Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease is a group of conditions, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, where the immune system attacks the digestive tract, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.

The basics

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic condition that affects the digestive system. There are two main types of IBD - Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive tract, while Ulcerative Colitis only affects the colon and rectum. Both conditions cause inflammation in the lining of the affected areas and can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. IBD can affect people of any age, but it is most often diagnosed in young adults between the ages of 15 and 35.

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The presentation of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can vary depending on the severity and location of the inflammation. The most common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea, sometimes with blood or mucus
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgency to go to the bathroom
  • Constipation
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Skin rash
  • Fever

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may come and go over time. In some cases, there may be long periods of remission where symptoms are minimal or absent. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms, as prompt diagnosis and treatment can help manage the condition and improve outcomes.

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Therapies & treatments


These medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids, can help reduce inflammation and pain associated with IBD.


Biologics are medications that target specific proteins in the immune system to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms of IBD.


These medications work to suppress the immune system, which can reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms.


These medications can help alleviate cramping and abdominal pain associated with IBD.


Certain antidepressants, particularly tricyclic antidepressants, can help alleviate pain and improve sleep in individuals with IBD.


Medications typically used to treat seizures, such as gabapentin and pregabalin, can also be used to alleviate pain associated with IBD.

Low dose naltrexone

Low dose naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may be effective in reducing pain and inflammation in individuals with IBD.

Nutritional support

A registered dietitian can provide guidance on dietary modifications to help reduce inflammation and manage symptoms associated with IBD, such as avoiding trigger foods and ensuring adequate nutrient intake.


Psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques can help manage the emotional and psychological aspects of pain associated with IBD.


Physical therapy can help improve posture, strengthen muscles, and reduce pain associated with IBD. It may also include manual therapy or massage to help relieve tension and promote healing in the abdominal muscles.

Mind-body interventions

Mind-body interventions such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi can help reduce stress and promote relaxation, which can in turn reduce pain associated with IBD.


Biofeedback involves the use of electronic monitoring to provide feedback on internal bodily processes, such as muscle tension and heart rate. It can be used to help manage pain associated with IBD by increasing awareness and control over these processes.

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Self-care strategies

Keep track of symptoms

Keep a symptom journal to track bowel movements, pain levels, and other symptoms. This can help identify triggers and patterns.

Dietary changes

Work with a registered dietitian to identify foods that may trigger symptoms and develop a personalized nutrition plan. It may be helpful to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your diet, while avoiding processed foods, sugar, and alcohol.

Stress management

Stress can exacerbate IBD symptoms, so learning stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation can be an effective way to manage pain. It can also help to prioritize relaxation and self-care activities such as taking a bath, spending time in nature, or engaging in a creative hobby.


Engaging in regular physical activity can help reduce stress, improve mood, and promote overall health and wellbeing. Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, or yoga can be particularly beneficial for individuals with IBD.

Sleep hygiene

Establishing a regular sleep routine can improve sleep quality and help to reduce stress, which can in turn reduce symptoms. This involves turning off electronic devices before bed, creating a relaxing sleep environment, and avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bedtime.

Support systems

Building a support network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals can help to provide emotional support and practical assistance in managing IBD symptoms. Joining support groups and seeking out mental health professionals can also be helpful in managing stress and improving overall quality of life.

Medication management

Work with a healthcare provider to manage medication regimens and adjust dosages as needed. It's important to follow medication instructions carefully and communicate any side effects or concerns with the healthcare provider.


Staying well hydrated can help manage symptoms such as diarrhea and improve overall digestive function. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate the body.

Regular check-ups

Schedule regular check-ups with a healthcare provider to monitor symptoms and adjust treatment plans as necessary.


Learning about IBD and how it affects the body can help individuals better understand their condition and take an active role in managing their symptoms. Seek out reputable sources of information, such as healthcare providers or patient advocacy groups, and ask questions as needed.

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