More than 3 million people in the U.S. are living with IBD (about 11 million people worldwide) and the disease’s prevalence continues to grow. Every person with IBD is different in so many ways, including their specific diagnosis, disease severity, and disease location in the GI system. IBD also affects their quality of life and ability to work, go to school, take care of children, and more. The articles below — and many more IBD Articles — are available in the Oshi app.

Oshi is a tracking tool and content resource. It does not render medical advice or services, and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should always review this information with your healthcare professionals.

Oshi is available for download on the Apple App Store or Android Google Play.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) manifests itself differently in everyone who lives with it, and its many potential issues can be hard to understand for those who don’t. Here’s a cheat sheet on what IBD is—for you and for anyone who’s been peppering you with questions.

What Exactly Is IBD, Anyway?

IBD is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the intestines. Depending on the site involved and the degree of inflammation, an individual with IBD will have a characteristic set of symptoms and possible complications. There are two major types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC).

What’s the Difference Between Crohn’s and UC?

Ulcerative colitis is limited to the lining of the colon, where it causes inflammation and sores (ulcers). Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation in the full thickness of the wall of the intestine and along the entire digestive tract. However, Crohn’s usually manifests in the small intestine or colon.

What Are the Symptoms of IBD?

People with IBD may experience diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, blood in their stool, constipation, fatigue, trouble sleeping, weight loss, dehydration, and nutrient deficiencies. When symptoms are present, a person is considered to be having a flare-up or flare.

What Causes IBD?

Researchers are still working to discover the cause (or causes) of IBD, which may differ depending on the individual and the type of IBD. In some people, IBD may be caused by their body’s immune system attacking its own intestinal tissue, leading to inflammation, although this theory hasn’t been proven. Other possible causes include an imbalance of bacteria in the gut microbiome, or a variety of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

How Is IBD Diagnosed?

To diagnose gastrointestinal symptoms, your primary care physician or gastroenterologist may run a series of tests to determine if you’re experiencing anemia, an infection, or blood in the stool. Additionally, a colonoscopy, endoscopy, or enteroscopy may be performed to examine the tissues in your intestines. Imaging procedures, such as CT scans and MRIs, also may be ordered to get a full picture of your digestive tract. Your doctor will use all of this information to determine if you have IBD, and if so, where it’s manifesting and what type it is.

What Are Some Other Ways to Cope?

Finding a support network or online group of fellow IBD warriors may be helpful. Non-profit organizations for patient support and education like the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation are an excellent resource. Educating yourself about the disease also may prove beneficial for your own peace of mind.

Tracking your symptoms—along with diet, sleep, exercise, and stress levels—also has helped to empower a lot of people with IBD to better manage their quality of life and reduce flares.

How Many People Have IBD?

If you’re living with IBD, you’re not alone: An estimated 3 million people in the U.S. reported being diagnosed with IBD in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Is There a Cure for IBD?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for IBD—at least, not yet—but medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and complementary therapies have helped many IBD warriors soothe their symptoms and even reach a stage where they’re no longer experiencing flares, which is generally considered being “in remission.”


Know the Difference

Lots of people get confused when it comes to IBS and IBD. Not only do they sound similar, but they have a lot of similar symptoms. People with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) typically experience abdominal pain and a variety of related gastrointestinal issues, as do people with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). To help make it easier to understand the similarities and differences between the two, we’ve put together this handy compare-and-contrast guide.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Many IBS sufferers experience recurring symptoms, including a combination of cramps, diarrhea, constipation, and/or abdominal pain and bloating. They may also have food intolerances, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: People with IBD may experience ALL of the symptoms related to IBS. The biggest difference between the two, symptom-wise, is that people with IBD may also have fever, blood in their stool, reduced appetite with nausea and/or vomiting, and weight loss.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome: We do not yet know what causes IBS, but an international survey of 40,000 people concluded the condition may be triggered by stress in some form or another. Most (but not all) IBS sufferers are women: IBS is about 1.5 to 3 times more prevalent in women compared with men, and some experts theorize that the condition may be triggered by hormonal changes.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: As with IBS, experts haven’t figured out what causes IBD. Some possibilities include genetic or hereditary factors, the makeup of bacteria in the digestive system, cigarette smoking, and environmental factors.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome: IBS is often diagnosed by examining your medical history and by blood tests and stool inspection. Doctors may want to exclude other GI conditions that present in the same way.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Doctors often diagnose IBD by performing a colonoscopy and possibly an upper endoscopy, as well as ordering blood tests and special X-rays or MRIs.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Although IBS is not considered as debilitating as IBD, the psychological and physical reactions can take a serious toll on quality of life. As such, treatment is often considered necessary to address the symptoms of IBS.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: IBD is considered a chronic autoimmune disease. Depending on its severity, it can significantly limit quality of life and interfere with social activities, as well as school and work. While IBD itself is not considered fatal, it can result in systemic illnesses, such as anemia and nutrient deficiencies, and can lead to serious complications like infections and even colon cancer.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Treatment for IBS can range from making dietary and lifestyle changes to taking prescription medications aimed at managing bowel activity and nerves.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: The wide array of treatment options for those who suffer from IBD include lifestyle changes, dietary changes, Western medical treatments (ranging from corticosteroids and other medications to target the immune system to surgery), as well as alternative and complementary medical treatments.


