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IBD or IBS, What’s The Difference

It’s so easy to get IBS and IBS all mixed up. Now, these two familiar acronyms stand for two conditions in the digestive system that are very different. Both are chronic conditions that cause cramping, abdominal pain, and urgent bowel movement.


What’s the difference between the two?




Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a disorder of the GI tract. The -S stands for the syndrome, a collection of symptoms that occur together and describe a particular disease. It is often difficult to identify the cause of irritable bowel syndrome.


Most people experience IBS from adolescence to their forties, but women are more susceptible to IBS than men. There's also a possibility that rates may be higher in men simply because they consult their doctors less often. IBS affects the lower GI area like the colon, small and large intestine. Those with this condition often experience chronic constipation or diarrhea, and in some cases both. Some even experience being bloated and gassy. Emotional trauma, antibiotic therapy, and GI infections are some risk factors.




Inflammatory bowel disease or IBS is a disease that causes inflammation of the intestines. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two subtypes of IBD. Like IBS, the most common symptom of IBD is diarrhea. Other symptoms include bloody stool, abdominal cramps, fever, extreme weight loss, loss of body fluids, and anemia. Considering that IBD is a chronic disease, patient management is essential to reduce symptoms as much as possible. Antibiotics, antidiarrheal drugs, lifestyle changes, and in severe cases surgery may be required.


IBS, IBD, and gut health


A growing body of evidence suggests that our gut bacteria affect both our health and disease, including IBS and IBD.

  • Research shows that a specific type of bacteria, the type that produces methane gas, slows down intestinal motility and may contribute to IBS constipation. Interestingly, those with IBS-diarrhea or mixed have low levels of methane-producing bacteria.
  • Numerous factors have been identified, including the presence of pathogenic microbes like E. coli and previous GI infections that may have been the cause of IBD. Moreover, patients with IBD flare tend to have lower levels of probiotics in the gut. Imbalances in the gut reduce the overall diversity of friendly bacteria, thus causing inflammation.


Do probiotics work with IBS and IBD?


There is no cure for IBS or IBD. There will be a period of remissions when they’re not active. With a proper diet, nutritional supplements like probiotics, you can help ease the symptoms.

The first line of defense for these two chronic conditions is to supply your body with lots and lots of fibers. The best way to get it is naturally, like fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Over-the-counter supplements like water-soluble fiber and probiotics may also help.


Using probiotics in IBS and IBD provides a way to maintain periods of disease remission. Probiotics may also improve quality of life and reduce the symptoms. Restoring the balance in the gut flora can help improve the symptoms of IBS and IBD by:

  • Slowing down bowel movement
  • Fighting inflammation
  • Inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria
  • Reducing the gut’s sensitivity to gas buildup
  • Balancing the gut flora, thus reducing the gas production
If you choose to take probiotic supplements in managing the symptoms of IBS and IBD, take them alongside other treatments.

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