Inflammatory bowel disease refers to two chronic (or recurring) conditions called “Crohn’s disease” and “ulcerative colitis,” which cause redness and swelling (inflammation) in parts of the intestinal tract. Like asthma, IBD symptoms in children occur in bouts — periodically flaring up for sometimes weeks or months.
What’s the Difference Between IBS and IBD?
Often confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), IBD is a condition that can cause the intestines to narrow and restrict food from moving through the bowel. IBS is a functional disorder, which means the digestive system looks perfectly normal, but it doesn’t work exactly like it should. IBD and IBS have many similar symptoms, but IBS doesn’t cause blood in the stool (bowel movements or poop) like IBD can.
Crohn’s vs. Ulcerative Colitis in Children
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both inflammatory bowel diseases that cause inflammation to different parts of the digestive system. Crohn’s can occur anywhere along the intestinal tract, but it’s commonly found in the last segment of the small intestine (ileum) and the large intestine (colon). Ulcerative colitis mostly affects the colon.
Crohn’s impacts the entire thickness of the intestine and can affect more than one section of the intestinal tract. In contrast, ulcerative colitis occurs only within the inner lining of the organ and is found only in one spot.
What Causes IBD in Children?
The exact cause of IBD in children is unknown. However, experts agree that the environment, genetics, and/or diet may have something to do with it. Scientists believe that an overactive immune system may trigger inflammation in response to an offending agent, like a virus or certain foods. Researchers are actively studying IBD to get to the bottom of possible causes, and hopefully help relieve IBD symptoms in children and adults.
May also be called: Malabsorption; Malabsorption Syndrome
Intestinal malabsorption (mal-ab-ZORP-shun) is difficulty absorbing nutrients from food in the intestines.
More to Know
In the stomach, food is processed into a thick liquid called chyme. Chyme is then squirted down into the small intestine, where digestion of food continues so the body can absorb nutrients into the bloodstream.
When someone has intestinal malabsorption, something causes the small intestine to have trouble absorbing nutrients, especially sugars, fats, proteins, and vitamins. When this happens, the nutrients are passed out of the body in the stool (poop). This can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, flatulence, bulky stools that smell bad, weakness, fatigue, and muscle wasting.
Intestinal malabsorption is a common symptom of a number of diseases and conditions, including infections like traveler's diarrhea, lactose intolerance, Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, endocrine disorders, cystic fibrosis, certain medications, and surgeries or treatments for conditions of the digestive tract. Treatment for intestinal malabsorption depends upon which condition is causing it.
Keep in Mind
In many cases, intestinal malabsorption happens after a stomach flu or intestinal flu. In those cases, it usually clears up within a couple of days and is no cause for concern. Longer-lasting cases should be examined by a doctor to determine the cause and the best course of treatment.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.