Reviewed on 5/21/2022

What Is IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is chronic inflammation of any part of the digestive tract (from mouth to anus). There are two main types of inflammatory bowel disease:

  • Ulcerative colitis (UC), which is inflammation and sores in the large intestine (colon) and rectum.
  • Crohn's disease, which is inflammation that may occur in any part of the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI or digestive) tract, especially the small intestine and terminal ileum (ileitis).

What Is IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)?

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS refers to a group of symptoms and changes in your bowel movement patterns. IBS is considered a chronic functional disorder of the GI tract because in people with IBS the GI tract acts abnormally, but there is no structural damage from a specific disease.

Can a Person Have Both IBD and IBS?

It is possible to have both inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome; however, it is not common. While both disorders affect the digestive tract and have some similar symptoms, they are completely different diseases and are not treated the same. IBD is an inflammatory disease that can result in damage to the digestive tract (for example in Crohn's disease and UC), while in IBS, the digestive tract does not work properly, but there is no damage to the structures.

Which Signs and Symptoms of IBD vs. IBS Are Different?

Signs and symptoms unique to inflammatory bowel disease include:

Signs and symptoms unique to irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • Abdominal discomfort (not severe or chronic)
  • Bloating
  • Intestinal gas
  • Changes in how often you have a bowel movement
  • Pain or discomfort that improves after a bowel movement
  • Changes in the way stools look (texture, shape, and color)
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea that is not bloody
  • Feeling unable to completely empty the bowels
  • Whitish mucus in your stool

Which Signs and Symptoms of IBD and IBS Are the Same?

Even though irritable bowel disease and inflammatory bowel disease can affect the same parts of the GI tract, the symptoms are mostly different.

Both bowel conditions cause inflammation in the digestive tract, and have these symptoms in common:

Can Stress Affect IBD or IBS?

Stress can affect both conditions. In inflammatory bowel disease, stress can cause flare-ups (your symptoms worsen) of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Stress may cause gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS to worsen, so you may be more aware of them. Stress also can trigger symptoms because of how they can affect your daily life.

Does the Same Problem Cause IBD and IBS?

Researchers and doctors do not know the exact causes of IBD or IBS. Stress and eating certain foods do not cause either bowel problem, but both can trigger symptoms of each disease or make them worse.

The possible causes of inflammatory bowel disease, for example, Crohn's disease and UC include:

  • Immune system over-reaction
  • Genetics

The possible causes of irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • Brain-gut signal problems
  • Gastrointestinal motility problems
  • High sensitivity to pain in the gut
  • Bacterial infection in the GI tract
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Altered levels of neurotransmitters
  • Genetics
  • Food Sensitivities

What Are the Risk Factors for IBD vs. IBS? Are They Genetic?

While the causes of both irritable bowel disease and inflammatory bowel disease are unknown, both have risk factors that make some people more likely to develop these conditions.

Risk factors both IBS and IBD share include:

  • Age: from teens through 40s
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop these conditions.
  • Family history

Other risk factors for IBD are:

  • Ethnicity: more common in Jewish people; less common in black and Hispanic populations
  • Smoking
  • Dietary risk factors: hypersensitivity to cow's milk protein, refined sugar intake, increased intake of total fat
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Infections
  • Inadequate sleep

Other risk factors for IBS are:

  • Stress
  • Mental disorders
  • Traumatic life events

What Tests Diagnose IBD and IBS?

A diagnosis of IBD, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, often is made with a combination of the tests listed here and a biopsy of colon tissue. While there are no specific medical tests to diagnose IBS because it is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, some may be ordered to help determine a diagnosis. Exams and tests used to diagnose both conditions may include:

There are two relatively new blood tests that may help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) and irritable bowel syndrome mixed (IBS-M). These tests are for anti-CdtB and anti-vinculin antibodies that are thought to develop in some patients after an acute bout of gastroenteritis caused by several different, common types of bacteria. The tests may only be able to identify a subset of patients with IBS, those with post-infectious IBS. It may also be able to distinguish those who have IBS from patients with IBD. The tests have not undergone rigorous testing, and FDA has not approved them.

How Are IBD and IBS Treated and Managed?

Treatment options for both conditions are aimed at managing the symptoms. A doctor who specializes in disorders of the digestive tract, called a gastroenterologist, can help both IBS and IBD patients manage their disease.

IBD treatment and management depends upon your symptoms and their severity, any other health problems that you have, and the part of your digestive tract affected by disease. Your doctor may treat your condition with changes in your diet, stress reduction and management, nutritional supplements, drugs, and in some cases, surgery.

Doctors help IBS patients manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes to avoid triggers, for example, diet, exercise, stress management, gut-directed hypnotherapy, and mindfulness training.

Are There IBD or IBS Diets?

There is no special recommended diet to treat IBD, but some people may respond to dietary changes such as eating smaller and more frequent meals, taking nutritional supplements, and avoiding certain foods, for example, fatty and fried foods, meats, spicy foods, and fiber-rich foods. People with Crohn's disease may have difficulty tolerating dairy products because of lactose intolerance.

Patients with IBS may respond to dietary changes. Low fat, high carbohydrate, and low FODMAP foods may help ease symptoms. Fiber can be helpful in some people.

What Natural Home Remedies Help Relieve IBD and IBS Symptoms?

Probiotics may provide symptom relief for people with IBD and IBS.

People with IBD, specifically, find symptom relief by taking fish oil, probiotics, turmeric, aloe Vera, energy therapies, vitamin and mineral supplementation, and body work therapies, for example, massage, reflexology, craniosacral therapy, and chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation.

In people with IBS, psychological therapies like stress management, biofeedback, pain-management techniques, and cognitive behavioral therapy; and exercise like Yoga, walking, Tai Chi, or swimming may relieve symptoms.

Talk to your doctor or other health care professional before using any home remedy, as they may have unwanted side effects or interactions with medications you use.

Is There a Cure for IBD or IBS?

Currently, there is no cure for either irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. Treatment is aimed at preventing symptom flares and reducing the severity of symptoms.

Is It Possible to Prevent IBD or IBS? What Is the Prognosis?

Inflammatory bowel disease treatment and prognosis

The cause of inflammatory bowel disease is unknown. Researchers believe it is the result of an autoimmune reaction. There is a hereditary (genetic) connection to IBD, and it can be passed down through your family. You cannot prevent IBD, but it may be possible to reduce the risk of developing it by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking.

The prognosis for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) varies widely with the severity of the disease. The course of IBD includes periods with no symptoms (remission) with occasional flare-ups. Many patients are able to manage symptoms effectively with little impact on their daily lives. Some patients may need surgery such as a partial or total colectomy to help them manage the disease. IBD also increases a person's risk of developing colon cancer. Serious complications of IBD include ulcers, fistulas, bowel obstructions, and malnutrition.

Irritable bowel syndrome treatment and prognosis

You cannot prevent irritable bowel syndrome, but you can reduce the symptoms by paying close attention to your diet and the foods that trigger them, along with lifestyle changes, for example, not smoking and getting regular exercise.

The prognosis for IBS depends on the frequency and severity of your symptoms and well they are managed. Changes in diet, probiotics, medications, and other therapies can have an impact on how well do with IBS.

20 IBS (Irritable Bowel Disease) Triggers

If you have IBS you probably know that some foods can trigger symptoms and make them more painful and uncomfortable. There are ways to prevent IBS triggers, for example, for some people with IBS gluten, foods high in fat, and foods high in FODMAPs trigger their symptoms.

Reviewed on 5/21/2022
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