IBD and IBS: Signs, Symptoms, Causes & Protocols

Is It Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Are you experiencing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, or could it be something else? The terms inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are often used interchangeably; however, they are two separate and distinct conditions. And it is possible to have both.

Signs and Symptoms of IBD

IBD – Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a category used to describe certain autoimmune conditions pertaining to chronic inflammation within the digestive tract. Conditions associated with IBD can greatly impact the quality of life and at times be frustrating, embarrassing, painful, and sometimes even life-threatening.

There are two main types of inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Crohn’s disease – Crohn’s disease involves inflammation of your digestive tract, with the most commonly affected areas being the last part of the small intestine (ileum) and the colon. You can have periods of remission as well as sudden flare-ups that can range from mild to intense.

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Blood in your stool
  • Mouth sores
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Pain or drainage near or around the anus due to inflammation from a tunnel into the skin (fistula)
  • Inflammation of skin, eyes and joints
  • Inflammation of the liver or bile ducts
  • Delayed growth or sexual development, in children

Complications Associated with Crohn’s Disease

  • Bowel obstruction
  • Malnutrition
  • Colon cancer
  • Enteropathic arthritis
  • Osteoporosis

Ulcerative colitis – Similar to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis can have long periods of remission followed by flare ups and increased inflammation. Ullcers can be found predominantly in the innermost lining of the colon and rectum. Depending on the location and type of ulcerative colitis, your IBD symptoms may vary.

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis May Include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Diarrhea with blood
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal cramping and discomfort
  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement (but may not be able to go)
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Joint pain and soreness
  • Eye irritation
  • Rashes or painful skin ulcers
  • Skin lumps

Ulcerative colitis can pose life threatening risks. Possible complications of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Inflammation of your skin, joints and eyes
  • Severe bleeding
  • Severe dehydration
  • Liver disease
  • Colon cancer
  • Toxic megacolon
  • Perforated colon
  • Blood clots

Recent Studies Offer Hope in Managing IBD Symptoms.

A meta-analysis was performed where they reviewed 14 eligible studies, comprising of 1,891 participants (938 IBD cases and 953 controls). The meta-analysis concluded that “IBD is significantly associated with having higher odds of vitamin D deficiency.”

In fact, patients with IBD had 64% higher odds of vitamin D deficiency when compared to their counterparts. Patients with ulcerative colitis had more than double the odds of vitamin D deficiency when compared with the control group.

Another meta-analysis looked into the safety and therapeutic use of vitamin D as a treatment for IBD. It reports, “Recent studies have found that VitD can induce and maintain IBD remission through antibiosis, anti-inflammatory, and repair of intestinal mucosal barriers, thus improving the patient’s disease activity and quality-of-life.” The meta-analysis revealed that vitamin D reduced the relapse rate and recommended it be considered in the treatment of IBD, at least as an adjunctive treatment.

IBD as an Autoimmune Condition

Unlike IBS, IBD is an autoimmune condition. This means that an environmental trigger turned on the expression of a pre-existing gene. That trigger may have been a bacterial infection or something else, but it was part of the story that led to where you are now.

You now have a few tasks to deal with.

  1. Identify and eliminate all known triggers. Clean up the environment you live in to support your health — reduce toxins like phthalates, avoid foods with pesticides, and check the air quality within your home.
  2. Schedule a consultation with a functional medicine doctor who can best help with autoimmune conditions. They can order a number of tests to drill down deep to what your body looks like right now and how to improve your future health.
  3. Pick up a copy of The Autoimmune Fix to educate yourself on how to prevent, reverse and arrest autoimmune conditions and get a proven protocol to better guide you in your journey to wellness.

Signs and Symptoms of IBS

IBS – IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is not an autoimmune condition, but a growing number of people suffer from it. You can have both an inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s in addition to irritable bowel syndrome.

IBS is a common disorder affecting the large intestine. Unlike inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), IBS does not appear to cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

It does affect the bowels, though. IBS has four basic categories based on bowel symptoms: IBS-D (diarrhea), IBS-C (constipation), IBS-M (mixed bowels), and IBS-U (unclassified). These symptoms can be triggered by things like food, stress, and hormonal changes.

