IBS and IBD Two Very Different Digestive Disorders

By Betty Glasser

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are different digestive disorders. According to the National Digestive Information Clearinghouse, 60 million to 70 million people are affected by digestive disorders and about 20 million related surgical procedures are performed each year.

The Difference between IBS and IBD

IBS is a functional disorder and IBD is a gastrointestinal disease. Many people are confused between the two because their symptoms often overlap. IBS consists of a group of symptoms: chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, gassiness, or bouts of constipation and diarrhea. IBS doesn’t produce destructive inflammation or require surgery as does IBD. IBS can seriously affect quality of life and occurs mostly in women.

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common IBD disorders; they affect 2 million people in the United States. IBD occurs equally in men and women. Ulcerative colitis occurs when ulcerations develop and become inflamed. These ulcerations usually begin in the rectum and spread up toward the cecum (the end section of the colon). Crohn’s disease occurs when the inflammation involves the entire gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus, and sometimes the entire wall of the digestive tract.

The Causes of IBS and IBD

The causes of IBS and IBD aren’t fully understood. However, Yvette Tache, PhD, is finding that neural signals between the brain and the small and large intestines control how the intestines work. For some people, stress hormones may be out of balance and unwanted symptoms, such as IBS, will appear. IBD usually develops and is diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 30 and a small group between the ages of 50 and 60. It is estimated that 10 percent to 20 percent of IBD is genetic because it occurs among immediate relatives.

Constipation is one of the most common IBS disorders in the United States. It affects about one person in six and generates about 2.5 million physician visits annually. More than $400 million per year is spent on laxatives in the United States. Constipation is more common in the elderly and two to three times more prevalent in women.

Many diseases and medications may cause constipation. See the table below:

Disease/Medical Condition





Crohn’s disease

Chronic laxative usage

Anal stricture

Hirschsprung’s disease

Cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal)


Anti-Parkinson’s drugs

High blood pressure drugs


Antacids (containing aluminum or calcium)


Opiate-type pain medication


The Management of IBS and IBD

There are no 100 percent cures for some digestive problems. Management may be long-term and varies depending on symptoms. Management is used to reduce the symptoms and create a sense of control over the conditions; it may include one or combinations of medication and various therapies, such as stress-reduction therapy, nutritional counseling, and colon hydrotherapy. Adopting a healthy, balanced diet with 20-40 grams of fiber, drinking sufficient water, and daily exercise are helpful.

Probiotics are microbial organisms; recent research has shown that probiotics can prevent and treat chronic pouchitis (inflammation of the internal ilial pouch) in postoperative patients. Probiotics also help reduce ulcerative colitis and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

True Stories

A client with a more than 20-year history of colitis had surgery and was prescribed antibiotics. After the antibiotics, her colitis flared up along with constant diarrhea, which caused bleeding. A low-fiber diet did not help. She was desperately seeking help and hoping that colon hydrotherapy would stop her diarrhea. I recommended probiotics and she began feeling better within a couple of days.

Another client had IBS symptoms of constipation, bloating, body odor, and low energy. He was told by a friend to come to see me for colon cleansing. He had three treatments and now feels more energetic. His IBS symptoms eased tremendously. He plans preventative treatments in the near future.

A gentleman has diverticulosis and various other medical conditions for which he has to take many medications, which in turn cause IBS symptoms of severe constipation and bloating. Colon cleansing gives him great relief from his IBS symptoms and he comes for colon hydrotherapy treatments two to three times per month.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are two very different digestive disorders and their symptoms often overlap. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common IBDs and affect men and women equally. IBS affects mostly women and the resulting constipation can cause hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectal prolapse, and fecal impaction, which may lead to some colon diseases.

There are no 100 percent cures for some digestive disorders; the purpose of management is to keep the digestive disorders under control and provide quality of life. Probiotics are proving effective to treat some ulcerative colitis and antibiotic-associated illness. Colon hydrotherapy can be part of the management program and provide preventive care to anyone who wants to keep the colon healthy.