The Connection between GERD and IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common functional disorder affecting between 25 and 45 million people in the United States. Those with IBS are already quite familiar with the symptoms – abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. However, studies reveal that IBS sufferers may be prone to experience other symptoms as well. IBS has been linked to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which affects the esophagus rather than the abdominals. The month of April is IBS Awareness Month, which is a great time for IBS sufferers to reevaluate their symptoms and make sure they’re receiving adequate relief.

GERD is a chronic digestive disorder in which stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. The most common symptoms of GERD are heartburn and acid reflux. However, other symptoms may include sore throat, indigestion, chronic cough and trouble swallowing.

At first glance, it may seem that GERD and IBS have very little – if anything— in common. However, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility discovered an overlap between GERD and other functional bowel disorders, such as IBS. As demonstrated in the study, patients with GERD were likely to experience symptoms of IBS, and vice versa (Source: The National Center for Biotechnology Information).

Treating symptoms of both GERD and IBS can be tricky and even frustrating at first. Both disorders vary, not only in symptoms, but also in how they are treated. A gastroenterologist can be extremely helpful in sorting through your symptoms and identifying the root cause behind them. There is no cure for IBS, although laxatives, anti-diarrheals and anti-anxiety medication can be helpful. Treatment for GERD typically involves PPIs or H2 blockers to control acid production.

Dietary changes can also be helpful in controlling GERD and IBS. Both disorders share many of the same trigger foods, which means that altering your diet can help reduce your symptoms overall. Common trigger foods to avoid include (Source:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee
  • Carbonated beverages, such as colas
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Fatty and fried foods
  • Garlic and onions
  • Mints such as peppermint or spearmint
  • Spicy foods
  • Tomato-based foods, such as pizza and spaghetti sauces

If left untreated, GERD can lead to serious issues of the esophagus, so finding an effective treatment plan is important. If you’re experiencing symptoms of GERD or IBS, don’t delay in scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider. Bring a list of your symptoms, as well as any trigger foods or activities that make symptoms worse. This will help your doctor reach an accurate diagnosis and find a treatment that’s right for you.