Quickly Understand If It’s IBS Or Something More Frightening

You've got gut issues. If you have been struggling with gut issues, you may be starting to worry if it's IBS or something more serious. Common gut conditions include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is an umbrella term for two conditions: 1) Ulcerative colitis and 2) Crohn’s disease. By now, you’ve most likely realized that there is a ton of overlap between these two conditions. Is IBS and IBD the same?


What’s the difference between IBS and IBD? IBS and IBD are two different conditions that need different treatments. They often have overlapping symptoms. Continue reading for a look at the difference between IBS and IBD.


What is IBS?


IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a functional GI condition. This means that there is most likely some disturbance in normal bowel function. IBS can be frightening and cause a lot of discomfort, pain, and a decrease in your quality of life. What’s worse is that IBS can impact a person’s self-image, social life, and ability to work or travel.


Diagnosing IBS


IBS is often diagnosed after your healthcare professional understands what your symptoms are. They will also perform lab tests. Common tests include blood work, stool tests, and a colonoscopy.


Common symptoms of IBS include pain, gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation.


Other symptoms of IBS include the following:


Abdominal pain or discomfort for at least 3 months (12 weeks) accompanied by any two of the following


  • Onset of pain or discomfort associated with a change in stool frequency


  • Onset of pain or discomfort associated with a change in stool form


  • Relief felt upon defecation


Treating IBS


Luckily, you can treat IBS with diet and lifestyle interventions. Your doctor may recommend you see a nutritionist to help with these changes. Once you connect with a nutritionist, the first step in treatment is to remove common foods that trigger IBS symptoms like gas and bloating.


Next, your nutritionist will talk about adding digestive aids. Probiotics are also commonly recommended to replenish your GI tract with “good-for-you” bacteria. However, this can also be done with foods.


Once you and your nutritionist have a good handle on which foods cause harm and which ones your body likes you will be switched to a maintenance plan. A maintenance plan helps you to stay on track and reach your goals.


Now that we have a little bit more understanding of what IBS is, let’s take a look at the conditions that make up IBD.


What is IBD?


IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease, is an inflammatory condition that can damage the intestines. IBD is broken into two diseases - Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD will most likely be diagnosed during a diagnostic screening that your doctor performs. IBD is a serious disease that can increase your chances for certain types of cancer such as colon cancer.


Crohn’s disease (CD) is a highly inflammatory disease that affects the digestive tract. People with CD are at risk for malnutrition and malabsorption caused by damage to the digestive tract. Common symptoms of CD include diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain, and malnutrition. Other symptoms may include canker sores in the mouth, clubbed fingernails, and fevers that last between 24 and 48 hours.


Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the colon. Like CD (and IBS), common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and blood in the stool. Sores in the digestive tract are common. There may also be sores on the rectum.


CD and UC are different conditions but the main treatment goals are to control inflammation and work to rebalance the microbiome.


If you think you have IBS but want to rule out more serious conditions like IBD, it’s important to talk with your healthcare professional and tell them everything. If you feel weak, fatigued, are bleeding, have a fever, or have been losing weight without trying you should go and talk with your healthcare practitioner right away.


It can be scary to talk with your doctor but ruling out something more serious will bring you peace of mind. Remember, if it turns out you have IBS, it can be easily managed with diet and lifestyle!


What's been your experience with gut issues? Let me know in the comments!

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