Other Gastrointestinal Disorders that Resemble IBS - By Cari Riker RD

Other Gastrointestinal Disorders that Resemble IBS - By Cari Riker RD

Written by Cari Riker, RD - Riker Nutrition Consulting LLD

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder, and can affect the lower intestinal tract.  IBS symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea mimic other gastrointestinal diseases. This overlap of symptoms can cause a delay of diagnosis to ensure an accurate physical exam, tests, and procedures are done to confirm a diagnosis.  It can be difficult to diagnose IBS because there is no sign of disease or abnormality when looking at the colon, unlike the other diseases such as Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, and Celiac Disease.

Some of these common gastrointestinal disorders that resemble IBS often require lifestyle changes, medications, or procedures to manage the symptoms.  It is important to discuss your symptoms with your provider to ensure a correct diagnosis.  Below is a review of other common digestive disorders whose symptoms can mimic IBS:

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s belongs to a group of gastrointestinal disorders referred to as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  Crohn’s is described as chronic inflammation that can involve any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus, most commonly it affects the small intestine and beginning of the large intestine(1).  Crohn’s can cause inflammation in patches along the GI tract, leaving normal patches in between diseased portions.  Crohn’s can also impact the entire thickness of the intestinal wall causing: ulcers, fistulas, intestinal blockages, abscesses, malnutrition, inflammation to joints, skin, or eyes (2).  Crohn’s can also put you at greater risk of developing colon cancer.

Crohn’s Disease Symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea, sometimes with bloody stools
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Joint pain
  • Often there is a family history of IBD.

Crohn’s Treatments During a Flare Up:

Treatment options will depend on the severity of the flare-up.  But most people find it helpful to:

  • Avoid High Fiber Foods
  • Spicy Food
  • Consume soft, bland foods
  • Dairy, if lactose intolerant
  • Increase fluid needs
  • Avoid High Fat Foods
  • Avoid drinks such as caffeine, juices, and alcohol
  • Medications and surgery may be needed based on the severity of symptoms.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis is also considered an IBD similar to Crohn’s because it is a chronic disease that causes inflammation, but is limited to the large intestine, and causes ulcers to the inner lining of the large intestine in a continuous pattern(1).  Ulcerative Colitis can also put you at greater risk for developing colon cancer.

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms:

  • Diarrhea with urgency of stools
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Bloating
  • Bloody stools
  • Fever
  • Anemia,
  • Joint pain
  • Often a family history of IBD.

Ulcerative Colitis Treatment During a Flare Up:

Treatment options will depend on the severity of the flare-up.  But most people find it helpful to:

  • Avoid High Fiber Foods
  • Spicy Food
  • Consume soft, bland foods
  • Dairy, if lactose intolerant
  • Increase fluid needs
  • Low Fat Foods
  • Avoid red meats
  • Avoid drinks such as caffeine, juices, and alcohol
  • Medications and surgery may be needed based on symptoms.

 What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease where eating food containing gluten (a PROTEIN found in wheat, rye, and barley) causes the immune system to cause damage to the small intestine(3).

Celiac Disease Symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating,
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety, depression.
  • Anemia, and malnutrition
  • Weight loss and growth failure in children
  • Migraines
  • Elevated liver enzymes,
  • Often there is a family history of Celiac Disease.

Celiac Disease Treatment:

  • Avoid foods that contain gluten. Such as products containing wheat, rye, barley, and some oats.
  • Please note, some people with IBS might have a sensitivity to a carbohydrate group called fructans that include wheat based products. They do not have an intolerance to the protein found in the gluten products but rather the carbohydrate.

Due to these gastrointestinal disorders having an overlap with IBS symptoms, you can see that it is important to be an advocate and record keeper of your health symptoms to keep your doctor informed and easier to make a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. 

REFERENCES:

  1. Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.  Overview of Crohn's Disease.  https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-crohns-disease/overview. Accessed April 20, 2020.
  2. NIDDK.  Symptoms & Causes of Crohn’s Disease.  https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/crohns-disease/definition-facts.  Accessed April 20, 2020.
  3. NIDDK.  Definition & Facts of Celiac Disease.  https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/. Accessed April 20,2020

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