Frequently Asked Questions

How is IBD different than IBS?

Although both illnesses can be seriously debilitating, there are several primary differences between Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBD is an autoimmune disorder that causes swelling and ulcerations (sores) in the bowel. IBS involves problems with motility (how the bowel moves contents through our intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets sensations in the bowel). Symptoms of IBS may wax and wane and possibly disappear altogether whereas IBD is a chronic condition.

If I have pancreatitis, am I at risk of developing diabetes?

Chronic pancreatitis can damage the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, diabetes may develop. If you have a family history of diabetes, you may be more likely to develop the disease. If this happens, you will need insulin or other medicines to keep blood glucose at normal levels.

Is it possible that I have celiac disease as well as lactose intolerance?

It is possible.  25% of patients who have been clinically identified as lactose intolerant, have celiac disease. In Canada, that means about 73,500 people have undiagnosed celiac disease which is the causal agent for their lactose intolerance.   If you think you have celiac disease, you should speak with your doctor.

I have stopped eating milk, cheese and ice cream but still have symptoms sometimes. Why is that?

The reason could be that you are still unknowingly ingesting milk products.  Milk and milk products are often added to processed food. Products that list whey, dry milk solids, dry milk powder, whey, curds contain lactose. Be sure to check the ingredients on food labels to see if there is lactose in food products that are not obviously milk-based.

If my child is lactose intolerant, what can he eat to be sure he gets calcium in his diet?

Non-milk products that contain calcium include rhubarb, spinach, broccoli, salmon, sardines, soy milk and oranges among others. It is a good idea to speak with a nutritionist or dietitian if you or someone in your home is lactose intolerant.

Is lactose intolerance the same thing as being allergic to milk?

No. When people are allergic to milk, their body’s immune system reacts to one or more milk proteins.  Milk allergies can be life threatening even if a small amount of milk or milk product is consumed. Milk allergies are generally diagnosed in the first year of life, while lactose intolerance occurs more often in adulthood.

How does a doctor follow a Barrett’s Esophagus patient?

If a Barrett’s esophagus is identified then it is important to follow the patient with regular gastroscopies to obtain biopsies to see if there is any associated dysplasia or early cancer that is arising in the Barrett’s esophagus that can be treated before a more serious problem arises. The follow up program will vary depending on the biopsy results. If one identifies a very high grade of dysplasia or early cancer then there are several options of treatment. These include cutting out the area thru the scope, using a special light after the tissue has been sensitized to destroy the involved area called Photodynamic therapy or surgery where the entire esophagus is removed.

Can reflux cause cancer?

5% to 8% of patients who have chronic reflux may develop a Barrett’s esophagus which results in a change in the normal esophageal mucosa to a type of lining that is more of an intestinal type. A gastroscopy with esophageal biopsies is the only definitive way to make this diagnosis of a Barrett’s esophagus.. There are no specific symptoms for Barrett’s esophagus and the risk of a cancer developing in the setting of a Barrett’s esophagus is very low.

I have heard about bacteria that can cause problems. Do these contribute to reflux?

The bacterium is called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).  This is a common bacterium that infects the stomach and may cause about 10% of people with the bacterium to develop an ulcer.  As a rule, one does not look for H. pylori in the setting of reflux.

Is there anything that can be done through the scope to treat reflux?

There have been some endoscopic techniques that have been developed that can increase the lower esophageal sphincter pressure but presently they are more experimental and do not have a role in the treatment of reflux.

Enhancing lifelong health

The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation believes our ability to help establish, enrich and protect a healthy gut microbiota is the key to lifelong health