What is the difference between IBD and IBS?

11/Sep/2020     Mater Group

You have surely heard of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), but what are they? Gastroenterologists Associate Professor Jake Begun and Dr Yoon-Kyo An have explained the difference between IBS and IBD, how they treat them and what the outcomes are.

Jake explains that Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is the focus of his clinical practice and research laboratory and includes two main forms - Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, which result from inflammation of the gut.

"Sometimes gut inflammation can be helpful, especially if the body is trying to fight an infection, for example salmonella poisoning," Jake said.

"However uncontrolled inflammation of the gut can be debilitating due to symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea and malnutrition due to poor absorption of nutrients. If inflammation is not controlled, it may lead to complications necessitating surgery or can develop bowel cancer.

“To treat these diseases, we often use anti-inflammatory agents or immune modulating medications to control the inflammation and allow the gut to heal.  We also use diet as a therapy as well. For patients who don’t respond to medications, or have already developed significant bowel damage, we need to resort to surgery for their health.”  

Yoon says Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is very common impacting one in four people in Australia and it is the most common disease we see as a gastroenterologists.

“We diagnose IBS based on symptoms – you have IBS if you experience abdominal pain more than one day a week for at least three months with a change in bowel habits which can be constipation, diarrhea or both. People can also experience additional symptoms including brain fog, fatigue, migraines, joint pain, bloating and flatulence.” Yoon said.

“However, people often require some investigations such as blood/stool tests and/or endoscopy to rule out other digestive diseases that can cause similar symptoms. IBS is caused by alternation in the gut-brain axis, change in microbiome, leaky gut and/or trigger food. Common trigger food include garlic, onion and tomato which are high-FODMAP foods.”

“Usually people with IBS have a trigger event which leads to the development of symptoms. Common trigger events include gut infections, antibiotic therapy and sudden physical or emotional stress. Mental health plays an important role in IBS as emotional stress can influence gut functions such as motility, secretion, nutrient delivery and hypersensitivity to pain signals.”

Yoon explains the importance of a holistic and personalised approach to IBS management.

“To manage IBS, we target symptoms impacting patient quality of life. We work on re-training the bowel to empty regularly, modifying the diet with the help of our dietetics team and occasionally may offer medications to help the patients suffering from long term symptoms,” Yoon said.

“Also, we may include additional members of the allied health team and may refer a patient to a physiotherapist, psychologist, psychiatrist and/or hypnotherapist.

“For further information we would recommend patients visit the Gastroenterological Society of Ausgtralia (GESA), Crohn’s and Colitis Australia or Coeliac Disease Australia which all contain great resources. In addition, we have a YouTube Channel called Gut Talk TV where we discuss these issues in depth.”

For more information you can contact Jake and Yoon’s rooms on 07 3010 5788 and GP referrals can be made to Bridges Health Services, Suite 23, Level 7 Mater Medical Centre 293 Vulture Street South Brisbane.

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