Difference Between IBS and IBD

What is the difference between IBS and IBD?

Friends and acquaintances often notice that lately I have been following a fairly strict food diet (low FODMAPs) and usually ask me the reasons. When I say I have IBS, most people don’t know what it is, which is kind of strange considering 15% of the population suffers from it. Some people have heard about it, while others mistake this syndrome for IBD.

I have started to read about the difference between IBS and IBD and decided to create this post to point out the similarities and differences.

Although both IBS and IBD have similar acronyms and have some common symptoms too, they are quite different from each other.

The first one stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and the second one for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

IBS is therefore a SYNDROME, while IBD is a DISEASE. Let’s see the differences between the two.

A syndrome is a collection of signs and symptoms which are known to appear with each other, but without any known cause.

A disease however, is an identified and recognised disorder whose cause and prognosis is mainly identified and understood.

Please note, this doesn’t mean that syndromes are not dangerous and that only diseases are something to be worried about, both have to be treated and managed accordingly to avoid any complications.

IBD includes two conditions, Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis, both conditions of serious concern and which cause inflammation of the bowel.

IBS doesn’t cause inflammation, ulcers or damage to the bowel wall.

IBS could be caused by stress, as it is the result from an interaction between the brain and gut, however it is believed that stress does not cause IBD. There is narrowing of the intestines and ulceration plus inflammation of the bowel wall in IBD, however that don’t happen in IBS.

IBS patients might need to pass stool multiple times a day, but the total amount of stools passed remains consistent with the normal volume. However, IBD patients have diarrhea, increased volume of stools.

IBS may present with headache, alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation, loss of appetite, nausea, bloating and fatigue.

IBD, also includes nausea and anxiety though, but with bloody stools, canker like sores in mouth, growth issues due to malnutrition as bowel wall gets damaged, fever, abdominal pain and weight loss. 

Ulcerative colitis gets picked early due to bloody diarrhea, however Crohn’s disease sometimes gets skipped for few months, before it gets diagnosed due to vague symptoms and presentation.

There are tests that can help to diagnose IBS and others that can help to diagnose IBD.

Treatment of IBS and IBD

Although not 100% curable , both IBS and IBD are often treatable and controllable. Following some steps can help to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.

Dietary changes:

75% patients with IBS get their symptoms resolved, when they eat diet with low FODMAPs.
IBD patients can have multiple small meals rather than huge main meals to reduce symptoms.


Sometimes drugs and medications are needed for relieving the symptoms. Drugs used to treat IBD are mainly antibiotics, antidiarrheal and immunomodulator medicines.


IBS don’t need any surgery at all, however, IBD patients might require surgery to remove the defected and symptomatic portion of the bowel to relieve their symptoms.

Psychological help

Stress aggravates both IBD and IBS, so managing stress and other psychological issues, can be really helpful in keeping patients symptoms in control.

This has helped me to clarify a little bit the differences between IBS and IBD, I hope it has helped you too.

Until next time take good care.

xo Larah


Please note that I’m not a doctor, a nutritionist, a registered dietitian and neither a fitness expert. In this blog I am sharing my experience with IBS, with food and life. This is purely my experience and it is not my intention to give you advice. When it comes to your health and fitness, consult your GP and do your research

About Larah

I have been suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome for many years, but it took a longtime to get a diagnosis, since then I have been following a low FODMAP diet, which has changed my life for the better. This is my story and experience with IBS and the low FODMAP diet.

9 comments on “Difference Between IBS and IBD

  1. Thanks for clearing this up. Next time I need to explain to someone about IBD, I might send them to this page. Stress seems to be a common theme in many health conditions!

    • Thanks for the comment Stephanie and for spreading the word. Yes stress can cause a lot of health issues and we need to find way to control it. Good luck to you with everything.

  2. It’s amazing how ignorant so many people are of the illnesses that affect so
    many of us. I mean, 15% of the population is a huge number for those who aren’t
    part of that number to just not know what everyone else’s suffering from. I had
    actually never known there was something called IBD until reading this article. I
    had never heard that irritable bowel disease even existed, which is pretty sad
    since so many people obviously have it. We really need to work on raising
    awareness for things that we ourselves don’t necessarily live with. Having said
    that it’s really great to know that it is so treatable with something as simple
    as a dietary change.

    • Hi Jane, I was the same as you, I had not a clue IBS existed until last year. Now that I know, I can do something about it and fortunately for me the low FODMAP diet works.
      Although there are around 15% of people suffering from it, only around 5% know they have it. There are so many symptoms similar to other illnesses that I guess it takes lots of elimination, before finding out for sure. I was one of the lucky one.

  3. Dont say things like it is not curable. 🙁
    I was hoping I could wear great dresses after am done dealing with this IBS.
    And I had no idea these two are different. Was planning to consult the same doc.

  4. Thanks for your nice words Dana, I’m glad you found the article useful. While I was researching the differences between IBS and IBD, I was surely happy to have IBS.

  5. Great information! I have a co-worker who has Crohn’s disease and she worries about IBD. She doesn’t talk about it much and I can understand why, but this post really gave me a better understanding of her battles vs. what I would go through with IBS.

    Another reason I really learned from this post is because it is written in MY terms. Meaning I can read and understand this post which means a lot to me. Thank you Larah! This does help tremendously.

  6. Is there any information on how IBD is caused? Is it from stress and bad foods? Once sufferers have the portion of their bowel removed, do they generally find they can go back to a normal diet?

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