Everybody with IBD is Different

If you have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you likely have a unique set of symptoms and issues as a result of where the inflammation manifests in your intestines and how your body reacts to this inflammation. The IBDs are complex disorders that are different in every affected individual; no two people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis are the same.

For example, Crohn’s disease may be located in the small intestine, colon, or a combination of both, and it may be one of three different types: one that causes just inflammation, one that causes strictures or narrowing in the intestine, or one that causes fistulas (or connections) between the intestine and other parts of the body, like out to the skin.

To complicate matters more, even people with the same type and location of IBD may have different symptoms due to their differences in pain tolerance, differing responses to medications, and the presence of other symptoms associated with IBD, such as joint pain.

Fortunately, in recent years, the healthcare provider community has begun to embrace the concept of “individualized care,” and it is now gaining momentum among specialists who treat IBD. Many of these physicians now acknowledge that all facets of a person’s disease and how it affects them have to be considered when deciding on the optimal treatment plan.

Doctor explains Crohn's complications with patient discussing GI and digestive tract issues, IBD symptoms, Crohn's disease

Individualized Care in Action

Here’s an example of how individualized care might look: Let’s say two patients with Crohn’s disease walk into an IBD clinic to see the doctor. They may have both been diagnosed with the same disease, but it looks and feels different for each one of them.

The first individual has intermittent loose stools and abdominal cramping, while the second person has those symptoms plus abdominal pain around the belly button area, occasional nausea, and weight loss. The first person is able to work and take care of her family, while the second has had to take time away from his school and is not eating or sleeping well. The doctor’s diagnostic workup reveals differences in terms of where the disease is located in each person, too.

So now, the doctor can take all of that information into account and also factor in how the disease affects each individual’s overall well-being. Based on all of this information, the first patient is prescribed an oral topical steroid medication called Budesonide, while the second is treated with a biologic, as well as the systemic steroid Prednisone and a modified diet.

Beware of “Dr. Google”

The fact that no two people with IBD are alike is important to keep in mind whenever you’re searching the Internet for information. If you are one of the millions of people who search “Dr. Google” on a regular basis, remember that search engines are limited by the information you input to start your search, and they don’t necessarily know whether or not sites are credible and correspond to your specific disease.

In addition, a search for something like “Crohn’s disease” and “abdominal pain” will likely result in a slew of information that does not necessarily correspond to your unique body. You may receive advice on anti-inflammatory medications or diets or probiotics that would be great for someone else with Crohn’s disease, but not for you.

Individualizing Your Treatment Plan

Fortunately, individualized care is rapidly becoming the accepted way to treat IBD. You may want to speak with your healthcare providers to ensure your treatment plan has been custom-tailored for you—and to make sure it’s up-to-date based on the latest information about your symptoms, how these symptoms are affecting you on a day-to-day basis, and the disease characteristics discovered by your physician on diagnostic workup.

When a doctor asks a lot of questions about your various symptoms, take the time to explain what is ongoing—and, if this is a return visit, be sure to share what has changed since your last visit. To round out your care, make sure to discuss how the disease affects you on a daily basis in terms of sleep, exercise, relaxation, and the ability to work or go to school or take care of family.

Next, your doctor may order a series of tests to learn more about what type of IBD you have.

It is important to discuss with your doctor all the aspects that characterize your IBD for a greater understanding of your specific disease. For example, you may want to ask:

  • Where your inflammation is located (small intestine vs. colon, where in the colon?)
  • How severe it is (mild, moderate, or severe)
  • Whether or not it is thought to be in remission

Based on all this information, your doctor will be able to discuss treatment options with you, such as anti-inflammatories, medications that modulate the immune system, or biologic medications, or a combination of these. In the individualized care model, doctors also will take into consideration your preferences based on medications’ safety profiles, side effects, and mode of delivery (such as pills vs. injections vs. infusions).

Using all the information that is unique to you, the doctor also will be able to prescribe a diet that is right for you, keeping in mind that this may change through the course of the disease. The doctor also will reinforce with you the need for rest, exercise, and relaxation.

This kind of individualized plan of care will likely be the fastest and safest approach to get you feeling well again and to get your IBD into remission.

Oshi is available for download on the Apple App Store or Android Google Play.