We’ve talked a great deal on this blog about gastrointestinal ailments, but until now, we’ve never really detailed the differences between IBD vs IBS.
Both conditions bring with them constipation, abdominal pain or urgent bowel movements, but IBD can also cause rectal bleeding, ulcers, fatigue and damage to the bowel.
How prevalent are these conditions?
IBS is very common, affecting up to 15 percent of all Americans, while Cedars-Sinai says roughly a quarter of us complain of IBS symptoms. It’s the most common reason people visit a gastroenterologist.
But most of these people will never develop IBD, which affects 1.6 million people in the U.S., according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
IBD is a term that covers both these illnesses:
- Crohn’s disease – A condition that affects any part of the GI tract, but most commonly the end of the small intestine, causing inflammation through the entire thickness of the bowel wall.
- Ulcerative colitis (UC) – This is limited to the large intestine – or colon – and rectum, usually beginning in the rectum and lower colon, and sometimes spreading to the entire colon.
In some rare cases, patients are diagnosed with IC – indeterminate colitis – when it’s unclear whether their IBD is Crohn’s or UC.
The exact cause of IBD is not completely clear, but it does involve an interaction between the immune system, genes and environmental factors.
Our immune system keeps away things like fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms. But with IBD, the immune system goes into overdrive, leading to inflammation. This reaction happens in patients with a genetic make-up that them vulnerable to IBD.
IBD vs. IBS: What are the symptoms?
People with IBS experience:
- Abdominal pain
People with IBD see those symptoms as well, along with:
- Rectal bleeding
- Joint pain
- Eye discomfort
Patients with IBD can sometimes develop serious complications, such as a perforated bowel or chronic swelling, or – in cases of Crohn’s – malabsorption or malnutrition.
Both conditions can cause urgent bowel movements, and the feeling of incomplete evacuation and lower abdominal pain.
Stress and IBS
IBD can strike people in low-stress or high-stress situations. While it’s not clear what causes IBS, it’s almost always heightened by stress, which is why people living with this condition can benefit from stress reduction techniques, such as:
- Regular exercise
- Talk therapy
How are they treated?
Treatment for IBD will depend on the form that’s been diagnosed. Your doctor’s main goal will be to prevent inflammation, which can damage the intestines.
IBS can be treated with antispasmodic medication, although making changes to your diet – such as avoiding fried foods and caffeinated drinks -- can be an even greater help.
If you’re looking for more ways to deal with your gastrointestinal ailments, turn to Proper Nutrition. Our dietary supplements such as Seacure are made with protein-rich white fish that contain the bioactive peptides your body can use to ease the symptoms of IBS.