Prevalence of IBS is common, with rates ranging from 10-15% worldwide. Studies reveal that up to 84% of people suffering from IBS test positive for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

Symptoms of SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)

  • Weight loss/weight gain
  • Steatorrhea (fatty stool)
  • Vitamin/mineral deficiency – fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), vitamin B12, and iron
  • Folate excess
  • Hypoproteinemia/hypoalbuminemia (lower than normal protein levels in the blood)
  • Mental acuity symptoms including brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, etc.
  • Dietary intolerance to certain carbohydrates, fibers, and alternative sweeteners


Harvard performed a study where they took 36 patients with irritable bowel syndrome whose treatment protocols failed for at least a year. These patients had tried everything without success. The patients were compliant with the recommendations, yet nothing worked.

This study used a technique called confocal endomicroscopy, which is like electron microscopy inside the gut, so they could see the individual cells in real time.

So they put a camera down there, injected a dye into the patient’s veins so that it would go right past the gut, and then gave patients either wheat, soy, dairy, or yeast. Then they waited to see what happened to the dye. As they observed, all of a sudden they saw the white dye out through the surface of the inside of the gut. There was kind of a mini-explosion, and the white dye was coming out into the gut itself.

This is what happened when they exposed people to wheat, dairy, yeast, or soy within five minutes of exposure. Cells started gaping open; they could see intestinal permeability as it was happening.

The scientists at Harvard wrote that the white dye was evident to everyone in the room. The gaping of the cells was obvious to everyone in attendance. Everybody saw the same thing — that foods are a common trigger to irritable bowel syndrome and to the inflammation that comes. They also started to piece together what inflammatory bowel diseases developed because of certain foods. It makes you question whether most of the people with Crohn’s or colitis had symptoms that at first were associated with irritable bowel syndrome and then just got worse and worse.

Food Sensitivities and IBS

You have to find out why the gut is irritable, and there are so many different reasons as to what can irritate the gut. Don’t accept irritable bowel syndrome as a diagnosis. Find out why your gut is irritable. It’s so important.

It may be a food that’s going down. It may be the microbiome itself that’s so far out of balance. It may be environmental. It could be mold in the house. There is no single cause for IBS.

Food is so important. There’s not one diet for all of us, and that’s why it’s really important to work with an expert. Maybe the autoimmune paleo protocol is going to work for you, or a low FODMAP, or a low lectin diet, or maybe more of a plant based vegetarian type diet. But food is definitely primary in getting well.

The best way is to work with a functional medicine practitioner who can help figure that out for you. But if you’re on your own, I’d say the first rule of thumb is eat God made foods and not man made foods. Then remove wheat, dairy and sugar and see what happens. That’s a really good starting place.

Some Simple Strategies

  1. A food sensitivity test can help guide and prioritize an elimination diet.
  2. A gluten and wheat-free diet is almost always indicated to protect and heal intestinal tight junctions.
  3. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  4. Remove dairy and sugar, as they can be very inflammatory.
  5. Avoid excessive pesticide residues by choosing organic produce, coffee, and meat.
  6. Use caution with all plastics, particularly plastics containing BPA that are exposed to heat.

There could be just a handful of foods that are triggering inflammation for some people. Definitely find someone to work with to help you pin down your specific triggers. If you want to tackle it yourself, start on the elimination diet.

Is it IBD or IBS? Be Sure with IBSSure

One way to rule out IBD is to take a test called Vibrant IBSSure™. This test measures two blood-based antibodies that can be used in the diagnostic workup of IBS. These antibodies can also identify past exposure to bacterial toxin (food poisoning) and autoimmunity of the intestinal motility system.

Vibrant IBSSure™ may help to identify patients with IBS-D related SIBO. This blood test can reduce costs, reduce potential false negatives, and assist with monitoring for SIBO recurrence.

A positive IBSSure result indicates that it is highly likely that you have IBS-related SIBO. If your test results come back as “inconclusive,” a good next step for you may be taking the hydrogen/methane breath test. If you are taking steroids, anti-inflammatory medications, biologic agents, or any other immunosuppressive medications, you may not get an accurate reading of your antibody levels.

Keep in Mind…

Whether you have IBD, IBS, or both, testing and managing symptoms can go a long way in living a higher quality of life and minimizing symptoms. Foods and protocols may vary from individual to individual. The key is to listen to your body, begin to make associations between what is going on in your diet or life at the time, make adjustments, and test to measure your improvement over time.

