IBS vs IBD: These Are the Key Differences to Know



The phrases “IBS” and “IBD” are sometimes used interchangeably to explain gastrointestinal discomfort, however they’re removed from the identical. “There are similarities within the presentation of IBS and IBD, however they’re distinctively totally different situations,” says Anthony Lembo, MD, a gastroenterologist and the Director of Analysis for Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Illness Institute.

Brief for irritable bowel syndrome, IBS is a continual situation that may trigger a wide range of uncomfortable GI signs starting from cramps and stomach ache to diarrhea and constipation. There are three various kinds of IBS (IBS-C, -D, and -M, which correspond to your bowel signs throughout a flare-up), and sure meals or stress may bring on symptoms, in keeping with the Mayo Clinic.

Specialists In This Article

  • Alyssa Maria Parian, MD, gastroenterologist and Affiliate Professor of Drugs at Johns Hopkins Drugs
  • Anthony Lembo, MD, gastroenterologist and Director of Analysis for the Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Illness Institute
  • Gail Hecht, MD, gastroenterologist, Wonderbelly Medical Advisor, and former American Gastroenterological Affiliation president
  • Samantha Nazareth, MD, FACG, board-certified gastroenterologist based mostly in New York Metropolis

Inflammatory bowel illness, or IBD, is a time period that encompasses each Crohn’s illness and ulcerative colitis, each of which contain irritation within the tissues of the digestive tract (although ulcerative colitis is confined to the big gut). Like IBS, IBD is a continual situation, and a few signs will be comparable. However not like IBS, the irritation that happens within the GI tract could cause long-term injury for individuals with IBD.

Learn on for every thing it’s good to learn about each situations, together with how suppliers diagnose every in addition to the remedy choices.

What causes IBS and IBD?

There’s nonetheless lots we do not learn about IBS and IBD, and “the precise causes of each [conditions] are largely unknown,” says Alyssa Maria Parian, MD, a gastroenterologist and Affiliate Professor of Drugs at Johns Hopkins Drugs. Nevertheless, current analysis can clue us in to some attainable culprits:

Potential IBS causes

IBS is taken into account a neurogastrointestinal dysfunction, which implies that an individual’s gut and brain do not work correctly collectively to handle the digestive system. And whereas we do not know precisely what causes this to occur, “there are elements which can be thought to contribute,” says Samantha Nazareth, MD, a gastroenterologist working towards in New York Metropolis.  That features irregular intestine muscle contractions, points with the nerves within the digestive system, adjustments within the gut microbiome, or meals intolerances. “IBS may develop after a foul case of gastroenteritis [aka, the ‘stomach flu’],” Dr. Nazareth provides.

Potential IBD causes

With IBD, specialists imagine the trigger is probably going a mixture of a malfunctioning immune system, the setting, and genetics. “It does run in households,” says Dr. Parian. “There may be additionally believed to be a triggered occasion that is not clearly outlined, however could also be a viral an infection or antibiotic use that disrupts the intestine microbiome.”

“By definition, the prognosis of IBS will be made solely after ruling out different GI issues, [including IBD,]” —Gail Hecht, MD, gastroenterologist

What are the indicators and signs of IBS vs. IBD?

IBS signs

Everybody experiences GI misery on occasion. However with IBS, the signs could come and go however are likely to last more. In addition they are usually triggered by one thing particular, reminiscent of sure meals or stress. You might discover:

  • New or uncommon bowel motion adjustments
  • Sharp stomach ache or cramping
  • Bloating
  • Constipation or diarrhea (or a mixture of each)
  • A sense of fullness

IBD signs

When you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s illness, chances are you’ll expertise:

  • Diarrhea
  • Belly ache
  • Cramps
  • Fuel
  • Bloating
  • Blood in your stool
  • Fatigue
  • Decrease urge for food
  • Weight reduction

How extreme are IBS and IBD?

Each IBS and IBD can current on a spectrum, with signs starting from extra delicate to extra extreme. With IBS, signs could also be frequent or come and go; many individuals with the situation are nonetheless capable of full day-to-day actions, whereas others discover it troublesome to perform throughout a flare.

Folks with IBD, too, could expertise a milder type of the sickness, however this situation will also be extraordinarily debilitating. “Whereas IBS doesn’t trigger tissue injury, IBD can result in critical issues,” says Dr. Parian. Sadly, that may embody an elevated threat of colon most cancers, per the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. As time goes on, some individuals with IBD additionally want surgical procedure when their signs can now not be managed by remedy.

IBD could up your threat of getting different continual situations as properly. Knowledge from the 2015 and 2016 National Health Interview Survey discovered that adults with IBD usually tend to have diabetes; coronary heart, lung, or kidney illness; most cancers; arthritis; and ulcers.

How widespread are IBS and IBD?

