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IBS vs IBD: Myths Revealed

Updated on July 6, 2021
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Angela was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis17. At 20, she had a colectomy, where they removed her colon.


When Should You Go to The Doctor

Nearly everyone has experienced bowel trouble, whether it is a harsh night at Taco Bell or something more severe.

Despite the increased attention that both magazines and the Internet have given to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), there are many misconceptions about the disease, 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 affects 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, nutrition and medication can treat both. Yet, there remain many myths regarding these two diseases.


Myth #1 IBS Is an IBD.

Fact: IBS is not an inflammatory bowel disease. The most significant 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 one's intestinal tract not moving at the average pace due to its sensitivity to factors such as a 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 and within the most emotionally secure people. Having flares of irritable bowel, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s has no reflection on how one deals with stress. Unfortunately, stress can aggravate the already existing condition.


Myth #3 If There is No Blood, Then It's Probably Just 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 hemorrhoids, which is common for those with IBS. Therefore, do not assume that just because you see blood that it must be a severe case.

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

It is imperative 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 It's Just Irritable Bowel, So I Don't Need To Call My Doctor.

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

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome mimic 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 to assist you in getting your body healthy.

Myth #5 Irritable Bowel Syndrome Is Not a Real Disease, It's 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 patient's day-to-day life. They don't imagine it at all. Let me repeat that irritable bowel syndrome is not an imagined disease; it is a genuine disease.

Since no test 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 whenever you eat,” or "You need to learn how to handle stress better." Irritable Bowel is a genuine disease, and it has real symptoms.

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, and you need to listen to it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz


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