Gut Health and Digestion: Are IBS and GERD Connected?

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Two troublesome conditions that affect the digestive system are irritable bowel system (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). They can both significantly lower one’s quality of life and can have a sudden onset or become a chronic condition. 

It seems almost obvious, then, that the two conditions are actually often linked. It’s an unfortunate combination but happens more often than we think. In fact, two out of three people with IBS also have symptoms of GERD.

Causes and Definition of IBS

IBS is a condition that causes stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation, gas, and bloating. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks and can affect one in seven people worldwide. The trouble with IBS is that it has no observable damage on the internal organs, so it can only be identified with symptoms.

IBS can be hereditary. It can also be triggered by changes to the immune and nervous systems and severe infection. Additionally, it can be caused by mental health factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Females are more likely to have IBS than males. 

Causes and Definition of GERD

GERD, on the other hand, affects around twenty percent of the western population. This condition affects the esophagus and can lead to complications in the bowels. It occurs when the lower sphincter of the esophagus is unable to function properly, causing acid reflux, throat pain, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, nausea, heartburn, and even chronic cough.

GERD can develop due to pregnancy, obesity, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, eating trigger foods like spicy and fried food, eating late at night, and eating large meals at a time.

How They Overlap

There’s still no definite knowledge on whether one disease causes the other, but both of them are affected by and consequently have an effect on gut health. They also have an overlap in certain symptoms, which can be compounded. Sometimes, this leads to an incomplete diagnosis. Doctors must conduct the right tests to figure out the difference and if a patient has both. 


An upper endoscopy can be done to determine which of the two (or both) you may have. This will be used to check your esophagus as well as any growths in the small intestine. Other tests to fully work out both include colonoscopy, blood test, x-ray, ambulatory acid pH test, abdominal ultrasound, hydrogen breath test, and collection of a stool sample. 

Your doctor will assess which of the diagnostic tests will be needed and determine treatment from there. Medications that may be prescribed include proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole and colon relaxers like Lotronex. 

Natural treatments will most likely be geared toward changing your diet. A doctor will go into details for each case, but you’ll generally be told to eat slower, smaller meals with a low FODMAP diet.

A low FODMAP diet can still be diverse. For example, acid reflux and mustard actually work as this condiment doesn’t trigger it or IBS as long as it has no garlic or onion. Baking soda and acid reflux with irritable bowels will also work, as baking soda actually relieves these symptoms. Rice, grapes, cheddar, and eggs, among many others, are also low FODMAP consumables that are great on a menu.


Whether you have one of the two conditions or both, it’s best to figure out the triggers and treatment in order to manage symptoms. Although there isn’t a one-time cure for IBS and GERD, you can still live life to the fullest and manage your pain with the right resources. If you think you may have these conditions, reach out to a doctor to get the necessary tests and assessment.

Can probiotics help with acid reflux? Will apple cider vinegar stop heartburn? Reflux Away answers all of these questions and more as the prime resource for everything about heartburns. Read our detailed guides and articles to learn how you can manage symptoms.