If you think that you might have IBS or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) then you’re not alone. About 12% of people in the United States have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). 

Understanding the differences between these 2 conditions and being able to figure out what you have is vital but can be tricky. To make things more complicated, there are different types of IBD. 

While this all sounds confusing, it doesn’t have to be. Read this guide on a comparison between IBS vs IBD to better help you understand what you might have today. 

What Is IBS?

When it comes to your gastrointestinal health, you’ll want to know whether you have either of these conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome means that your bowel functions are impaired. 

This can impact your ability to work, your quality of life, travel, and more. The good news is that it doesn’t cause your colon to become inflamed. You also aren’t at an increased risk of IBD or colon cancer. 

If you have IBS you could also have IBD. Many who suffer from IBS might also have TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. 

Diagnosis involves taking a look at symptoms to figure out what triggers them. Diet and lifestyle changes can help. Many will go on what’s called the FODMAP diet which is avoiding foods that could trigger a reaction. 

IBS symptoms: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Mucus in the stool 
  • An urgency to have a bowel movement 

What Is IBD? 

Inflammatory bowel disease can cause damage to your intestinal tract. It can cause inflammation of the digestive tract and bowels. 

Another cause for concern is that you’re at an increased risk of colon cancer. Common conditions under the umbrella of IBD include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

One major concern is why medication for these is so expensive. You can read more here about the medication prices. 

Other conditions can include indeterminate colitis and Microscopic colitis. Crohn’s disease could impact your body from your anus to your mouth. 

Ulcerative colitis is the most common. Inflammation attacks the mucosal layer of the colon. 

IBD symptoms: 

  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • The urgency to go to the bathroom
  • Eye inflammation
  • Sensitive skin
  • Bleeding and pain around the rectum
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fatigue 
  • Joint pain


They both impact the gastrointestinal tract. IBD is a more serious condition since it can cause permanent damage.

It falls under an autoimmune condition. While IBD is a disease, IBS is a syndrome. 

Symptoms for both are quite similar since you could experience constipation, bloating, diarrhea, etc. IBS only impacts how your digestive system acts and isn’t an autoimmune condition. 

Can IBS Be Cured?

There isn’t a cure for IBS or IBD. You can manage your symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes for IBS. 

In serious conditions, your doctor might place you on medication. There isn’t a specific medication for IBS, so it’d depend on your symptoms. Some doctors recommend their patients see a therapist about relaxation techniques that can help. 

IBD Treatment

For IBD, you have more treatment options than IBS. One option is an immune system suppressor. 

They suppress the immune system that releases chemicals that cause inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs are another option. 

Corticosteroids are an example of an anti-inflammatory drug. Antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medications could be prescribed as well. 

You might also require nutritional supplements or pain relievers. It’s important to seek the help of a medical professional and not just go off of what you read online. 

Gut Microbiome

Scientists are studying the gut microbiome and how gut bacteria can affect IBD and IBS. Factors such as E. coli could lead to IBD. 

Some believe that when you experience a flare, it could be due to a lack of probiotics in the gut. 

Some believe that IBS symptoms are due to low levels of methanobrevibacter smithii (methane). This is what transports the stool through your gut. 

Pain in Both Conditions

In IBD, you might experience abdominal pain in any location. Where you feel the pain might tell you the type that you have. If you experience abdominal pain on the left, that’s normally ulcerative colitis. 

Whereas with IBS, the pain can be over a large part of the abdomen. It can be felt on the lower left side as well. Certain meals could produce gas, bloating, and pain that becomes worse. 

Unique Symptoms for Each Condition

If you have IBD, you might experience a fever, fatigue, anemia, eye redness, joint pain, rectal bleeding, a loss of appetite, weight loss, or skin changes. For IBS, you might experience fibromyalgia, white mucus in the stool, changes in bowel movements, urinary frequency, abdominal bloating, and others. 

IBS vs IBD Causes

While the cause of IBS isn’t known, it’s believed that stress can worsen the symptoms. It can also be caused by a disruption between the gut and the brain. 

Those with IBS often have a colon that’s not producing normal muscle contractions. Medications, hormonal changes, stress, and food can cause symptoms. 

Spasms can cause constipation. It could also cause diarrhea. 

While the cause of IBD isn’t known either, the immune system and genetics seem to have an effect. Stress, younger ages, urban areas, and certain medications increase your risk for IBD. 

Understanding the Differences Between IBS vs IBD

After exploring this guide, you should have a better idea of the differences between IBS vs IBD. Take your time speaking with your doctor and going over all of the symptoms that you’re experiencing. 

Would you like to read more educational content? Be sure to check out our other articles today. 

By Manali