Inflammatory bowel disease has a negative impact on individuals perception of their health status and is associated with disabling processes that have physical, social, and work repercussions. The objectives of this study were to describe the life experiences of individuals with Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis and to develop a theoretical framework to describe the relationships of these diseases with personal and clinical factors. A qualitative study on the basis of grounded theory was conducted, involving individual and semistructured interviews on the life experiences of 14 adults of different ages with inflammatory bowel disease in relapse or inactive phase. The individuals in relapse phase and those with a short time since diagnosis had the most negative perceptions of their health, and experienced impaired ability for daily activities. The life experiences of individuals with inflammatory bowel disease were influenced by the time since diagnosis and the disease phase, with no gender difference in either factor. The predominant strategy of participants for coping with the disease was to pursue normality. According to these findings, nursing interventions should focus on the initial adaptation phase and on coping strategies during active phases of the disease.