You may have heard of IBS...but what about SIBO? And what’s the difference between IBS and IBD?
With the constant barrage of new research and conflicting opinions, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of existing gastrointestinal disorders and diseases. To make things simpler, we decided to break down some of the most common (and widely recognized) GI conditions.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that impacts the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – a ring of muscle between your esophagus and stomach, causing stomach acid to flow back up through the food pipe and irritate the LES lining. This often results in heartburn, indigestion and occasionally even sleep difficulties. While GERD and acid reflux are closely related, they’re not interchangeable. GERD is a chronic, severe form of acid reflux while many people who haven’t been diagnosed with GERD still suffer from acid reflux with varying levels of severity.
In the past couple decades, the awareness and understanding surrounding Celiac Disease has grown tremendously. Celiac is an immune disease characterized by the small intestine’s inability to process gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye – resulting in inflammation and malabsorption of important nutrients. While most people with Celiac are predisposed, it’s estimated that one in 100 individuals worldwide has the disease. It’s also estimated that 30 percent still experience symptoms while on a gluten-free diet, which may be attributed to cross contamination (or an unsuspected gliadin sensitivity).
Crohn’s Disease is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in your digestive tract. Though the areas of inflammation and symptoms can vary from person to person, Crohn’s is often characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea and fatigue. The inflammation in your GI tract can also make it difficult to absorb nutrients, resulting in weight loss, vitamin deficiencies and even growth delays in children. Those with Crohn’s sometimes develop symptoms in other parts of the body as well, including joint pain, rashes and osteoporosis.
The second of the IBDs, Ulcerative Colitis impacts the inner lining of your large intestine and rectum, resulting in inflammation and ulcers. Though it’s a chronic condition, ulcerative colitis is characterized by bursts of active inflammation, or “flares,” and fairly long periods of remission. Depending on the severity of the disease, ulcerative colitis can require surgery and pose a serious threat to a person’s health. Like Crohn’s, the cause of ulcerative colitis is still unknown, but genetic predispositions, environmental factors and a weak immune system can all increase a person’s risk.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Unlike IBD, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) isn’t a disease, but a chronic disorder that impacts the large intestine. It’s characterized by a group of GI-related symptoms, including regular bloating, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain. Though there are still a lot of unknowns, it’s estimated that IBS currently affects up to 15 percent of the global population. It also can be relatively hard to diagnose since it shares common symptoms with many other GI conditions, including Celiac and Crohn’s Disease.
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth – otherwise known as SIBO – is caused when bacteria found in other parts of the gut start to grow in the small intestine, resulting in stomach pain, diarrhea and other GI-related symptoms. Discovered by a gastroenterologist in the early 2000s, SIBO is a relatively new condition and not completely understood. However, it’s associated with other GI-related conditions, including Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, IBS and more. Some researchers even believe it to be the root cause of IBS.
Last but not least, food sensitivities are another common contributor to an irritated gut. It’s important to note that food sensitivities are not the same as food allergies, which trigger an immediate (and often dangerous) immune response. Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are characterized by delayed, cell-mediated reactions that can take up to several days to appear. Nausea, bloating, stomach cramping and diarrhea are just a few symptoms that can occur after consuming a food you’re sensitive to. However, unlike many of the conditions above, food sensitivities can be linked to a specific trigger through food sensitivity testing. If you think this might be you, Notch’s at-home food sensitivity tests are a great place to start.