Hey! I’m Jayne. I help people suffering with IBS regain control of their gut and life a normal life again, without restrictive diets or medication - no matter how long they have been struggling. Learn more.
One of the many challenging aspects of having gut and bowel issues is actually knowing what is going on. Why are you experiencing symptoms of pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, nausea and fatigue?
What’s happening inside of your body? Are these symptoms due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome or are they symptoms of something else such as Inflammatotry Bowel Disease.
In this post and in the video below, I’ll be helping you understand the key differences in symptoms between IBS and IBD, and the red flags to look out for to seek additional medical attention.
READY? HIT PLAY.
When it comes to understanding what’s happening inside of your bowel, it can get pretty confusing, and I for one know what it’s like to feel like banging your head against the wall trying to get some answers.
Many people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome are concerned that they have been misdiagnosed – they believe that they have something called Inflammatrory Bowel Disease (IBD) and not IBS.
Google certainly doesn’t help things, and the fact that the names of these two gut disorders are so similar also doesn’t help the confusion.
So let’s start with understanding what is IBS?
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) affects 10-15% of the adult population and is something called a functional disorder.
This means that there is no physical or structural damage to your bowel. For example, if you were to somehow shrink yourself down and take a look around inside of your intestines, you would find everything looking pretty normal.
Now the common symptoms of IBS are bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrohea, and the diagnosis of IBS should be made by your doctor – not by self diagnosis!
Your doctor will consider the diagnosis of IBS if you have experienced the symptoms of abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, or a change in bowel habit for more than 6 months.
In addition, an IBS diagnosis is usually only considered if you have abdominal pain that is relieved by passing a stool or there is altered bowel frequency (for example, constipation or diarrohea) and at least 2 symptoms from:
Now unfortunately the diagnosis of IBS is what we call a diagnosis of exclusion – meaning there is no specific test for IBS itself, and it’s diagnosed based on what I’ve already covered above, and by excluding other conditions.
Now the reason there is no test for IBS, is because as I explained a little earlier, there is actually no physical damage to the gut so there is nothing we can test for. Atleast not at this point in time.
So now we’ve talked about IBS, let’s look at IBD.
IBD stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease and is completely different from IBS. It is also less common, with estimates of around 1% of the adult population affected by it.
Now before I dive into what IBD is I want to clear up a common misunderstanding, and that is thinking that IBS turns into IBD or even colon cancer.
This is not true. IBS does not turn into anything dangerous or life threatening. IBS is a very different gut disorder.
Now with that said, let me explain the two different types of IBD.
Crohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and they are often characterised as autoimmune disorders. This means that they develop because the body starts to attack itself, causing inflammation of the GI tract (which runs from your mouth all the way down to your anus).
This is the first big difference with IBS – which is not an autoimmune disorder.
Also, unlike IBS, Crohns disease and Ulcerative Colitis are characterised by inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract.
So for example people with Crohns disease may have ulcers and inflammation anywhere from their mouth to their anus.
However, with Ulcerative Colitis, the inflammation is limited to the large intestine.
This inflammation allows IBD to be diagnosed with tests such as a colonoscopy as there is physical damage to the bowel, unlike in IBS.
So now you know what IBD is, and some of the key differences with IBS, let’s talk about the symptoms you need to be aware of and what I call red flags.
Let’s start with Crohns disease.
Symptoms of Crohns disease depend on where in the GI tract you have inflammation. Half of all people who have Crohns disease have disease of the small intestine and large intestine, with approximately 1/3 having Crohns limited to just their small intestine.
Common signs include:
In addition, you may also notice inflammation in other seemingly unrelated areas such as the eyes, experiencing back pain and arthritis, ulcers in the mouth and also skin ulcers.
Anaemia is also an indication of Crohns which can picked up via a blood test.
With Ulcerative Colitis the symptoms are very similar:
These symptoms are not typical of IBS, and point to something which need to be addressed ASAP by your doctor.
The red flags or warning signs you need to be aware of are:
Now I get it, gut stuff can be really embarrassing and awkward to talk about, and I know it’s easier to want to just put your head in the sand and hope your symptoms just go away.
But please don’t do this.
Your body is giving a very clear sign that all is not ok, and it is vitally important that if you experience any of the red flags I’ve covered that you speak to your doctor ASAP.
Because there is plenty of help out there for you and by knowing whats going on inside your gut rather than guessing, means that you can start to manage your symptoms.
Now if you have been diagnosed with IBS and you are struggling to get your symptoms under control, then I would encourage you to book in for a free discovery call with me. In this call, we’ll discuss what’s going on with your gut and IBS, and share with you my approach in my Calm Gut Program. We then decide if we are the right fit and the best option for you.
I would also love to invite you to my free facebook group where you get to ask your questions and get advice from myself on your IBS. You can join that group by clicking here.
And if you found this post helpful, then make sure you don’t miss out on more insights, tips, and strategies by leaving me your email address below.
Remember, it’s time you started living your life on your terms – not your bowels!
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Jayne Corner is a gut directed hypnotherapist and gut health coach helping you get long lasting relief from your IBS symptoms without restrictive diets or medication, even if you've been suffering for decades.
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