If you're wondering what the difference is between IBS vs IBD, you're not alone. However, even though suffering from stomach and digestive pain can become debilitating and it can be difficult to know what causes it, these 2 diseases are quite a bit different. At Carolina Digestive Health Associates, we’re here to help you figure out the cause of your stomach troubles and help improve them. Some of the common ailments we see, IBS vs IBD, are often referred to interchangeably, but we want to make sure you know the difference between the two conditions and how we approach treatment.

What Is The Difference Between IBS vs IBD?

IBS is the less severe condition of the two, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and it refers to a group of symptoms that have been persisting for at least 6 months. IBS is usually accompanied with abdominal pain and discomfort, or a change in appearance or frequency of stool. Many patients also report that certain foods can trigger IBS symptoms. It can be hard to understand sometimes, even for doctors, because there is no known cause for IBS. Unlike many other diseases, there is no physical or anatomical problem that is associated with IBS. A possible cause of irritable bowel syndrome could be severe food poisoning, as most people who suffer from IBS report to have had bouts with food poisoning in the past. 

On the other hand, IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is a structural disease, meaning there are physical changes in your digestive system. It is a broad-spectrum term of diseases with the most common forms of diagnosed IBD being Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (both of which are a result of inflammation throughout your digestive system). The symptoms include severe diarrhea, pain, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.

How Can I Manage My IBS or IBD?

Once you are diagnosed with either of these conditions, your healthcare provider can help you determine your next step. 

IBS is typically managed through lifestyle and diet changes; also there are new medications on the market that can control the diarrhea or constipation that can accompany IBS. There are many cases that seem to have been treated with antibiotics in a "one-and-done" treatment. Often, however, the symptoms returned. It’s important to start watching what you eat. Many patients start to keep a food diary, writing down what they eat and how it affects them. Eliminating certain foods can help with the day-to-day symptoms.

IBD is a chronic disease for which there currently is no cure, but it can often be treated with medications, although those will vary based on the diagnosis. Regular care and oversight by a gastroenterologist is necessary for IBD patients.

If you’ve been living with stomach issues that are persistent and unexplained, it’s time to contact Carolina Digestive Health Associates so we can work on a diagnosis and treatment plan with you.