TheDr website is a great resource for education, testing and supplementation and may ease your symptoms of IBS and/or IBD. Videos of our weekly Facebook Live are available on YouTube. Or join us live for an interactive discussion every Tuesday night at 7pm EST / 4pm PST on a wide variety of health-related topics.

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Coriolus Versicolor

Coriolus Versicolor, a remarkable mushroom, is esteemed for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Known for its immune-supporting properties, Coriolus Versicolor may help strengthen the body’s natural defenses. This extraordinary mushroom has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, supporting digestion, and fostering vitality.

Fo Ti

Fo Ti, a revered Chinese herb also known as He Shou Wu, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Traditionally used for promoting vitality and longevity, Fo Ti may contribute to maintaining healthy energy levels, cognitive function, and immune system performance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with supporting liver and kidney health, as well as fostering a sense of overall balance


Agave, a versatile desert plant native to the Americas, is recognized for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural fibers and low-glycemic sweeteners, Agave may contribute to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, digestive health, and providing a natural alternative to refined sugars.

Maral Root

Maral Root, a potent adaptogenic herb native to Siberia, is celebrated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for helping the body manage stress and maintain balance, Maral Root may also promote healthy energy levels, endurance, and cognitive function. This exceptional herb has been associated with supporting the immune system, fostering vitality, and enhancing physical performance.

  • Antioxidant and DNA Repair Stimulating Effect of Extracts from Transformed and Normal Roots of Rhaponticum carthamoides against Induced Oxidative Stress and DNA Damage in CHO Cells:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27034736/


NotoGinseng, a distinct variety of Panax ginseng native to the Changbai Mountains, is esteemed for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its adaptogenic properties, Noto Ginseng may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This exceptional herb has been linked to supporting cognitive function, promoting healthy energy levels, and boosting immune system performance.


Baicalin, a potent bioflavonoid derived from the Scutellaria baicalensis plant, is appreciated for its potential to promote overall wellness. With its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Baicalin may help protect cells from oxidative stress and maintain a balanced response to inflammation. This remarkable compound has been associated with supporting liver health, promoting cardiovascular function, and fostering a sense of vitality.

Purple Lapacho

Purple Lapacho, a unique and potent herb, is valued for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its immune-boosting properties, Purple Lapacho may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, supporting digestion, and fostering vitality.

Holy Basil

Holy Basil has been found to protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals, and physical stress from prolonged physical exertion. It has also been shown to counter metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels.


Ashwagandha, a revered adaptogenic herb, is acclaimed for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for helping the body manage stress and maintain balance, Ashwagandha may also contribute to healthy energy levels and mental clarity. This remarkable herb has been associated with promoting relaxation, supporting the immune system, and fostering vitality.


Guarana, a powerful plant, is celebrated for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural caffeine, Guarana may help promote mental alertness, focus, and healthy energy levels. This remarkable plant has also been associated with supporting endurance and enhancing physical performance.


Catuaba, a potent herb, is appreciated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Catuaba may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of vitality.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom, a highly-regarded fungus, is esteemed for its potential to enhance overall wellness. With adaptogenic properties, Reishi Mushroom may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This extraordinary mushroom has also been linked to promoting immune system support, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.

Astragalus Root

Astragalus Root, a powerful herb, is respected for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its immune-supporting properties, Astragalus Root may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. Additionally, this remarkable root has been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, heart health, and supporting the body’s ability to adapt to stress.

Asian Licorice Root

Asian Licorice Root, a versatile herb, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Known for its adaptogenic properties, it may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable root has also been linked to promoting healthy digestion, respiratory function, and supporting the immune system.

American Ginseng

American Ginseng, a revered herb, is prized for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. With adaptogenic properties, it may assist the body in managing stress and maintaining harmony. American Ginseng has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and supporting the immune system.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea, a robust herb, is admired for its potential to support overall wellness. As an adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has been linked to promoting mental clarity, healthy energy levels, and increased endurance.

Peruvian Maca

Peruvian Maca, a nutrient-packed root, is celebrated for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Maca may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This powerful root has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, endurance, and supporting hormonal balance.

