Dementia: The stomach problem that could double your risk of the condition – symptoms

Dementia: Doctor outlines changes to help prevent disease

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The prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is rising in the UK, with one in 250 people already affected by the condition. Although you can develop the condition at any age, the first symptoms of the condition usually appear between the ages 14 and 40. Researchers have warned that those suffering from IBD are twice as likely to get dementia.

A 2020 study, published in the journal Gut, found that 5.5 percent of participants suffering from IBD, developed dementia, compared to 1.5 percent of participants without IBD.

Lead author of the study, Bing Zhang, said: “Our findings suggest there may be an intimate connection between IBD and neurocognitive decline.

“Interestingly, we also found that dementia risk appeared to accelerate over time, correlating with the chronicity of IBD diagnosis.”

The researchers drew on data for 1,742 people aged 45 and above, who had been diagnosed with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease between 1998 and 2011.

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Their cognitive health was tracked for 16 years following their IBD diagnosis.

The subjects were compared with 17,420 people matched for sex, age, access to healthcare, income and underlying conditions.

After accounting for all potential influential factors, the team noted that those with IBD were 2.54 times more likely to develop dementia than those without the condition.

Researchers noted that of all the dementias, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease was greatest: those with IBD were six times more likely to develop dementia than those without IBD.


Moreover, the findings showed dementia was diagnosed around seven years earlier in people with IBD than it was in those without the gut condition.

The researchers concluded: “The identification of increased dementia risk and earlier onset among patients with IBD suggest that [they] might benefit from education and increase clinical vigilance.”

Chronic inflammation and an imbalance in gut bacteria have previously been identified as potential contributors to cognitive decline.

There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to your risk of developing IBD, including diet, physical activity, mental health and drinking habits.

Researchers are still looking into potential causes of IBD, such as food intolerances, a reaction from a previous infection, bacterial overgrowth and stress.

There are two different types of IBD:

Crohn’s disease: Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition which affects any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the anus.

The main symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach aches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Anaemia
  • Feverishness

Ulcerative Colitis: Unlike Crohn’s disease, ulcerative Colitis only affects the large intestine, not the rest of the digestive system.

Although the symptoms are similar to those listed for Crohn’s, as are the severity levels and development over time.

How long a flare lasts varies from person to person and may change from one episode to the next, according to the NHS.

The health body added: “Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are long-term conditions that involve inflammation of the gut.

“If you have mild ulcerative colitis, you may need minimal or no treatment and remain well for prolonged periods of time.

“Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms and prevent them returning, and includes specific diets, lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery.”

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