In the gastrointestinal world, the terms IBS and IBD oftentimes get used synonymously by patients when describing a stomach issue, but the two conditions are actually two completely different problems. Both of them can be addressed with the help of a gastrointestinal specialist, but there are clear distinctions between the two conditions that need to be acknowledged and understood. Below, we take a closer look at the differences between IBS and IBD and explain how both conditions can be treated by Dr. Bhatti.
Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS, also known as irritable bowel syndrome, is a gastrointestinal disorder that typically affects the small and large intestine, and the collon. It’s a very common condition, affecting more than 35 million Americans, and is sometimes referred to as nervous indigestion or a spastic colon. The root cause of the condition isn’t entirely understood, but medical experts believe that it could develop as a result of irregular intestinal contractions, infections, trigger foods, stress, nervous system abnormalities or changes in healthy gut bacteria.
When the condition develops, a person may experience a range of gastrointestinal issues, like gas, bloating, constipation, or more serious issues like vomiting, rectal bleeding, and unexplained weight loss. Treating the condition comes down to testing for and understanding the likely causes of the condition. For some people, all that may be required are dietary changes to avoid trigger foods and healthy outlets to relieve stress. For others, medication to rebalance gut bacteria and regular exercise can help your body get back to a healthier state.
Surgery isn’t typically used to address IBS, so while you can rest easier knowing that conservative care will be your likely route, there are a number of different underlying causes, so it’s not always easy to find the right solution on the first try. In general, making positive dietary changes, reducing stress, increasing exercise and pursuing the right type of medication to help with your gut health can all help to improve symptoms when used in combination with one another. Left untreated, IBS can cause other issues, like Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or colon cancer, which is why you shouldn’t ignore symptoms.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease, is a condition categorized by inflammation of the colon and small intestine. The two most common types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is likely caused by an autoimmune response that causes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract, while Crohn’s is an autoimmune condition that can cause inflammation in the digestive tract, mouth and rectum, and is believed to be caused by your immune system incorrectly attacking harmless bacteria along the digestive tract.
Symptoms of IBD tend to include stomach cramping, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, unintended weight loss and bloody stools. As you can see, some of these symptoms mirror the symptoms of IBS, which is another reason why the conditions are oftentimes viewed as one in the same. Lab tests and stool studies can help your gastrointestinal specialist determine which of these conditions you’re dealing with.
Treating IBD is similar to treating IBS, in that healthy lifestyle changes are typically the first step. Improving your diet, watching for trigger foods, getting regular exercise and healthy sleep, giving up smoking and reducing stress are all helpful ways to help tame symptoms of IBS. If those treatments aren’t enough, nutrient supplementation and medications can help improve your gut health. However, unlike IBS, inflammatory bowel disease can be treated with surgery if conservative methods fail. Surgery to remove part of your damaged colon or intestine can help resolve symptoms and prevent bigger problems, and your surgeon can walk you through these options should they become necessary.
So if you’re dealing with a gastrointestinal issue and you want a specialist to see if IBS or IBD could be the underlying cause, reach out to Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants for an appointment and diagnosis. For more information, reach out to our clinic today at (952) 368-3800.