Irritable Bowel Syndrome vs. Irritable Bowel Disease

Pittsburgh Dietitian Blog Posts
January 1, 2021

Written by: Ava Elliott, Marketing Intern & Future Dietitian

Reviewed by: Devon Kroesché, MS, RDN, LDN

Have you heard IBS and IBD used interchangeably, but you were never sure of the difference? I will compare the two conditions for you below.

To begin, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be triggered by a food allergy/intolerance or stress. It is very important to manage stress (read: Anti-Inflammatory Foods & Reducing Stress for more information). Eating foods that support your body and including movement into your daily life will promote a balanced gut with less IBS symptoms.

Those with IBS experience irritation to the GI tract and can experience discomforting symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and gas. Fortunately, symptoms can be managed with diet and lifestyle. Eating a variety of whole grains and whole fruits and vegetables can help with symptom management.

On the other hand, IBD stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This term indicates chronic inflammation of the intestine and includes diseases like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Often, patients experience different periods of remission and exacerbation of symptoms related to their disease and is more severe than IBS. Some possible dietary risk factors for IBD include a vitamin D deficiency causing an excessive immune reaction, low intake of fruits & veggies as well as dietary fiber (whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds), and increased consumption of alcohol and red meats, to name a few.

A registered dietitian can help you if you are experiencing any symptoms related to IBS or IBD. Nutrition requirements can vary based on disease states and it is important to speak with a health professional. If you would like to work with a case specific dietitian, please email

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