Whilst the abbreviations sound similar and there is an overlap in symptoms, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are two very different conditions. In lieu of world IBD day on 19th May, there’s no better time to unpack the differences between the two and discuss the signs, symptoms and management of IBD. So, lets compare IBS vs IBD – the importance of a correct diagnosis.
What is IBD?
IBD is a chronic inflammatory condition which affects the digestive tract. It includes both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, which differ in terms of the affected location, damaged areas and layers of inflammation. IBD affects approximately 1 in 250 Australians between the ages of 5-40, although it can occur at any age.
IBS vs IBS
Whilst IBD isn’t as common as IBS the two share many of the same symptoms. IBS is a functional disorder gut disorder which affects approximately 1 in 7 individuals. Unlike IBD, IBS is a non-inflammatory condition and does not cause any physical damage to the digestive tract.
It is important to know that an IBS diagnosis requires the exclusion of all other potential causes of symptoms (including IBD). Due to the overlap in symptoms, it’s important to have any changes to gut symptoms investigated properly by your GP and gastroenterologist to ensure you receive the correct diagnosis. This allows for the best management of your condition and symptoms.
Signs, symptoms and management
Common symptoms of both IBD and IBS include abdominal pain, cramping and changes in bowel habits such as consistency and frequency. Since IBD is an inflammatory condition, additional symptoms may include fever, blood or mucous in your stool, weight loss and anaemia. If you experience any of these symptoms, reach out to your GP as a first point of call to investigate what’s going on. Having a great GP, gastroenterologist and experienced Dietitian in your corner for optimal IBD management is key!
If you have received an IBD diagnosis, there are dietary strategies (in addition to medications) which may help to improve your symptoms and overall health. Nutrition management is dependent on whether you are in remission or if you are experiencing an active flare of your IBD. If you are in remission, we recommend following a healthy, balanced diet, with regular intake of fibre-containing foods. However, if you’re unsure how to best manage your diet, or in need of some personalised advice, we recommend speaking to a dietitian for a tailored plan!
Or, if you’d like to learn more about gut health in general, check out this article on the gut brain axis.
Crohn’s & Colitis Australia (CCA). 2023. Improving Inflammatory Bowel Disease Care Across Australia – Crohn’s & Colitis Australia (CCA). [ONLINE] Available at: https://crohnsandcolitis.org.au/advocacy/our-projects/improving-inflammatory-bowel-disease-care-across-australia/. [Accessed 11 May 2023].
Prevalence of IBD | CDC. 2023. Prevalence of IBD | CDC. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ibd/data-and-statistics/prevalence.html. [Accessed 11 May 2023].
What Is IBS | Monash FODMAP – Monash Fodmap . 2023. What Is IBS | Monash FODMAP – Monash Fodmap. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.monashfodmap.com/ibs-central/what-is-ibs/. [Accessed 11 May 2023].
IBD vs IBS – the importance of a correct diagnosis.