For those who have chronic bowel discomfort and have not been able to alleviate symptoms long term on their own, it can be tempting to take to the internet for answers. You may be wondering if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD).
Often times rather than narrowing down information to achieve diagnosis, independent investigation adds a level of complexity to the issues at hand. It can be hard deciphering the nuances of the symptoms on your own.
Commonly, people who have diarrhea, gas, or bloating start by googling their symptoms and begin to modify nutrition based on perceived food sensitivities. They might suffer through discomfort, pain, or worse – long term damage – by merely managing symptoms. Not understanding the root of the problem, the symptoms of IBS and IBD may appear similar but in reality, the treatments are very different.
IBS is a functional issue; chronic symptoms that develop into a syndrome affecting the body’s systems. As the symptoms of IBS are alleviated, the function of the body can be restored and maintained.
IBD, on the other hand, is a pathological issue causing inflammation of tissues in the GI tract. It is a disease rather than a syndrome, often manifesting as Chron’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. As such, there’s more of an algorithm to the treatment of IBD than IBS.
If you have IBD and treat the symptoms, they might alleviate to some degree but won’t go away. There are three red flags that we look at when differentiating IBD from IBS:
- Blood in the stool (usually diarrhea)
- Weight Loss
It’s important to get a definitive diagnosis if you suspect IBD and better to rule out the other (IBS). Rather than gathering and deciphering the information on your own, it’s useful to have someone help you narrow down what you’re dealing with.
As a naturopathic doctor with a specialty in gastroenterology, I will recommend specific labs that make the distinction between an IBS or IBD diagnosis definitive. For instance, I can perform basic blood work and stool studies, but if IBD is suspected I will refer you to a GI doctor for endoscopy and/ or colonoscopy to rule it out. The definitive diagnosis is achieved through tissue biopsy. I will partner with you by offering a more educated distinction between IBS and IBD than you would be able to correlate independently.
Natural medicine can work very well to improve bowel function. Please contact Dr. Heather Buckle ND, FABNO if you have questions about integrative solutions for any gastrointestinal issues you may have. If you live in Washington state and would like to learn more about Dr. Buckle’s naturopathic approach to your wellness, please call (206) 643-2239 or CLICK HERE to schedule a consultation.