IBD vs IBS: What’s the Difference?

2 min read



If you’ve just started experiencing a painful gut issue, you’re probably wondering what it is. And that wondering might lead you to ask what the difference is between Irritable bowel syndrome and Inflammatory bowel disease.

Irritable bowel syndrome is recognized as a collection of symptoms — if you have regular or excessive bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation, you may have been told it’s IBS.


More and more research is revealing potential causes of IBS, which is helpful for IBS patients who, for years, have been told that their symptoms are simply caused by stress or are completely in their heads. One reason for this is that the vast majority of IBS patients show little to no irregularities during medical exams.


And this is the main difference between IBS and IBD. Whereas IBS has been seen as a mysterious set of symptoms with no singular clear cause, IBD shows up on medical exams such as colonoscopies and laboratory tests.


Inflammatory bowel disease is defined as “abnormal and chronic (life-long) inflammation, or swelling, in the gastrointestinal tract due to an inappropriate immune response.”1


The two main types of IBD are Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis. The main difference between these two diseases is that Ulcerative colitis only affects the colon while Crohn’s disease can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract.2


Symptoms of these diseases include some of the same things IBS patients experience, plus symptoms like blood in the stool, weight loss, and other more systematic issues affecting the skin and joints, for example.


Treatment for these diseases normally include the same kinds of things available to IBS patients (including alternative medical treatments and life-style changes, such as diet and exercise) as well as prescription medications used to decrease inflammation and, at times, surgery.


IBD is not very common, with most estimates below 1% of the global population. On the other hand, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders estimates that 10%–15% of people have IBS — however only around 30% of those suffering seek medical attention.3


Although there are some similarities between the symptoms of IBS and IBD, there is no evidence they’re related and no evidence that having IBS makes you more likely to develop IBD.


Although constant gut issues can make you feel powerless, learning how to manage your symptoms can become a superpower that can make your life better. At Phyla, we give you the information you need to move forward, feel better, and improve your gut health. Download our app today on IOS or Android to track what’s helping your gut and what’s hurting it. And if you want to take things a step further, request access to our new microbiome test kit here!


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1https://gastro.org/practice-guidance/gi-patient-center/topic/inflammatory-bowel-disease-ibd/

2https://www.uclahealth.org/gastro/ibd/ulcerative-colitis-vs-crohns-disease#:~:text=Ulcerative%20colitis%20is%20limited%20to,continuous%20inflammation%20of%20the%20colon

3https://www.aboutibs.org/facts-about-ibs.html#:~:text=IBS%20affects%20people%20of%20all,older%20adults%20suffer%20as%20well