Is it CD or IBS?

Is it Celiac Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Understanding the difference when comparing similar symptoms.

Diagnosing celiac disease (CD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a confusing and lengthy process. The confusion is the natural result of having many of the same symptoms and testing results being inaccurate or non-existent. Much of the uncomfortable symptoms within the gastrointestinal tract is the same or similar for both conditions. It is important to know if it is one or the other because the consequences and treatment of either disease is markedly different.

IBS is a disorder that occurs in the large intestine and the result of unknown causes. According to JAMA Internal Medicine, up to one in five Americans have IBS. IBS is more common in younger individuals and females. It is a chronic condition, with symptoms flaring up and then remitting before reemerging again. The cause for the relapsing-remitting course cycle is unknown. Many with IBS, “report symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, diarrhea, and abdominal bloating or distention.” There is no testing for IBS. It is diagnosed when all other options have been ruled out. Diagnosis is a  “symptom-based approach” as there currently exists no unifying framework to understand the causes of IBS and is varying symptoms (A Framework for Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Given that the origin of IBS is unknown, there is no cure. Some studies have found, however, that a FODMAP diet can weaken IBS symptoms. According to an article published in The National Center for Biotechnology Information, “food intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is increasingly being recognized, with patients convinced that diet plays a role in symptom induction. Evidence is building to implicate fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs)” as the cause for IBS symptoms.

Celiac disease is a chronic  disease of the small intestine. CD is the result of gluten, a binding protein naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye. For individuals with CD,  gluten is not digestible, and it causes changes in the shape and considerable damage to the small intestine. This leads to villous atrophy and consequently malabsorption of many nutrients. It is believed that 1 in 100 individuals have CD in the United States. Symptoms include, “bloating, abdominal pain, and chronic diarrhea” (JAMA Network).

CD can be asymptomatic, and there are dozens of lesser known symptoms of CD as well. According to the Center for Digestive Diseases, “irritability is one of the most common symptoms in children. Many symptoms (eg. fatigue, anaemia, weight loss, bone pain, delayed growth and failure to thrive in infants) are secondary to malnutrition. Other possible symptoms include behavioural changes, muscle cramps, tingling numbness in the limbs, mouth ulcers, dermatitis, tooth discolouration and missed menstrual periods.”

CD is diagnosed through a series of tests, including gene tests, blood tests, and an endoscopy to determine if there has been damage to the villi of the small intestine.  Much of the symptoms are resolved when gluten is carefully and completely excluded from the diet.  

Given that the treatment is completely different, and CD causes long-term damage to the small intestine, knowing if it is one or the other is critical. Finding an informative gastroenterologist will start you on your path to wellness.

Kay’s Naturals is dedicated to helping the public become educated on matters relating to health and wellness, specifically when it comes to maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. To learn more about Kay’s Naturals visit our website!


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