IBS vs. IBD: What’s the Difference in These Common Bowel Conditions?

IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) are two gastrointestinal problems that often get mistaken for each other.

Common bowel condition

IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) are two gastrointestinal problems that often get mistaken for each other.  This is not surprising since both exhibit the same symptoms. However, these diseases should not be referred to interchangeably. Here are the key differences between these two common bowel condition.

What are IBD and IBS?

IBS is a common bowel condition that, while not serious, can affect people enough to disrupt their normal routines. This could manifest as irregular bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation. IBD is far more serious. This is an umbrella term that encompasses different kinds of inflammatory digestive tract disorders.  These disorders include:

  • Ulcerative colitis. Long-term ulcers in the rectum and colon.
  • Crohn’s disease. Long-term inflammation of digestive tract lining which can then affect stomach tissues.

The bad news about IBD is that even with proper medical intervention, people living with it have to deal with the symptoms in the long term.  Such symptoms can be fatal as well.

In a nutshell, IBS is not inflammatory in nature and is a lot less serious a condition as compared to IBD.  The first manifests as short-term symptoms while the second is a long-term condition that needs focused medical intervention before symptoms get any worse.


Here is another difference between IBS and IBD.  IBS is also a lot more common. Some statistics would show that close to 40 million people in the US alone have experienced or are susceptible to IBS.  It goes without saying that IBS is much more prevalent than IBD. The tricky thing about IBD, however, is that due to similar symptoms with IBS, it can cleverly mask as its less serious counterpart.  This is the reason why people should see a gastroenterologist right away if they suffer from chronic symptoms of any of these two common bowel conditions to get an accurate diagnosis and proper medical intervention.


Here is how each common bowel condition manifests itself. IBS symptoms include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps

IBD, on the other hand, has the following symptoms:

  • All listed above
  • Weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Intestinal scarring
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Malnutrition
  • Joint pains

Here is the rule of thumb, if it is a lot worse, then it could be IBD.  For example, IBS can cause diarrhea but the amount of stool expelled fall well within normal limits and peters out after oral medication.  For IBD, stool expelled is excessive and can lead to dehydration. It also occurs for a longer duration than IBS-induced loose bowel movement.


IBS, as mentioned earlier, is easier to treat.  You can take a doctor-prescribed medication and you are good to go.

IBD, on the other hand, is a different case altogether.  The doctor has to diagnose first the specific IBD form you have.  After which, he/she will then design a treatment plan to treat and prevent the symptoms of that form while responding to the inflammation.  Another exacerbating variable is stress. IBD, as some research would show, can be triggered by stress. This is why some doctors would recommend talk therapy, meditation, yoga, and ample time of exercise in conjunction with medication.

IBS and IBD are both common bowel conditions that affects millions of people all over the world. However, you should not be at the mercy of its symptoms. Consult a trusted gastroenterologist for you to find the best path towards healing.

Common bowel condition

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