Story URL:
Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 11:39:26 AM CST

Top Stories

Inflammatory bowel diseases: Free education session tonight downtown

by Melody Chandler
Oct 10, 2012


Melody Chandler/MEDILL

Doctors Russell Cohen and David Rubin are specialists in in inflammatory bowel disease at the University of Chicago Medicine's Duchossois Center.


Photo Courtesy of Allyson Bain.

Allyson Bain of Vernon Hills helped win Illinois legislation so that people with a medical condition can gain access to employee-only bathrooms. Twelve other states have since passed similar laws. She continues to push for federal legislation. 


Google Maps

Hilton Towers, 720 S. Michigan Ave., location of the IBD educational event tonight.

How to control Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

“How to Control Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis:” free education session today at 6:30 p.m., presented by the University of Chicago Medicine. Session location: Hilton Towers, 720 S. Michigan Ave.


The event will cover discussions about:

• What causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease
• Can it be prevented?
• What therapies work?
• What about alternative therapies and nutrition?
• What does the future hold?
• Q & A session

To register for the event, contact Erica Matagrano by phone (773-702-6073) or email ( Check-in is between 6:30-6:45: the program will start at 7:00 p.m.

The University of Chicago Medicine IBD Center has a support group that meets on the second Monday of every month from 7:00-9:00 p.m. See the IBD Center web site.

When most people think of high school, they think of prom, SATs, after-school activities and spending time with friends.

Allyson Bain, 22, remembers weighing in at 68 pounds her freshman year of high school feeling as though she had to visit the bathroom more than 40 times a day.

Her Crohn’s disease was at its worst and she already was undergoing treatment for the inflammatory bowel disease.

“I lost so much weight at certain points that people thought I had an eating disorder. Someone thought that I looked like a holocaust survivor and commented as they passed me in the hall,” the Vernon Hills native said.

But rather than let her disease steer the course of her life, Bain decided to use her personal health story to help others.

When Bain was 14-years-old she was shopping in a retail store with her mother when she had a sudden Crohn’s flare-up, which caused her to desperately need access to a bathroom. The only available bathrooms were employee-only. Despite explaining her predicament to the store manager, she was turned-away, she said.

Bain turned what would have normally been an embarrassing situation to any teenager into a positive one. She helped fight for state legislation that requires businesses to make employee-only restrooms available to anyone with a medical emergency. 

The Restroom Access Act, a.k.a. Ally’s Law, was passed in Illinois in Aug. 2005.

Since then the law 12 other states have passed similar laws: Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington.

Bain turned to advanced treatment at the University of Chicago Medicine, and is now an advocate for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which are inflammatory bowel diseases.

“Inflammatory Bowel Disease, ‘IBD,’ is an umbrella of auto-immune type diseases of the intestines. And the two main diseases that fall under it are: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis” explained Dr. Russell Cohen of the University of Chicago Medicine, IBD Center.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis occur when the immune system attacks the bowel inappropriately, Cohen said.

According to Cohen, some of the main differences between two are:

• Ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine, whereas Crohn’s disease can be anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, which extends from the mouth to the anus.

• Ulcerative colitis only affects the inner most layers of the intestinal wall, but Crohn’s can bore its way all the way through the wall of the bowel.

• Ulcerative colitis always starts in the rectum and moves up the bowel, but Crohn’s skips around.

• Crohn’s disease can return after an initially successful surgery.

What causes the immune system to attack the bowels is the focus of on-going research at the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at the University of Chicago Medicine. The center's research also includes developing new treatments.

According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America the two diseases may affect as many as 1.4 million Americans.

So, the common stomach ache or diarrhea should not immediately be pegged as inflammatory bowel disease.

Some of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and when to see your doctor:

1. Blood in a bowel movement
2. Weight loss
3. A sudden fall off the growth chart in children
4. Unexplained anemia
5. Fevers with sweats
6. Persistent and uncontrolled diarrhea

Surprisingly, inflammatory bowel disease commonly affects young people.

“These diseases are young people’s diseases,” Cohen said. “The average age at diagnosis in the United States and western countries is around 22 years old.”

Fortunately, treatment of the diseases is improving with currently available medications and research into new treatments. And it is possible to go into remission. However, the remission may only be temporary, so patients need to stay on their medications.

Allyson Bain has been in remission for almost seven years.

Bain stressed the importance that patients be proactive and get treatment. She won't be at the event tonight but medical experts will be and the session is a chance to connect with others who have IBD.

It is very important that patients learn about these diseases, treatment, and at the same time get the support of family and friends, Cohen said.

“Our goal is to make people [suffering from these diseases] realize that you can be well and lead a normal lifestyle,” said Cohen.  

Cohen and doctors Stephen Hanauer and David Rubin plan to address several topics of interest to patients, family, friends and anyone who wants to learn about inflammatory bowel disease, said Erica Matagrano, administrative director at the IBD center.