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What is the Difference Between IBS and IBD?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are often confused with one another. Sometimes, people even think the conditions are the same thing. While IBS and IBD have similar acronyms and symptoms, there are key differences. When receiving a diagnosis, it's essential to understand what sets IBS and IBD apart. IBS and IBD each require their own approach to treatment. 

What is IBS? 

Irritable bowel syndrome is classified as a functional disease, meaning there is a disturbance in how the bowels function. This dysfunction can include the contents of your large intestine moving too quickly or too slowly. There are a few theories as to what causes IBS. These theories include neurotransmitters like serotonin, nervous system stimulation or suppression, or microbiome dysbiosis.

What is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease is a group of conditions that cause chronic inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract. It's what doctors call a structural disease because physical damage causes the symptoms. Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis are considered inflammatory bowel diseases. 

IBD typically involves a level of inflammation that can be destructive and permanently harm the intestines. Bloody or black stool, weight loss, anemia, and fever are all symptoms of IBD, not IBS. These symptoms should all be taken seriously and addressed with your healthcare provider.

What Symptoms do IBS and IBD Have in Common? 

  • Belly Pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Frequent or urgent bowel movements

What is the Difference Between IBS and IBD Diagnoses? 

When considering an IBS diagnosis, a healthcare professional will look at symptoms and their intensity. Diagnosis for IBS is made by excluding other medical conditions as the potential cause behind symptoms. 

IBD is diagnosed through imaging and other tests that look at inflammation levels. IBD can cause permanent or long-term physical changes through continued inflammation. 

While IBS symptoms can be debilitating, they are not associated with inflammation or physical injury. 

What is the Difference Between IBD and IBS Treatments? 

Treatment for IBD and IBS requires different approaches, methods, and medication. 

IBS treatment focuses on treating specific symptoms, often hoping to create healthy formed bowel movements. This makes laxatives, antidiarrheal agents, and antispasmodics options depending on each case and symptom. Supporting gut health with probiotics, antibiotics, and fiber supplements can also be useful. IBS treatments can also focus on mood regulation. Patients might be prescribed a range of mood modulating medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like citalopram or sertraline.

IBD treatment has a more direct approach, with reducing inflammation as its primary objective. This means a patient may be prescribed antibiotics, corticosteroids, and a class of anti-inflammatories called aminosalicylates. Mesalamine and balsalazide are also likely options. Approved biologic medications for IBD are infliximab, adalimumab or golimumab.

Is IBS an Autoimmune Disease? 

No, unlike IBD, IBS is not an autoimmune disease. At Mymee, we consider IBS an autoimmune-related condition. Although IBS  is not necessarily associated with inflammation or immune dysregulation, many people who have autoimmune conditions may suffer from IBS concurrently or before developing an IBD.

Diet and Nutrition for IBS and IBD

IBD and IBS are not caused by diet. However, diet can affect symptoms. Paying attention to what is eaten may go a long way toward reducing symptoms and promoting adequate nutrition. Both IBD and IBS may lead to malnutrition of certain nutrients. This is due to the likelihood of the increased transit time of bowel movements for each condition. Therefore, it is important to address nutrient needs as part of an effective IBS and IBD treatment approach. 

There is no one diet to follow for either IBS or IBD, but here are a few helpful suggestions when considering what to eat:

  • Slow down while eating; don't rush through meals
  • Try eating smaller meals more often throughout the day
  • Avoid foods that trigger symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramping (these could be fatty, fried foods, meats, spicy foods, dairy, fiber-rich foods)
  • Try incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids as they may have an anti-inflammatory effect
  • Consider nutritional supplements if your appetite is poor and solid foods aren't tolerated well

Can Mymee Help With IBS Symptoms? 

Yes, Mymee can help address IBS symptoms. 

Mymee offers the opportunity to work one-on-one with a certified health coach to identify your triggers. Mymee health coaches join their expertise with getting to know your health history. Just like there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet, there is no one treatment for IBS or IBD symptoms. Mymee is a firm believer in personalized, holistic care. 

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