A sad ballerina sits on the floor with her eyes closed as a spotlight shines down on her. Behind her are the silhouettes of two other ballerinas dancing aggressively at each other.

Living with Crohn’s Disease and IBS

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2011. I was 21 years old and had never been sick a day in my life.  My diagnosis was quick, as I fell ill very fast and was lucky to be referred to a prominent gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with lightning speed after a colonoscopy.

My life drastically changed

My life forever changed after my diagnosis, I was once a robust, professional classical dancer who’s life revolved around dance rehearsals, performances, and cross-training of all sorts. I was always physically active and had the energy to balance the grueling life of a dancer with a lovely social and family life.

Things drastically changed once it was discovered that I was fighting Crohn’s. After years of trying to keep up with my career, I had to quit my performance contract mid-season with the Metropolitan Opera in NYC in 2015, because my body just could not keep up.

I have Crohn's Disease and IBS

Interestingly enough, little to my surprise, I was also diagnosed with IBS the same day I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, however, my doctor failed to tell me. Perhaps he figured I thought that Crohn’s often comes with IBS, but the reality was I didn’t know.

Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome could not be more vastly different. Crohn’s at the moment is an incurable autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the digestive system for unknown reasons. In response, major damage is done to the digestive tissue resulting in an array of horrendous symptoms. Major complications can also occur from having Crohn’s Disease and yes, it can be fatal it not properly treated. Surgery is also often performed, in order to remove severely damaged intestine.

IBS, on the other hand, is a functional disorder of the digestive tract which can be treated. However, this is not to negate its awful symptoms and the mental strain it puts on those that suffer from it. Although you can treat this syndrome and heal, when you are in the thick of an IBS flare, you truly suffer.

The challenges of IBS and IBD

Having both is certainly a challenge. Crohn’s Disease is no walk in the park, and its large umbrella of symptoms involves some similar to that of IBS. It can be confusing to know which symptom is from Crohn’s and which is from IBS, and that can be incredibly frustrating.

For example, is this sudden urgency occurring from something that I ate, or is it a Crohn’s flare starting to rear its ugly head? If it is from IBS, then I need to focus on the trigger food, if it’s Crohn’s I need to focus on the food plus contact my doctor so we can quickly come up with a plan that involves calming my immune system.

Overall, with time, I have begun to learn patterns that I can differentiate between the two. Even though I find them to both be so interlaced, typically, at least in my personal case, it is usually the Crohn’s with a side of terrible IBS.

Do you also have an Inflammatory Bowel Disease in addition to your IBS diagnosis?  If so, share below.

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