Schisandra Fruit

Schisandra Fruit, a unique berry, is renowned for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Boasting adaptogenic properties, it may help the body adapt to stress and maintain equilibrium. Schisandra Fruit has also been linked to promoting healthy energy levels, mental clarity, and supporting the body’s natural defense


Acai, a nutrient-dense berry, is recognized for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Rich in antioxidants, Acai may help support the body’s defenses against environmental stressors, while promoting healthy energy levels and vitality.

Himalayan Goji

Himalayan Goji, a nutrient-rich fruit, is valued for its potential contribution to overall wellness. This superfood is believed to support the immune system, promote healthy energy levels, and aid in maintaining balance within the body. With its antioxidant properties, Himalayan Goji may help protect cells from environmental stressors.

Gotu Kola

The main group of components in gotu kola is the triterpenes including asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic acid, and madecassic acid, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are shown to positively influence brain plasticity which means a much sharper you.

  • Exhibits significant wound healing ability, Improves microcirculatory parameters, Sedative and anxiolytic properties, Antidepressant, Re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration and combat aging: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116297/

Water Hyssop

Best known as a neural tonic and memory enhancer this powerful herb increases cerebral blood flow and neurotransmitter modulation.

Green Tea Extract

Healthy energy producer and one of the more researched and promising supplements. It upregulates fat metabolism at rest and during exercise. In recent years the consumption of Green Tea Extract has shown to help prevent lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease because of it’s preventative effects on chronic inflammation.

  • Helps with weight loss by increasing a protein hormone which is involved in regulating glucose levels as well
    as fatty acid breakdown:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26093535/
  • Decrease cholesterol absorption and plasma levels, has strong free radical-scavenging
    activity inhibiting LDL oxidation, reduce the adhesion molecule expression, has antitrombotic activities by inhibiting platelet aggregation:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15969262/ 

Mikania Guaco

“Guaco” is Sun Horse Energy founder Dan Moriarty’s favorite herb, and the reason why he’s still alive. Traditionally, it’s a well-known herb for snake bites, scorpion stings and other venomous creatures. Guaco acts as a non-steroidal bronchodilator, meaning it opens up the airways without steroids. As a result of guaco opening up the airways, the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) are better able to accept oxygen transfer and get rid of carbon dioxide. In Brazil, Guaco syrup is one of the most popular herbal medicines used to treat the symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis, cough and hoarseness.

Osha Root

A traditional Native American herb, Osha is also known as “Bear Root”. Native Americans noticed that when bears emerged from hibernation, the first thing they did after being in a state of torpor for 4 months was not feast on salmon or drink water, but rather, dig up osha and eat it. Why? It decongests and wakes up the lungs. Native Americans who used Osha were able to run further, and treat their colds and congestion. Modern research studies suggest Osha may support the immune system by offering protective effects against oxidative damage.

I want to thank you for your existence. I want you to know that functional medicine has changed my life, well the life of my autistic son. So much so that I plan on taking the Functional Medicine Health Coach Certificate and work with my new friend who is now a Functional Medicine Doctor from the Institute of Functional Medicine and spread the word on GI testing and how finding the underlying issues will help eliminate autistic traits. 

I hope to be able to meet you one day so I can share this great news with others. Changing my son’s diet has changed him. Food is medicine!! By the way, I’m cooking my rutabaga. I’m Italian and never grew up with these. With love.

Rita Mastrangelo

I found you on YouTube a couple of weeks ago and I’m hooked. I listen to you a couple of hours every morning. I am being tested for celiac disease and have been gluten-free for a couple of weeks. Thank you for all of your insight.

April Renee

Just wanted to tell you that you’re amazing! You are helping so many people all over the world! Including me! Thank you so very much, Dr. Tom O’Bryan!

Patricia Puddle

Good morning Dr. Tom, Would just like to say thank you! This time last year I was going through a hell of a time with my gut. Terrible indigestion on a regular basis, feeling as if I had eaten a boulder and the tiredness was doing my heed (scottish for head) in! With two young girls being tired is not an option!

I went to the doctors on a number of occasions and they decided to prescribe omeprazole to mask the problem, sorry help my problem. I decided taking these drugs was not an option for me! So I started googling the life out of it!! Low and behold you started popping up!! Oh and Gluten intolerance! 

