Because symptoms tend to overlap, it is easy to confuse one digestive disorder for another. IBS and IBD are examples of two completely different conditions with their own sets of complications and effective treatments. So what are these conditions, and how are they similar? Different? Read on to learn more.

IBS: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, goes by many different names: spastic colon, irritable colon, mucous colitis, or spastic colitis, to name a few. When a person experiences irritable bowel syndrome, they may encounter cramps and abdominal pain, bloating, excess gas, and constipation or diarrhea. They may experience either constipation or diarrhea exclusively or have alternating bouts of each.

IBS is often triggered by eating certain foods that can upset a person’s gastrointestinal system, by stress, or even by hormone changes in the body. Because of this, irritable bowel syndrome has no exact cause, and no exact cure.


While there is no cure for IBS, there are plenty of treatments to help manage it. Typically, people with IBS will first have to make some dietary changes to manage their symptoms. While food affects everyone differently, most doctors and dieticians will suggest avoiding fermentable or acidic foods like asparagus, beans, cured meats and apples. They may also recommend eating more fibrous foods to help add bulk.

Another way to help manage IBS is by taking time to relax. Since stress can trigger symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, taking time to calm down and destress at least once a day can reduce symptoms in some individuals.

Medications for irritable bowel syndrome exist too! There are several FDA-approved IBS drugs that can help users manage their symptoms, although they might not work for everyone. Alongside IBS-specific drugs, there are numerous digestive aids and medications that can help with individual symptoms. For example, laxatives can help with constipation, probiotics can help manage bacteria, and painkillers like ibuprofen can manage pain.

IBD: Inflammatory Bowel Disease

IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, is an umbrella term for people who suffer from Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or both. Both illnesses involve damage and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, but Chron’s can affect several layers of tissue anywhere in the system, including the throat, stomach, and colon. Ulcerative Colitis, on the other hand, can only affect the innermost layer of tissue in the large intestine.

Symptoms of IBD include abdominal pain and diarrhea, as well as unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and bloody stool. While its cause is currently unknown, it is believed that an ineffective immune system plays a part in IBD, in which the immune system responds incorrectly to environmental triggers and can attack helpful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. While both diseases are chronic, they can be treated to ease the symptoms.


The treatments for inflammatory bowel disease vary based on several factors, including symptom severity, the patient’s age, what part of the gastrointestinal system is affected, and how much of it is affected. This means that in some cases, surgery is a required treatment, but steroids, immunosuppressants, and antibiotics can also be used to treat IBD. Medications are available as well, usually in the form of biologic therapies. These drugs are prescription-only, and typically covered by insurance.


A common and less-discussed symptom of both IBS and IBD in older patients is incontinence, or the inability to control when someone goes to the bathroom. To help with incontinence, bedpans and bedside commodes work well at night while the user sleeps. During the day, adult briefs can prevent accidental leakage, while wet wipes can help someone clean up while in the bathroom. Both can be taken out and about for those who are active.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of IBS or IBD, speak with your primary care physician. To browse incontinence products that can easily be shipped to the home, visit the Medical Supply Depot.


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