CSIR’s mandate covers all areas of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The impact of these conditions on persons affected is enormous and there is a huge societal cost as well. GI illness keeps Canadians from enjoying their daily life and from living to the fullest. Here are just some of the diseases and disorders we cover and their proven impact.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a term that refers to two separate intestinal diseases: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both diseases involve intestinal inflammation. Ulcerative colitis typically affects the lower portion of the colon, with inflammation involving only the inner lining of the large intestine. Crohn’s disease can occur at any place within the digestive tract and symptoms can even manifest outside of the digestive tract. In Crohn’s disease, the inflammation can occur through the full thickness of the bowel wall. Treatment for both forms of IBD includes drug therapy, supplemental nutrition, and sometimes surgery.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

  • Prevalence: 1/180 (approximately 0.5%)

Crohn’s Disease

  • Incidence: 13.4/100,000
  • Prevalence: 234/100,000

Canada has the highest prevalence and incidence of this disease reported worldwide.

Ulcerative Colitis

  • Incidence: 12.9/100,000
  • Prevalence: 211.2/100,000

Incidence is the frequency of persons developing a condition in a year, whereas prevalence is the number of persons who have the condition at any given time.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common bowel disorder affecting a large segment of the Canadian population. Its symptoms cover a range of chronic altered bowel functions, including abdominal pain, bloating and gas, constipation, and diarrhea, or alternating between the two stool consistencies. Disease management takes a multivariate approach including lifestyle and diet changes, and medication therapy. Prevalence: 13-20%, representing about 4.8-6.4 million Canadians. Who: 75-80% of patients attending a gastrointestinal specialist and diagnosed with IBS are women.

Quality of life (QoL):

  • QoL for a person with IBS is significantly lower than in healthy persons, comparable to those with clinical depression, and lower than in those with type 2 diabetes or who have experienced a heart attack.
  • More than 40% of IBS patients report avoidance of some activities, including work, travelling, and socializing.
  • Persons with IBS often suffer in silence due to their reluctance to discuss their bowel habits.
  • Only about 10% of people with IBS symptoms seek help from a doctor.
  • Reports from gastroenterology clinics reveal that IBS is the most frequently encountered diagnosis.
  • 25% of IBS patients have severe symptoms that require management by a gastroenterologist.

Diverticular Disease is a common disorder increasing in prevalence with age. Patients develop small out-pouchings, called diverticula, in weakened sections of the wall of their large intestine. Most often, individuals can have diverticular disease and not experience any symptoms, however, a ‘flare-up’ can occur if the diverticula become inflamed and/or infected. Treatment involves antibiotics to eliminate infection, pain management, and occasionally surgery.


  • <5% in those under 40
  • 30% in 40-85 years of age
  • 60-75% in greater than 85

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the organ responsible for secreting digestive enzymes into the small intestine and releasing the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. The most common causes of pancreatitis are gallstones, alcohol abuse, and trauma to the pancreas, which can sometimes follow abdominal surgery. There are two types of pancreatitis: acute refers to disease with a sudden onset of symptoms, often severe in nature, that subside within a short period; chronic is a result of irreversible damage to the pancreas and typically presents with ongoing, long-term symptoms. Treatment takes the form of dietary changes, pain management, and the addition of pancreatic enzymes to aid in digestion.

Acute Pancreatitis

  • Incidence: 17/100,000

Chronic Pancreatitis

  • Incidence: 8/100,000
  • Prevalence: 26.4 /100,000

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 167 – May/June 2008