IBS versus IBD

Bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

Though both conditions are chronic and affect quality of life, there are marked differences between IBS and IBD, and you can’t determine which condition you have based on your symptoms alone. 

Our experienced team of board-certified gastroenterologists at GastroMed in Miami, Florida specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of IBS and IBD. We want to share some of the differences between the gastrointestinal conditions. 

IBS versus IBD

With similar symptoms and acronyms, it’s easy to confuse IBS and IBD. But these digestive conditions are very different, especially in terms of how they affect your digestive tract.


IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which means it causes gastrointestinal symptoms but tests fail to show any damage to your gastrointestinal tract. IBS isn’t a disease, but rather a syndrome characterized by a group of symptoms. 

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, IBS occurs because of problems with how your brain and gut interact, which leads to gut sensitivity and changes in muscle contractions in your bowel. 


IBD is a structural gastrointestinal disorder that causes inflammation, swelling, and sores in the lining of your digestive tract. It’s classified as a disease. 

There are two types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Crohn’s disease may affect any part of your digestive tract (mouth to anus) and cause inflammation and ulceration that affect the deep layers of intestinal tissue. 

Ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine and rectum, and inflammation and ulceration is limited to the lining of the intestinal tract. 

Comparing the symptoms

It’s hard to differentiate IBS from IBD because they both cause very similar symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel movements. However, there are some noted differences in symptoms when comparing IBS to IBD.

Symptoms play a significant role in diagnosing IBS. In addition to the pain and bloating, IBS also causes:

With IBD, you may experience:

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, we can help determine the underlying cause and provide the right treatment. 

Getting the right diagnosis

With IBS and IBD, getting the right diagnosis often means ruling out one over the other. This is especially true for IBS, because there’s no single test to diagnose the functional gastrointestinal condition.

When you come in with complaints of abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits, we perform a physical exam and may request various diagnostic tests to help determine the root cause of your symptoms.

Testing may include:

Once we determine your diagnosis, we develop personalized treatment plans to alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life. 

You shouldn’t ignore abdominal pain and a change in bowel habits, especially if you experience these symptoms often. 

Schedule an appointment by giving us a call at the Miami office nearest you, or by contacting us online. We can help.

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