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IBS vs IBD: Myths Revealed

Updated on December 16, 2017
angela_michelle profile image

At 17, Angela was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. At 20, her colon was removed. She has a passion to share her knowledge of the disease.


Almost everyone has experienced bowel trouble. Whether it is a harsh night at Taco Bell or something more severe, almost everyone knows what it feels like to have to go to the bathroom and to have to go right now!

But not everyone knows when it is something to be checked by the doctor.

In spite of the increased attention that both magazines and the Internet have given to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), there are many misconceptions to the disease. This is often confused with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which includes both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s. IBS is much more common than both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's. Although don’t let that fool you into believing they are rare. Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's affect nearly one million Americans.

Not only do they both have similar initials, but they also share many of the same symptoms. Both are marked by:

  • A sense of urgency
  • Severe abdominal pain or cramps
  • Diarrhea, constipation or difficulty passing gas
  • An increase in bowel movements

These are the most prevalent symptoms. In both, the causes are unknown, although heredity seems to be a significant factor for both. Most importantly, both can be treated with nutrition and medication. Yet there remain many myths regarding these two diseases.

Video on Difference Between IBS and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Myth #1 IBS is an IBD.

Fact: IBS is not an inflammatory bowel disease. The biggest difference between IBS and IBD is the way it attacks your body. Inflammatory bowel diseases, like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, are inflammations of the intestinal lining. Ulcerative colitis will affect the colon, also known as the large intestine, while Crohn’s may affect the entire intestinal tract.

IBS, also known as spastic colon, is believed to be triggered by ones intestinal tract not moving at the normal pace due to its sensitivity to factors such as change in diet, stress, chemicals, or other bodily changes. IBS is not life threatening, while an IBD can be.

Myth #2 IBS and IBDs are caused by stress and how well one reacts to it.

Fact: Though neither has known causes, stress has been ruled out as a primary cause, although that does not mean it is not a secondary factor. As with any disease, stress can increase the severity of both IBS and IBD. Flare-ups can be brought on during the least stressful moments, as well as within the most emotionally secure people. Having flares of irritable bowel, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s has no reflection on the way one deals with stress. Unfortunately, stress can aggravate the already existing condition.


Myth #3 If there isn’t blood, then its probably irritable bowel syndrome.

Fact: Blood is a symptom of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's, but it is not a symptom of irritable bowel. Keep in mind that blood in the stool could be caused by hemmorhoids, which is a common occurrence for those with ibs. Therefore, do not assume that just because you do see blood that it must be a very serious case.

On the flip side, you don’t need to see blood for it to be ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s. Often times, in milder cases of an inflammatory bowel disease, there are very few symptoms. Blood is generally present in moderate to severe cases.

It is very important to see a doctor if you have diarrhea or constipation that lasts for more than 48 hours. Those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, regardless if blood is present, are at an increased risk of developing colon cancer.

Myth #4 I think its just irritable bowel; therefore, I don’t have to go see a doctor.

Fact: Any person who has chronic diarrhea or constipation should go see a doctor, especially if coupled with weight gain, weight loss, dehydration. Irritable bowel syndrome is a disease of exclusion. So in order to know that what you have is IBS, other possibilities need to be eliminated.

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome mimic those of many other diseases including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, colon cancer, diverticulitis, endometriosis, fibromyalgia. Do not assume because there isn’t blood, everything is fine. Perhaps it is irritable bowel, but even if it is, there are treatments. Therefore, make sure a medical professional diagnoses you so they can assist you in getting your body healthy.

Myth #5 Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not a real disease, it is all in the head!

Fact: Although IBS may not have the potential of being as severe as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's, it can be just as intrusive in the average patients day-to-day life. They aren't imagining it at all. Let me repeat that irritable bowel syndrome is not an imagined disease, it is a very real disease.

Since there is no test that can detect irritable bowel syndrome, it is often one of the most misunderstood diseases. Those that suffer often hear, “It's all in your head,” or “If you weren't so paranoid, you wouldn't get sick every time when you eat,” or "You need to learn how to better handle stress." This is a very real disease, and it has very real symptoms that need to be taken seriously.

If you think you may have one of these diseases, make sure to see a doctor immediately. Always find the facts for yourself. Remember, you know your body best. Please listen to it.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz


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    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      It is really important to know the difference, I'm glad I was able to be informative for you.

    • jhunpaler profile image

      jhunpaler 6 years ago from Philippines

      clearing myths on IBD and IBS, really informative :)

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Exactly right!

    • profile image

      reflux 6 years ago from USA

      yes, IBD causes severe inflammation of the intestinal tracts;IBS,causes no lasting damage to the intestinal lining.

      This hub contain all the information regarding myths of IBS and IBD. Thanks for sharing

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Thank you JCielo for the nice compliment. :)

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Oh thanks for pointing that out. I will delete in now. I'll try to find a new one.

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 6 years ago from India

      People got really confused feeling the symptoms of IBS, but your article is good enough to clear the myths surrounding IBS. But the video is not available because it is a private video and the access is not granted.

    • JCielo profile image

      JCielo 6 years ago from England

      There are far too many myths surrounding health issues such as these. Thanks for debunking these ones. Really useful hub.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      I wasn't sure if you were talking about the dude making the miserable face or the dude doing work on the toilet. Both I can relate to. LOL. :) I am glad to hear your Crohn's has gotten under control.

    • Bohn profile image

      Bohn 7 years ago from Carolinas, USA

      as a former sufferer of Crohns, I found your hub informative...loved the picture of the dude on the toilet! Can relate to that!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      I agree, thank you. :)

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Very informative information. God Bless You.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Thanks Aunt Barb. I hope others get something out of it too!

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 7 years ago from USA

      Even though I feel like I am completely educated about Crohns I actually learned something from this article. Thanks.