Your advice has been second to none! You have in my case really simplified what gluten does to my body and now that I have cut it out (which as it appears in lots of foods, some I can’t understand) I have found that my symptoms very quickly reduced and now I’m a year down the line they have gone for the vast majority of the time!! For that I’m truly grateful. I now follow you on YouTube and Instagram, which continues to educate me and the importance of gut health. I look forward to your future advice. Yours faithfully,

Gary Christie

Black Ant Extract

A Chinese medicine tonic, Black Ant is used to support energy levels. (In traditional Chinese medicine, Black Ant is given to increase vital Qi.) Research studies demonstrate that Black Ant supports the function of the thymus gland, which plays a crucial role in the immune system, producing and activating lymphocytes.

Siberian Ginseng

This well known adaptogen has been proven to reduce cardiovascular stress, lower and stabilize blood sugar to healthy levels, and encourages a more efficient lipid metabolism.

Pine Bark Extract

Many studies have shown that pine bark possesses anti-aging properties. It’s very similar in nature to the well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, resveratrol, which is abundant in red wine and grapes. Pine bark has a proven beneficial effect on lipids, the cardiovascular and immune systems.

Lion's Mane

A very yummy and medicinal mushroom is a well established candidate for brain and nerve health because it triggers neurite outgrowth and regenerates damaged nerves. Lions Mane has been extensively studied for its neuro-health properties.


This is an enzyme/protein that speeds up biochemical reactions and helps to prevent and dissolve the formations of blood clots (thrombi); addresses the problem of blood hyperviscosity, thereby preventing thick and sticky blood, which is not conducive to overall cardiovascular health.


Referred to as the women’s ultimate power herb, by some herbal enthusiasts. Used in India for at least 3,000 years, Shatavari, is structurally similar to estrogen produced within the body. Some researchers have concluded shatavari can be a highly effective alternative to synthetic hormone replacement therapy for peri- and menopausal women.

Chaste Tree Berry

Improve female libido, mitigate PMS, reproductive health

Horny Goat Weed

Increase para-sympathetic nervous activity, mitigate osteoporosis, improve libido, enhance smooth muscle tissue function

  • Treatment for erectile problems and nerve injuries in human patients:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551978/
  • Prevents thickening or hardening of the arteries through multiple mechanisms, including attenuating DNA damage, correcting endothelial dysfunction, inhibiting the proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells, repressing macrophage-derived foam cell formation and inflammatory responses, as well as preventing platelet activation:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29075193/

Bulgarian Tribulus

Enhance athletic performance, improve circulation, improve sexual performance, more efficient rates of protein synthesis


Cordyceps, a genus of mushroom, gained lots of attention after Chinese long-distance runners performed impressively at international competitions in the 1990s and early 2000s. Along with high-altitude training, supplementing with cordyceps was part of their intense training program. A research study concludes that cordyceps improves tolerance to high-intensity exercise after supplementation with it because the fungus is thought to increase blood flow, enhance oxygen utilization; it also acts as an antioxidant. It also has powerful anti-tumor properties, the ability to regulate the endocrine system, enhance your immune function, and protect the kidneys, lung, liver, and other organs.

  • Immunomodulatory, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities, promotion of endurance capacity, and learning-memory improvement, can be used to treat conditions such as hyposexuality, night sweats, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, asthenia, arrhythmias, and other heart, respiratory, renal and liver diseases: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924981/
  • Various pharmacological actions, including nephroprotective, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antiapoptotic effects:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4849494/

Ginkgo Biloba

In recent decades, an extract of the leaves of the tree Ginkgo biloba L. has been used to improve memory in disorders like Dementia disorders that affect memory and intellectual functioning, and are caused primarily by Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disorders.

  • Potent antioxidant properties and ability to enhance peripheral and cerebral circulation, ginkgo’s primary application lies in the treatment of cerebrovascular dysfunctions and peripheral vascular disorders:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11565403/
  • Experimental results showed extracts of G.Biloba to upregulate protein expressions of BDNF:
  • The effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on cognitive functions in aged female rats;
  • The role of oxidative stress and brain-derived neurotrophic factor: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25446810


Jiaogulan, a versatile herb, is celebrated for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic properties, Jiaogulan may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, boosting endurance, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.