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Is it IBS or IBD? Irritable bowel syndrome

I cannot count the number of times someone has looked at me and said “Oh I have that too, I just have to remember to take probiotics and it goes away.”

I think to myself: Yes, probiotics help me most of the time. But that certainly doesn’t cure it or make a flare go away. So I think we are talking about different things.

When I ask with a raised eye brow, “What do you have?”

The answer is almost always IBS.

NOTE: Probiotics are amazing for your gut. Healing your gut is not as simple as taking probiotics although they can offer a lot of relief and benefits for many people. If you need help choosing a probiotic, ask me! If taking probiotics make you feel worse, we should definitely talk!

Now any kind of irritable bowel is awful. Pain, anxiety and way too many trips to the toilet are the norm. However, IBS is a very different thing to IBD.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Irritable Bowel Disease are two very different things with very some very similar symptoms.

IBS is when your digestive system does not work properly. This can be reversed and the symptoms resolved.

IBD is an autoimmune disorder of your digestive system that creates cellular damage to the GI tract as your body attacks itself. IBD is considered non curable and must be managed as a chronic illness. (You can find remission, but will never be labeled cured.)

IBS can have an effect on your entire body as your gut is the centre of so many things. However, there is no permanent damage done and you are not at a higher risk of developing cancer or needing a bowel resection or removal.

IBD can crawl through your entire body often effecting eye sight and even the health of your teeth with an increased number of cavities that show up. Internal Bleeding, Joint Pain, Weight Loss, Anemia and Fever often come along with IBD.

IBS is not IBD but you can have IBD and IBS at the same time.

Both are triggered by stress, anxiety and worry.

They both have the symptoms of digestive distress, upset stomach, nausea, and the more embarrassing emergency trips to the toilet.

It can be confusing when you talk about IBS and IBD as they seem so similar and yet are so very different.

“Is it IBS or IBD?”

The only way to know is to see a doctor. You will likely need a colonoscopy and biopsy to confirm which of the two you have. IBD is also monitored by blood work to keep an eye on markers for inflammation to see how active the disease is.

When to ask for help?

  • If you see blood in your poop, in the toilet or on toilet paper, something is wrong.
  • If you are running to the bathroom regularly in a poop emergency, something is wrong.
  • If you feel stress or anxiety and are bent over in pain until the diarrhea comes, something is wrong.
  • If you are not pooping every day, or even every few days something is wrong. (Constipation is a very common sign of a bowel not working properly.)


An irritable bowel is an awful thing, and the symptoms go way beyond the typical diarrhea and constipation. I will write another blog about that in the coming weeks.

If you have IBD or IBS, or know someone with an Irritable Bowel, please know that as terrifying, embarrassing and painful of a disease/syndrome that it can be, there is always something you can do to help yourself feel better. 

Feeling alone and confused? Have questions? Reach out!