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Understanding the Difference Between IBS and IBD

women clutching stomach

A gurgly gut is a recipe for disaster. From cramps and pain to irregular bowel movements, gastrointestinal tract problems can put you out of commission. 

Sometimes your gut issues are more than just a bad reaction to food but a chronic problem caused by an underlying condition. When that’s the case, you need an expert to identify exactly what’s causing your unsettled insides. 

At All Function Health, Dr. Jeffrey Mark specializes in diagnosing your functional gastrointestinal disorders and treating them appropriately, especially when it comes to seemingly similar conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and irritable bowel disorder (IBD). 

IBS and IBD basics

IBS is a condition that involves your large intestine. It’s one of the most common gastrointestinal (GI) issues, afflicting between 25-45 million people in the United States annually. 

IBD, on the other hand, refers to two GI conditions called Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn's disease can affect any part of your GI tract from your mouth to your anus. Ulcerative colitis typically occurs in your large intestine and colon. 

IBS vs. IBD

While both conditions disrupt your GI tract, there are a few key differences that are important to recognize when getting diagnosed and treated. Consider the following similarities and differences when evaluating your own symptoms. 

Symptoms

At first blush, IBS and IBD seem identical because the initial symptoms are similar. Both can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, cramping, nausea, vomiting, and an urgency to use the restroom. 

IBS is unique in that it can also bring on symptoms like bloating, mucousy stool, sexual dysfunction, fibromyalgia, and the feeling you haven’t completely emptied your bowels. You might have IBS-D in which diarrhea is one of your primary symptoms, IBS-C which mainly causes constipation or a combination of both. 

Conversely, IBD can impact your health in even more serious ways. People with IBD report struggling with anemia, eye redness and pain, fatigue, fever, joint pain, skin changes, weight loss, lack of appetite, and rectal bleeding. 

Causes

The exact cause of IBS isn’t clear, but there’s evidence that mild inflammation could be to blame. It’s also possible that IBS is a result of hyperreactivity to a bacterial infection in your gut. Irregular muscle contractions triggered by eating certain foods, hormonal imbalances, or dealing with high levels of stress can exacerbate the diarrhea and constipation associated with IBS. 

IBD is likely caused when your immune system malfunctions and causes inflammation in your intestines. It is also believed to be a genetic predisposition, so check your family’s medical history for cases of IBD. 

Diagnosis

To diagnose IBS, you typically only need to go through basic physical exams and evaluations. You may be tested for food sensitivities or celiac disease. Diagnosing IBD may require a more invasive evaluation like a colonoscopy.

Dr. Mark takes into account all of your symptoms and your complete medical history to come to an accurate diagnosis. He employs his full battery of evaluative and diagnostic tools, including stool exams, blood tests, urine tests, abdominal imaging tests, GI tract mobility tests, and even breath tests, depending on your specific symptoms. 

Treatment

Most often, IBS can be treated with lifestyle and diet adjustments, while IBD may require a prescription to truly manage your symptoms, and nutraceuticals may be implemented for patients seeking drug-free options. Dr. Mark offers highly specialized functional medicine and functional gastroenterology testing to find out the root cause of your IBS or IBD, and treat according to your specific issues. He also offers nutritional counseling and stress management along with regenerative medicine protocols to address your gut issues. 

The only thing more frustrating than living with GI disruptions is not knowing exactly what’s causing them. If you’re at the end of your rapidly fraying rope, come see Dr. Mark for the answers and relief you need. 

We also offer a comprehensive online functional medicine assessment that can be completed in the comfort of your home.  The online functional medicine assessment would provide you with your personalized functional health score, as well as a summary of different areas of your health that needs further attention.  Convenient telehealth appointments are available as a follow up, and most of our functional tests are now available in saliva, urine or dry blood spot home test kits that we can ship directly to your home. Most services are available to you in all 50 states. However, a few select tests may still require a serum sample that must be drawn by a phlebotomist at a local laboratory.

If you have more questions or would like to get started with an evaluation, contact one of our offices in San Ramon or Turlock, California, or schedule a telehealth appointment online today.

Jeffrey Mark, M.D. is quadruple board certified in Gastroenterology, Functional Medicine, Anti-aging and Regenerative Medicine, Internal Medicine, and have completed a Fellowship in Biocellular Therapy with over 26 years of clinical experience treating patients with complex gastroenterology issues.  He is often sought out for second and third opinions from patients throughout the U.S. Our Bay Area office in San Ramon is easily accessible from San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Napa Valley, Marin County, and our Turlock office is easily accessible from various parts of the Central Valley including Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Oakdale, Sonora and beyond. 

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All Functional Health

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