Dr Megan Rossi shares her expertise with Poo-Pourri on World IBD Day, to educate and eradicate stigma.

World IBD Day is today and Poo-Pourri have teamed up with gut health expert Dr Megan Rossi on an in-depth educational Q&A regarding IBD. IBD effects approximately 300,000 people in the UK and over 5 million people around the world, highlighting how important this day.

Dr Megan Rossi (The Gut Health Doctor), Registered Dietitian and author of Eat Yourself Healthy, has answered your most topical questions:

What is IBD? What does it stand for and who does it affect?

IBD stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease and is considered a lifelong, relapsing disease (going from active to remission and back again) where inflammation and sores (ulcers) in the gut trigger pain, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and fatigue.

IBD can present at any age, but typically between the ages of 15 and 40. Around a quarter are diagnosed before they reach their twenties, and it affects as many as one in every 200 people in some countries. It’s more common in Western parts of the world, although numbers in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America aren’t far behind, as changes in the environment from industrialisation are thought to trigger the disease in genetically susceptible people.

There are two main forms of IBD — Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). Crohn’s can occur anywhere along the digestive tract and affects its full thickness, whereas UC is localized to the large intestine and rectum, affecting just the lining of the intestine.

What are the most common signs and symptoms to IBD and how is it diagnosed?

The main symptoms of IBD include:

  • severe tummy pain and cramping
  • diarrhoea and urgency (sometimes including blood, particularly with UC)
  • unintentional weight loss, from both a loss of appetite and malabsorption of food
  • feeling really tired and fatigued

How can stress and emotionally challenging moments such as the times we are in now affect IBD? And what can you do to help alleviate that?

Managing stress levels can play an important role in helping those with IBD. The evidence so far (albeit it in small studies) demonstrates the role of the gut-brain axis in inflammatory diseases like IBD. This is because our gut and our brain are in constant, two-way communication, so when we’re stressed (because our brain is telling us we are), this can impact our gut too.

Mindfulness and gut-targeted hypnotherapy have both been shown to benefit disease activity and I recommend practising mindfulness, such as with a meditation app, even for just 15 minutes a day to rewire the gut-brain axis.

What advice would you give to someone in lockdown with IBD?

It’s only natural to feel a little stressed and anxious at the moment, but there are a few things you can to do help (if you’re in remission):

  • Keep in touch. Make the most of the downtime and stay connected and with friends and family via video calls to avoid feeling isolated.
  • Stay calm and don’t panic. Try practising mindfulness for 15 minutes a day to manage stress.
  • Enjoy your daily exercise. Whether it’s power walking, gut-directed yoga or just dancing in your kitchen
  • Eat nutritious, balanced meals. Try to keep eating a variety of foods across all plant-based food groups, with plenty of fibre and polyphenols, as well as staying hydrated.
  • Pick up some Poo-Pourri. Staying home with the family or housemates might make you feel uneasy and create poop anxiety, so popping some Poo-Pourri in your loo can be a game-changer.
  • Hit snooze. Aim for 7-9 hours sleep every night.
  • Speak to your GP. Crohn’s and Colitis UK recommend that if you have any appointments in the pipeline and your IBD is under control, see if you can postpone or ask to change to a virtual appointment.

What advice would you give to someone without IBD to help understand and support someone with it?

It can be difficult for those with IBD to talk to their friends and family about how they’re getting on, but this support can make a big difference. Take some time to read up about IBD using resources, such as from Crohn’s & Colitis UK, however remember everyone can be affected differently. Be there to listen to them and let them know they don’t need to be embarrassed with you, but be patient in case they’re not comfortable opening up straight away.

At times, symptoms can be quite unpredictable, so be flexible with plans (including video calls while we’re staying home!) and try to be understanding if they need to change at short notice. You may even be able to help them by picking up their medication.

*This is general information and does not replace the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional. Always speak to your doctor before making any changes.*