World IBD Day 2023

19th May 2023

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) are a group of digestive conditions that are characterised by chronic inflammation of the digestive system. On World Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Day every year (19th May), patient organisations come together from all over the globe to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease & colitis.

Which digestive conditions are classed as an IBD?

The three main conditions in this group are crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and microscopic colitis. As different forms of IBD can affect different parts of the digestive system, symptoms can differ from person to person.


What is crohn's disease?

Crohn’s disease is where inflammation develops in various parts of the gut, anywhere from the mouth to the anus can be affected. It is thought that this develops because the gut disease fighting system (immune system) reacts abnormally to bacteria at the surface of the gut.

Symptoms can include:

  • Diarrhoea.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Blood or mucus in your poo.
  • Weight loss.

What is ulcerative colitis?

The term ‘colitis’ means the large bowel has become inflamed (swollen) and if this becomes severe enough, ulcers (painful sores) can form in the lining of the large bowel. Ulcerative colitis usually affects the rectum and the inflammation can spread upwards from the rectum through the large bowel.

Symptoms can include:

  • Diarrhoea (however constipation can be common with proctitis (inflammation of the lining of the rectum).
  • Bleeding from your bottom.
  • Urgency.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Extreme tiredness.
  • Sore eyes, painful spots and skin rashes.

What is microscopic colitis?

Microscopic colitis affects the large bowel. There are two main types – lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis.

Diagnosing microscopic colitis can be different to diagnosing other IBDs. When doctors look at your gut with a camera (endoscope), microscopic colitis cannot be seen. A sample of tissue (biopsy) has to be taken from the bowel and looked at under a microscope.

Symptoms can include:

  • Watery diarrhoea.
  • Urgency to use the toilet.
  • Incontinence episodes.
  • Waking during the night to empty your bowels.
  • Frequent need to empty your bowels.

What should I do if my symptoms sound familiar to any of these conditions?

Firstly, we would encourage anyone who has noticed a change in their bowel habits to talk to their GP.

You can also use Guts UK’s online tool, Poo-Torialto help guide you through the colour, consistency and frequency of your poo.

How does living with an IBD affect you?

All forms of IBD can have an impact on a person’s quality of life, especially during times when the disease is active. They may have to spend certain periods of time in hospital to get the right treatment. Even once out of hospital the road to remission isn’t always smooth.

All forms of IBD are an invisible disability. Those with IBD are within their right to use the disabled toilets. However, some of our IBD community have faced ignorance from members of the public when they have.

Sharan’s experience:


“The first time I’d left the house after my surgery, my [stoma] bag leaked. I was in a regular toilet cubicle. It was dark & I didn’t have water on me. I had to clean up as best I could with hand sanitiser. This experience made me realise the importance of disabled toilets to me.

I was getting on the train to go to a festival. I contacted the festival in advance, who were so accommodating from the beginning. I had a wristband for accessing the disabled toilets, which gave me the confidence I needed to attend.

I went to use the station toilets before boarding the train. The toilet attendant was there. I tried to open the disabled toilet, but it was locked by more than the usual radar key. I asked the attendant if she could open the door. She said “no, I’ve just cleaned it”. I explained that I needed to use it, but she looked at me & said “you don’t look it to me”.

Though hesitant, I explained that I had Crohn’s disease. She said she knew someone with it too, that they didn’t use disabled toilets & that the normal toilets were spacious enough for me. I felt I had to explain further that I’d just had surgery & if I’ve leaked, I need access to a sink. She refused again. I was forced to use a regular cubicle.

Sadly, this changed how I approached situations for months. It made me nervous about the festival & put my social life almost to a stop for a while.” – Sharan.

What can I do to help this World IBD Day?

Guts UK funds research into the digestive system from top to tail; the gut, liver and pancreas. We also provide expert information in digestive conditions and raise awareness of digestive health. There’s a crippling taboo surrounding our guts. No one should suffer in silence, or alone with their symptoms.

You can improve the future for people like Sharan by donating £3 per month to Guts UK today.

Discover our IBD research below:

crohn's disease - Prof. Lord

Professor Graham Lord and his team are hoping to expand knowledge surrounding immune cells, known as T cells. There are two types of T cells, and scientists suspect that the balance between these cells is important to determine whether a person develops Crohn’s disease.

Discover more.

'Leaky gut' syndrome with IBD - Prof. Hogstrand

Professor Christer Hogstrand and his team are exploring ‘leaky gut syndrome’ with IBD. We all have cells on the inside layer of our bowel. These cells are tightly bonded together as a seal to act as a barrier against harmful bacteria or other harmful agents. Unfortunately, with ‘leaky gut’ syndrome these tight bonds become looser and the bowel becomes more porous (meaning liquid can pass through easier). Prof. Hogstrand and his team hope to fully understand how these tight bonds in the bowel develop, this research could lead to a new way to control and prevent ‘leaky gut’.

Discover more.

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