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Diverticulitis vs IBS

Diverticulitis vs IBS

While irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diverticulitis share some common symptoms, it’s important to distinguish their characteristics, causes, and treatments for successful management and a healthy recovery. 

Here are the key differences between IBS and diverticulitis, so you can better understand and manage your digestive health and well-being.

What is Diverticulitis? 

Diverticulosis is characterized by the formation of pouches (diverticula) in weak areas of the intestinal walls. The condition, prevalent in individuals over 50, is usually symptom-free. 

However, these diverticula can be prone to infection and inflammation, leading to what is known as diverticulitis or diverticular disease. Diverticulitis does cause acute symptoms and potential complications and requires medical attention.

What is IBS? 

IBS is classified as a functional GI disorder or syndrome, meaning a group of symptoms. The syndrome affects roughly 10-15% of the global population. Although its precise cause remains elusive, IBS is believed to stem from a dysregulated gut-brain axis, involving a complex interplay of a dysregulated nervous system, altered brain-gut signals, and gut dysbiosis.

Various factors such as stress, certain foods, infections, hormonal changes, and medications can trigger IBS symptoms, making it a condition that significantly impacts quality of life.

Can IBS Cause Diverticulitis? 

While studies suggest a relationship between IBS and diverticulitis, there is scarce data to show that IBS can cause diverticulitis. However, individuals with diverticulitis may later develop IBS-like symptoms, both gastrointestinal and mood-related. This condition is known as Post-Diverticilitis Syndrome.  

Diverticulitis vs IBS Symptoms 

Symptoms of Diverticulitis include:

  • Pain in the lower left abdomen
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Swelling or bloating of the abdomen
  • Increased urgency, frequency, or discomfort when urinating

Symptoms of IBS: 

  • Nausea 
  • Persistent abdominal pain 
  • Constipation alternating with diarrhea 
  • Mucus in stool 
  • Gassiness 
  • Bloating
  • Persistent sensation of feeling full 
  • Abdominal distention or swelling 

Diverticulitis vs IBS Diagnosis 

Unlike diverticulitis, which can be seen in the organic tissue, IBS is not measurable by procedures as it is a ‘functional disorder’ that can’t be traced in the tissue or through inflammatory markers. Diagnosis of IBS will therefore be based on the presence of specific symptoms, a physical exam, and considering medical and family history.

When diagnosing diverticulitis, doctors are more likely to conduct blood tests, check stool cultures, and use a colonoscopy or other imaging to check for infection and inflammation in the organic tissue. They will also check for abdominal tenderness, review medical history, and inquire about symptoms and medications. 

Diverticulitis vs IBS Treatment 

IBS lacks a cure, but lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and natural therapies can help control symptoms. Medications may also be prescribed for symptom management.

Mild cases of diverticulitis can be managed at home with rest and dietary modifications, while severe cases may require hospitalization or surgery. After an acute episode, natural remedies may help with lingering IBS-like symptoms. 

Diverticulitis Lifestyle Modifications 

Diet for Diverticulitis 

When managing diverticulitis, dietary and nutritional support should always be tailored for the individual. An acute episode of diverticulitis may involve a clear liquid diet until the condition improves. A low FODMAP diet may also prevent pressure in the colon. Studies show that a diet high in red and processed meat may increase the risk of developing diverticulitis, so you may want to avoid these foods, as well as anything that includes a high content of fat and sugar.

Exercise for Diverticulitis  

Regular exercise, particularly activities like running, can lower the risk of diverticular complications by promoting bowel movement and preventing constipation. Running, especially, has been found to significantly lower the risk of disease development

Stress Management for Diverticulitis 

Long-term stress releases excessive cortisol, leading to poor digestive function and inflammation. This can irritate the diverticula, leading to worsened symptoms. Stress also weakens the immune response, making it more difficult to fight infection. 

Research now shows that stress-relieving activities like meditation not only improve mood but can actively promote more beneficial anti-inflammatory gut bacteria. Activities like yoga, breathwork, or tai chi also help maintain mood and quality of life. 

IBS Lifestyle & Diet Modifications 

Like many digestive conditions, dietary management of IBS will likely depend on your personal trigger foods. It’s best to keep a food journal so you can track how you feel after eating different foods. That said, it’s important to eat a full diet of fruit and vegetables and limit overly processed sugary or greasy foods. 

The National Institute of Health suggests these tips for better digestion with IBS: 

  1. Eat slowly and chew well before swallowing so you swallow less air and can better know when you’re full.
  2. Eat smaller meals to avoid overfilling your stomach. A packed stomach may trigger reflux, when foods and acids back up into the esophagus
  3. Limit how much you eat at night, and try not to eat too close to bedtime. 

Stress Management for IBS 

Mounting evidence shows that the bidirectional relationship between the nervous system and the digestive system can be used to manage gut disorders, especially IBS. New treatment approaches to IBS now include mindfulness and meditation, as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which was found in a 2021 study to reduce IBS symptom severity. 

Natural Remedies for Stress & IBS 

Herbal adaptogens like Ashwagandha are widely known for their stress-relieving properties. Ashwagandha may ease abdominal discomfort by reducing stress signals and cortisol levels associated with digestive symptoms – especially cramping. Ashwagandha can also imitate a naturally occurring neurotransmitter called GABA which can alleviate digestive discomfort and stress levels. 

Navigating Treatment for IBS & Diverticulitis 

The key to navigating digestive conditions like diverticulitis and IBS lies in recognizing individual nuances and embracing personalized medicine. Personalized medicine recognizes that each patient is unique, acknowledging diverse factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and emotional well-being. 

By tailoring treatments to individual needs, personalized medicine empowers patients to manage their conditions effectively, fostering a holistic approach that not only alleviates symptoms but also enhances overall well-being.  




    This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.


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