I wanted to take a minute and write a post about IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. I want to make sure that the differences between IBS and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) are clear and distinguished. It is easy to confuse the two bowel issues and people that are newly diagnosed (or have a loved one that is struggling) may not realize the these two bowel problems are very different.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is an intestinal condition that can cause painful abdominal cramps and a host of intestinal symptoms. Usually the patient with IBS will deal with constipation or diarrhea or alternatingly will deal with both. This disorder can significantly decrease the sufferers quality of life. It can cause them severe abdominal pain certain times of the day and the need to run to the bathroom several times of the day or night. Irritable bowel syndrome is not a curable condition but the patient that suffers from it can, in some cases, modify their lifestyle to effectively control the symptoms.
The cause of IBS is generally not known but there have been research studies and some evidence that it is genetic and the predisposition to having it can be passed down through generations. Sometimes it can be related to an infection or a medication that is taken that disturbs the delicate bacterial balance in our guts or those factors disturbs the sensitive intestinal mucousal lining. This creates adverse reactions to foods or medications or just stress in general thus creating the perfect environment for IBS to manifest and cause problems for the person suffering from it.
I have mentioned in other posts that there is a significant “gut-brain connection” in our bodies and this sometimes can affect how our bowels work and react to certain things. This can also be a cause of IBS and should be looked at upon the patient first experiencing symptoms.
The diagnosis is most often solely based on symptoms that the patient reports. More invasive studies such as colonoscopy can be used to rule out inflammatory bowel disease but are often not needed for the diagnosis.
The treatment for IBS depends on the symptoms mostly. There are some medications that can be used to control symptoms such as antispasmodic drugs or drugs like Imodium that will stop diarrhea. There, of course, are laxatives as well for the people that suffer from constipation. There are medications that can be used to relax the bowel or the whole person therefore easing the intestinal pain associated with overly active bowels.
However, the most powerful tool that we wield, in my opinion, is what we put into our bodies. Learning what we react to and lessening the processed junk and sugars that we put into our bodies can significantly reduce the amount of symptoms that we have from IBS.
I think that it is also important to note here that supplement and natural remedies can also be very effective for symptoms relief from IBS. For example, using a good quality probiotic can help or going to a therapist for relaxation techniques or just getting involved in a support group can help wonderfully.
IBD stands for inflammatory bowel disease. These diseases include Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These are chronic autoimmune conditions in which the persons body begins to attack itself. This attack is concentrated on the bowels or digestive tract causing deep rooted inflammation, ulceration, abscesses, fistula and multiple other issues. These are very serious conditions that have no cause or cure. As in IBS there are studies that prove it can be genetic. There are other studies that may suggest some previous infection or medication caused the disease to be triggered but there is still no known definite cause. And, I am sorry to say, that as of today, there is no know cure.
The more severe cases are usually treated with medications called biologic agents that modify the immune system to lessen the symptoms of these diseases. Other cases can be treated with medications that decrease inflammation in the bowels or block certain cells in the body from producing inflammatory agents as well as medications that can help to decrease symptoms and increase the quality of life for the patient.
IBD is diagnosed by using colonoscopy or some from of scope to go inside the digestive tract to get a good picture of what is going on along with biopsies. These biopsies can show granuloma cells or inflammatory cells that are indicative of inflammatory bowel disease. Without these findings the IBD diagnosis is a harder to get to.
Inflammatory bowel disease is also different from irritable bowel syndrome in that it is considered autoimmune and treated with strong medications. IBS is not considered a disease, but is considered a syndrome and is not necessarily always going to be treated with any medications at all.
While these two intestinal problems are debilitating to the patients and extremely hard to deal with they are very different. I believe that it is important to have a good grasp on the differences for both and to fully understand that is going on in your body or in the body of the person that you love who is struggling with either one of these. Once there is a clear understanding it will be easier to move forward and to treat either of these problems effectively. Knowledge is power.
“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” – Confucius
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