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Do I Have Indigestion or Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

By Emily Lockhart

Indigestion vs. Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

If you suffer from the odd digestive upset following a night of pizza and hot wings, chances are that you’re suffering from innocent gastrointestinal distress. However, when your digestive system is plagued whenever you eat any food, period, you may be dealing with a more chronic inflammatory bowel issue.

Inflammatory bowel disease (or IBD) is caused by an unhealthy immune reaction within the digestive tract. The term IBD covers a pair of chronic conditions, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, which cause inflammation along the digestive tract (i.e., from the inner intestinal walls all the way to the rectum).

Common IBD Diseases

The type of IBD you suffer from will depend on which part of the digestive tract is affected.

For instance, Crohn’s Disease affects the deep tissues of the digestive tract, anywhere from the mouth to the anus. This disease causes painful canker-like lesions on healthy intestinal tissues along the small intestine and colon walls.

Ulcerative Colitis, on the other hand, causes ulcers and inflammation in the colon and rectum.

However, the symptoms of both chronic inflammatory bowel diseases present themselves similarly…

1. Skin Problems

The first place you may notice issues with IBD is on your skin. Chronic skin conditions may appear in itchy, red bumpy rashes, inflamed patches of skin, and even with skin ulcers around the feet and ankles.

2. Explosive Diarrhea & Cramping

Abdominal cramps due to painfully inflamed and ulcerated intestinal walls will cause sharp and chronic cramping and loose stools. As the colon becomes more inefficient, it will be unable to absorb excess water and bile salts, causing explosive diarrhea.

3. Bloody Stool

You can imagine that food scraping along an inflamed, ulcerated digestive would be painful and damaging. Indeed, digestion during times of flare ups can cause bleeding along the intestines, colon, and rectum, resulting in traces of blood in your bowel movements.

4. Weight Loss

Pain and discomfort with the digestive process will often cause patients with Crohn’s and Colitis to refrain from eating.  Inflammatory diarrhea will also result in rapid weight loss with both conditions.

5. Canker Sores

Small, painful, crater-like sores inside the mouth and under the tongue often develop in both Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis cases. The appearance of canker sores will often indicate an IBD flare-up. Canker sores are linked to iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies, which are typical in individuals who have nutrient absorption issues.

6. Joint Pain

Joint pain and arthritis of the elbows, ankles, wrists, knees, and hands can be an uncomfortable side affect of Colitis, but mostly Crohn’s disease due to painful swelling inside the intestines that extends to other areas of the body.  Typically, arthritis pain will flare up during a Crohn’s attack (or period of severe symptoms).

7. Vision Issues

Eye problems are common with both Crohn’s and Colitis patients. You may notice blurred vision, or chronic red dry eyes. This is because the cornea, tear ducts, and whites of the eyes tend to become irritated when flare-ups and inflammation occur.

8. Gallstones

In addition to painful intestinal tract pain and inflammation, when areas of the digestive tract are damaged and inefficient; gallstones can develop due to absorption issues. If excess bile salts remain inside the body, you may experience sharp pains in the right side of your abdomen that indicate the presence of gallstones.

Emily Lockhart


Emily Lockhart is a weight loss expert who specializes in healthy living. She is dedicated to providing health-conscious individuals with the information they need to make great lifestyle choices that will make them look and feel better. In her spare time, Emily teaches Pilates at a local studio and enjoys activities like hiking, rowing and biking.

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