• IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) are not the same problems with the digestive tract.
  • IBS usually causes no ulcers or lesions in the bowel, and it involves only the colon.
  • IBD is a term used for a group of bowel diseases that cause inflammation in the digestive tract. The most common forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease.
  • IBD causes ulcers in the digestive tract tissue that may occur almost anywhere from the mouth to the anus. (Crohn’s disease can affect any portion of the GI tract, while ulcerative colitis only affects the large and small intestine, rectum, and anus).
  • Researchers do not know the exact cause of IBS or IBD. However, they suspect that multiple factors may cause IBS, and an immune system problem may cause IBD.
  • These diseases are often confused because they have similar symptoms (such as persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting). They sound similar and have almost identical abbreviations.
  • There is no cure for IBS or IBD (Crohn’s disease and UC), but IBD has more severe symptoms than IBS. For example, ulcers in the bowel, rectum, or anus; rectal bleeding and anemia. Treatment requires medication, and some patients need surgery.
  • IBS is treated and managed with medications and lifestyle changes like diet and stress reduction.

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

The exact cause of IBS is not known. It is believed to be caused by abnormal activity of the intestines’ muscles and or the nerves that control the muscles.

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is a common disorder of the large intestine (colon) that causes symptoms of cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and or constipation. Researchers and doctors do not know the exact cause of IBS. Still, they suspect that multiple factors, such as foods, stress, hormones, or other illnesses combined with gut bacteria trigger abnormal bowel muscle contractions in the gastrointestinal (GI) nervous system.

IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)

The two most common types of IBD that occur are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe a group of inflammatory conditions, mainly in the large and small bowels. The two most common IBD types that occur are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, or UC. Other IBD types include ulcerative proctitis, proctosigmoiditis, left-sided colitis, pancolitis, and acute severe ulcerative colitis.

Pain in IBS vs. IBD?

Abdominal pain in IBS may be spread over a wide area of the abdomen. Still, it can localize in the lower-left area of it. The problem may intensify while eating meals when gas is present in the GI tract and from abdominal bloating. A bowel movement may reduce pain.

Abdominal pain in IBD may occur anywhere in the abdomen. Its location may suggest the type of IBD you may have (for example, left-sided abdominal pain is a classic symptom of ulcerative colitis).

Constipation can be a problem for people with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. Foods that trigger constipation, and thus trigger IBS symptoms include:

  1. Bananas
  1. Chewing gum
  2. Caffeine
  3. Gluten

Similarities in the signs and symptoms of IBS and IBD

Initially, it is difficult for doctors to diagnose IBS and IBD because sometimes some of the symptoms are similar, for example:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea, and or vomiting
  • An urgent need for a bowel movement

Differences between the signs and symptoms of IBS vs. IBD

Symptoms unique to IBS are:

  • Changes in bowel movement
  • Changes in how the stools look
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Whitish mucus in the stool
  • A feeling of not having finished a bowel movement.
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Urinary frequency and urgency

Some people with IBS have IBS-D. Diarrhea is one of the primary symptoms or IBS-C in which constipation is one of the primary symptoms.

Symptoms unique to IBD (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) are more serious, and include:

  • Anemia
  • Eye redness or pain
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Joint pain or soreness
  • Skin changes
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rectal bleeding

Causes IBS vs. IBD?

Although some patients may show microscopic areas of inflammation in IBS, the causes are speculative and may include hyperreactivity to bacterial gut infections, accelerated or delayed transit of contents through the GI tract (diarrhea or constipation), and abnormal bowel contractions caused by triggers such as foods or stress.

The exact cause of IBD is not known. Researchers suggest the IBD types are caused by an immune system malfunction in the bowel tissue, with a genetic predisposition to develop IBD and the individual’s response to gut microorganisms.

Stress affect IBS or IBD?

Stress may aggravate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

Treatments of IBS vs. IBD?

Treatment for IBD includes anti-inflammatory drugs like aminosalicylates and corticosteroids, immune system suppressors (many types like azathioprine, cyclosporine, and methotrexate), and antibiotics (metronidazole or ciprofloxacin). Some patients may require surgery (removal of the entire colon and rectum or, in others, removal of the damaged small bowel).

Treatment for IBS is mainly diet; however, several drugs, for example, alosetron (Lotronex), rifaximin (Xifaxan), lubiprostone (Amitiza) are approved to treat IBS.

Other medications may reduce symptoms of either condition, for example, Tylenol, antiemetics, laxatives, and antidepressants.