Understanding the Difference Between IBS and IBD

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are two common chronic conditions that can cause a rollercoaster of digestive woes. While they share similar acronyms and some overlapping symptoms, they are fundamentally different. Understanding these differences is crucial for seeking proper diagnosis and management. We spoke with our GI specialists, Dr. Simon Crass, Dr. Nelson Moy, and Kelly Bireley FNP, and they helped us break down the difference between the two.



IBS is a functional disorder of the gut, which means the gut does not show signs of physical damage, but its function is disrupted. The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but it is thought to be related to problems with the way the gut muscles contract and how the body responds to pain. IBS is not life-threatening, but it can significantly impact your quality of life.


Symptoms of IBS can include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping – Often worse after eating or during stressful times, and relieved by passing stool.
  • Bloating and gas – Uncomfortable swelling of the abdomen.
  • Changes in bowel habits – Alternating between diarrhea and constipation or experiencing both.

Triggers for IBS can vary from person to person, and management often involves:

  • Dietary modifications – Identifying and avoiding food triggers like FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols).
  • Stress management – Techniques like yoga, meditation, or therapy can help.
  • Medication – To manage symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, or pain.



IBD is a group of inflammatory bowel diseases that causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. The two most common types of IBD are Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is marked by recurrent inflammation in the mucosal layer of the colon. It often involves the rectum and may extend to other parts of the colon. Crohn’s disease can affect any segment of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from your mouth to your anus.

Unlike IBS, IBD causes damage to the intestines. This inflammation can damage the gut lining and lead to:

  • Persistent diarrhea, often bloody – May occur urgently and at night.
  • Abdominal pain and cramping – Can be severe and unrelated to meals.
  • Weight loss and fatigue – Due to malabsorption of nutrients.
  • Fever and rectal bleeding – Can be present in some cases.

IBD is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. There is no cure, but management aims to control inflammation and prevent flare-ups. This may involve:

  • Medications – Anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, and biologics.
  • Dietary changes – Similar to IBS, excluding trigger foods may be helpful.
  • Surgery -In severe cases, to remove damaged sections of the intestine.


Seek Clarity: When to see a doctor

Both IBS and IBD require medical evaluation for proper diagnosis and management. If you experience persistent digestive issues, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor. Early diagnosis and appropriate intervention can significantly improve your quality of life. Cameron’s GI team is here to help you!








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