery. Even those who do need an operation may not need to have a stoma placed.


Myth: A little bit of bleeding with my stools is ok because I have IBD.

Facts: Bleeding is never okay even if it is only a small amount. Bleeding with stools is often a sign of active inflammation or other complication such as an anal fissure or hemorrhoid. Tell your doctor if you see blood in your stools.


Myth: Taking herbs, vitamins and probiotics will help improve my IBD symptoms.

Facts: Many claims have been made about herbal supplements improving IBD. While some supplements may be helpful in a small percentage of patients with IBD, others are not and could even increase the risk for complications, such as bleeding. Always talk to your doctor before starting an herbal supplement. Extra vitamins may be recommended by your doctor for specific reasons. For example, an iron supplement or B vitamins may be suggested. Prebiotics and probiotics are frequently advertised in the media for relief of bowel symptoms. If you have any questions about specific probiotics, talk to your doctor.


Myth: I cannot take my IBD medications if I get pregnant.

Facts: There are a few medications that cannot be taken while pregnant. However, many of them can and should be taken during pregnancy to prevent a dangerous flare. Be sure to discuss your plans to get pregnant early on with your doctor so that they can review your medication list, evaluate your disease activity and make sure your nutrition is optimized before you get pregnant.


Myth: I won't be able to breastfeed my baby.

Facts: Many of the medications used to treat IBD can be taken during breastfeeding.


Myth: All my children will get IBD because I have it.

Facts: If one or both parents have IBD, there is an increased risk of developing IBD. There are many other factors that impact the risk of developing IBD. Pregnancy should not be avoided due to concerns your child could get the disease. Discuss this with your doctor.


Myth: Because of my IBD, I will need to be on a gluten-free diet for the rest of my life.

Facts: Some patients with IBD do have intolerance to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other foods. This is not the case for all patients. Avoiding foods, including those that contain gluten, can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as malnutrition. It is important to work closely with a clinical nutritionist to find the foods that work best for you.