A study by Nottingham University and the Crohn’s & Colitis UK charity found 540,000 people live with the disorders. Previous estimates had put the figure at 300,000. Experts say that lack of exercise and junk food diets are partly to blame for the rise in the conditions, which can increase the risk of colon cancer.
Manchester University professor Jimmy Limdi said: “These figures show we have vastly underestimated the number of cases.
“While there are some treatment options, overstretched NHS resources and increasing prevalence have outpaced the ability of our healthcare system to care for all patients.”
The study, the largest of its kind, looked at 38.3 million UK patient records.
Lead author Dr Laila Tata said: “We expect numbers to rise for various reasons, including the fact people are living longer.”
Yalda Alaoui, 43, who developed stomach pains when she was 12 and ulcerative colitis in her 20s, said a strict diet and exercise regime she developed managed her condition.
The mother of two, from London, also created the Eat Burn Sleep gut health programme (eatburnsleep.com) designed to help other patients.
She said: “I wanted to get my life back. I didn’t want to be in pain all the time.”