Of the 2 situations, IBS is extra widespread, affecting about 15 p.c of individuals within the U.S., in keeping with Johns Hopkins Medicine. (In truth, IBS is taken into account essentially the most generally recognized illness by gastroenterologists, the Cleveland Clinic notes.)

A smaller proportion of the inhabitants has IBD—round 1.3 p.c, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Analysis and remedy for IBS and IBD


No single take a look at at the moment exists to find out whether or not an individual has IBS. So as an alternative, suppliers use a wide range of procedures and instruments to make a prognosis, reminiscent of blood or stool assessments, a colonoscopy, or higher endoscopy. Your physician will even ask you about your signs to ensure you have no different situations.

“By definition, the prognosis of IBS will be made solely after ruling out different GI issues,” says Gail Hecht, MD, a gastroenterologist, Wonderbelly Medical Advisor, and former American Gastroenterological Affiliation president.

There is not a treatment for IBS. However as soon as your physician determines you could have this situation, they’re going to assist you to give you a plan to manage your symptoms. “IBS is usually handled with life-style modifications,” says Dr. Parian.

This may look a bit of totally different from individual to individual, however your practitioner will probably suggest consuming loads of water, avoiding meals that set off your signs (dairy, meals that include gluten, and “gassy” foods like beans and cruciferous veggies are widespread culprits), and making an attempt a low-FODMAP diet, which limits harder-to-digest fermentable short-chain carbohydrates.

Treatment may assist relieve IBS signs, and there is proof to counsel that various kinds of therapies (together with hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral remedy, and biofeedback) will be useful, too.


As with IBS, there is not one take a look at to diagnose IBD, however lots of the identical procedures (reminiscent of a colonoscopy, higher endoscopy, and stool assessments) are used to search for intestinal irritation and decide you probably have Crohn’s illness or ulcerative colitis.

Each of those situations are continual, which suggests there isn’t any treatment. However they are often managed with a mixture of remedy and life-style adjustments (avoiding set off meals and managing your stress, for instance) to scale back flares and reduce the irritation you expertise.

Some individuals with Crohn’s illness and ulcerative colitis finally want surgical procedure as soon as they’re now not capable of handle their signs with remedy.

When to see a health care provider

Folks experiencing GI signs do not at all times really feel empowered to get the remedy they want. In accordance with a 2018 survey of greater than 71,000 People, round 60 p.c reported GI discomfort within the prior week, however separate research means that fewer than 20 p.c of individuals with these kinds of signs carry them as much as a health care provider. When you have any of the IBS or IBD signs above—notably in the event that they’re getting progressively worse or you could have a household historical past of both situation—make an appointment together with your supplier. Each IBS and IBD will be improved with remedy, and step one to feeling higher is searching for care.

And there are different causes to be in common contact together with your physician about GI discomfort: IBS and IBD can typically mimic signs of colon most cancers, which “we’re seeing current earlier and earlier,” says Dr. Parian. Schedule an appointment together with your supplier ASAP should you’re noticing any particularly regarding signs, reminiscent of blood in your stool, anemia, unexplained weight reduction, or a fever.


Can IBS flip into IBD?

No, IBS cannot “flip into” IBD, specialists say. “These illnesses are separate issues,” says Dr. Hecht. Nevertheless, it’s attainable for somebody to have IBD signs (suppose: stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and cramping) earlier than the situation is formally recognized. The 2 situations may go hand in hand: IBD sufferers are thrice extra prone to have a previous historical past of IBS, research has found.

Can you could have IBS and IBD?

It is definitely attainable. Whereas IBS would not essentially result in IBD, it may be “quite common” to have IBS and IBD collectively, says Dr. Parian. In accordance with a 2012 systematic review and meta-analysis, 35 to 40 p.c of people that had confirmed IBD additionally reported signs of IBS (that is essentially the most complete analysis performed on this space up to now). What’s extra, sufferers with lively IBD had been almost 5 occasions extra prone to have IBS-compatible signs in comparison with these within the management group.

How usually is IBD misdiagnosed as IBS?

As a result of there isn’t any particular take a look at for IBS, suppliers use a variety of procedures starting from colonoscopies to CT scans to an higher endoscopy to rule out varied different situations. “Sometimes, [IBS] is a prognosis of exclusion,” says Dr. Hecht. Because of this, some research suggests round 10 p.c of sufferers who even have IBD are misdiagnosed with IBS at first.

Nicely+Good articles reference scientific, dependable, current, sturdy research to again up the data we share. You may belief us alongside your wellness journey.

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  2. “Colorectal Most cancers Amongst Inflammatory Bowel Illness Sufferers: Threat Elements and Prevalence In comparison with the Common Inhabitants.” Frontiers, Aug. 2023. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2023.1225616/full. Accessed Mar. 2024.

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