What’s the Difference Between IBS and IBD?
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Irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are both ailments that affect the gastrointestinal tract. IBS is a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract while IBD is a term used to classify a more serious group of illnesses that can impact your entire body.

Many symptoms of IBD and IBS are similar, however the conditions are very different from each other.

Signs and Symptoms of IBS

People who have IBS do not have abnormal changes within their digestive organs unless other health issues are present. While IBS can be a challenging condition to live with, it does not predispose you to cancer or damage to the rest of your body.

The classic sign of IBS is abdominal pain. It is usually most prevalent in the lower abdomen. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with IBS as men are, and it is usually diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood.

A diagnosis of IBS is made if abdominal pain occurs for three days each month for three months. In addition, your pain must be characterized by two of the following three qualities.

  • Your pain is relieved when you have a bowel movement.
  • The pain is accompanied by changes in the frequency of bowel movements
  • Your pain is related to the consistency of your stools.
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Other symptoms of IBS include bloating, gassiness and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen. You may have a sense of urgency when you need to have a bowel movement. Diarrhea, constipation or alternating patterns of both may occur. Your stool may contain large amounts of mucus.

IBS symptoms are worse when stress occurs. The gastrointestinal tract is profoundly impacted by stress. Changes in stress levels affect the consistency of stools, contractions within the bowels and the flow of digestive juices. All of these factors impact the health of your gastrointestinal tract and the resulting symptoms of IBS. Symptoms are also impacted by what you eat, the volume of food that you consume and hormonal changes.

If you are being evaluated for possible IBS, you may be asked to keep a symptom and dietary journal. In addition to a comprehensive physical exam and health history, these tools help your health care practitioner rule out other disorders and form a treatment plan that will reduce your symptoms of IBS.

Common treatments for IBS include stress management interventions, herbs, and dietary interventions. A high fiber diet is beneficial. Medications may be prescribed which relieve pain, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. A comprehensive treatment plan is necessary for you to obtain maximum benefit.

What is Inflamatory Bowel Disease?

Two illnesses classified as IBD include ulcerative colitis and Crohne’s disease. Caucasians are more likely to be diagnosed with IBD than people of other races. IBD is most common in Jewish people who are of European descent. Upper class women who live in cities have a higher likelihood of contracting IBD.

Crohne’s disease can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract, while ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine. Diagnosis between the two conditions can be challenging because the symptoms are similar. Physical changes within the gastrointestinal tract are visible when imaging studies are performed.

IBD is classified as an autoimmune disorder. Rather than protecting your body, your immune system misidentifies proteins in your body as invaders and attacks your own tissues.

Signs of IBD include diarrhea, constipation, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and cramping. An urgency to defecate may occur. You may sense pressure in your rectum and feel like you have not fully evacuated your bowels after you defecate.

You may also experience symptoms throughout your whole body. Your appetite may be poor and you may lose weight. You may experience night sweats and fevers, and anemia and bleeding may occur. If you are a female, you may have irregular menses or no menstrual period at all. Because of the nutritional imbalances and debilitating effects throughout your body, you may feel very tired.

It may be necessary for you to take steroids or immune suppressant drugs to control IBD. Other medications are prescribed to relieve symptoms of pain, diarrhea, and constipation. Surgical removal of portions of the bowel may be needed in severe cases.


Experts disagree as to whether or not IBS and IBD may occur simultaneously. Careful diagnoses is essential because the disorders, their treatments, and implications are very different for each other.

If you think that you may have symptoms of IBS or IBD seek prompt medical attention.