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IBD vs IBS – What is the Difference?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (abbreviated IBS) sound similar, and they do have some similarities as well, but they are not the same condition, and it is important that people who are suffering from gastric distress, bloating, and other common symptoms of these diseases get a proper diagnosis.

Both of these conditions can cause constipation or diarrhea, stomach pain and bloating, but they have both different causes, and different requirements for treatment. This means that if you want to take control of your symptoms, you need to make sure that you know exactly what is wrong.

Understanding IBD vs IBS

The main difference between IBD vs IBS is that IBD is caused by actual physical issues with your digestive system. These issues could be attributed to ulcerative colitis, Chron’s disease, or anything else that causes inflammation or ulcers in the gut.

IBS, on the other hand, is known as a ‘functional disease’. This means that your digestive system is not working normally, but that tests do not show up any physical explanation for the issues that the sufferer is facing.

IBS and IBD both have similar symptoms, and they both tend to be things that are diagnosed early in life, but beyond the initial early signs of stomach pain and diarrhea or constipation, there are differences. People who are suffering from IBD are more likely to have other symptoms in addition to the early warning signs, such as:

– Blood in your stools
– Unexplained weight loss
– Fever
– Inflammed joints, skin and eyes
– Symptoms that steadily get worse

If you have any symptoms of IBS or IBD, then it is worth seeking professional medical advice.

IBD vs IBS – Diagnosis

Doctors use a set of diagnostic criteria known as the “Rome Criteria” to determine whether someone has IBS. Those criteria are:

– You have had stomach ache for at least one day a week over a three month period
– The pain is associated with bowel movements
– When the pain starts, the frequency of your bowel movements change
– Your stools take on a different appearance while you are in pain

If you have the basic symptoms of IBS and meet those critera, then you will probably be diagnosed with IBS. If you also have other symptoms, then you may be sent for tests to check whether you have IBD instead. Those tests could include CT scans, blood tests or a colonoscopy.

Treating the Conditions

The most common way of treating IBS is with diet changes. Unfortunately, there is not a clear “IBS cure” diet. However, there are some changes that will work for most people. Some good steps to take include:

– Eating more fiber
– Cutting down on dairy products
– Drinking more water
– Avoiding legumes
– Reducing your caffeine intake
– Limiting “FODMAPS” (a sugar found in certain fruits, bread, vegetables and dairy products)
– Keeping a food diary and avoiding common triggers

If you suffer from diarrhea or constipation then you might need to take medication to manage that while you figure out what foods aggravate your symptoms.

Treating IBD tends to be focused on treating the inflammation of the bowel, rather than treating the symptoms. IBD is a serious condition, and some people need surgery to repair their digestive tracts. People with IBD are more likely to develop colorectal cancer, so it is important that your condition is properly diagnosed so you know whether you will need screening in the future.

The drugs that work to manage IBD don’t work for IBS, because IBS is not caused by the same type of inflammation and damage. People with IBD may still benefit from drinking more water and consuming more fiber, however, because these are both things that can help to protect your overall digestive health.

Coping With The Symptoms

IBS and IBD can both be stressful conditions, and people who are struggling to control their symptoms may find that they limit their social life or struggle with work because the symptoms leave them fearful of suffering a bout of gastric distress while in public.

There is counseling available to help people to learn how to cope with the condition and with the difficulties that it causes. Learning coping mechanisms that will allow you to maintain a relatively normal schedule is an important step forward to taking control of the condition.