What is irritable bowel syndrome?

March 9, 2022

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the gut. IBS affects approximately 10-20% of people worldwide, and can affect people of all ages and across both genders. The disorder can cause negative effects on one’s quality of life, affecting their lifestyle as well as bring about psychosocial impacts.

The physical symptoms of IBS are characterised by abdominal pain, frequent bloating, flatulence, constipation, abnormal bowel movements and changes in stool consistency. IBS is not life-threatening, however it requires long-term management to avoid triggering the symptoms caused by a number of factors like diet, poor sleep, lack of exercise and stress. 

Impacts Of IBS Beyond Health

If you have IBS, you may realise that you will begin to avoid certain social situations like attending a social gathering or going out for dinner. It is a risk to try out new types of food when you’re away from home as it may trigger your IBS symptoms and you will be in a rush to locate a restroom. When the symptoms are present, it may also create an unpleasant experience and make you develop a fear of social disapproval or embarrassment. The symptoms can also be uncomfortable and inconvenience for you to perform at work, affecting your concentration and focus.

The impact of IBS is also felt by spouses and partners. The quality of marital life can be negatively affected, whether from being able to participate in family outings or enjoy intimacy due to interference from IBS symptoms.

The Psychological Links To IBS

Increasingly, doctors are associating psychological disorders with people who have IBS in Singapore. Backed by scientific evidence and research endorsed by various institutes, studies have found evidence on the dysfunction along pathways running between the brain and intestines which are likely to contribute to the symptoms of IBS like constipation and abdominal pain. Nerves in the intestines which are experiencing excessive sensitivity can stimulate changes in the brain, while thoughts and feelings related to anxiety or depression can trigger exaggerated responses from the gut. However, it is not determined and known yet which comes first.

With a gastrointestinal condition deeply linked to your mental health, common psychiatric conditions diagnosed in IBS patients are depression, generalised anxiety disorder, dysthymia (long-term and chronic form of depression), and panic disorders. When they are suspected of having psychological issues, there is an option to see a psychologist and work hand in hand with gastroenterologists in Singapore. This process is believed to reduce psychological symptoms which in turn reduces bowel symptoms and improve their quality of life.

The Treatment & Management Approach To IBS

Medication is only part of the solution; treatment for IBS includes a holistic approach that is able to evaluate and address all the possible etiologies causing IBS. The causes are different for different individuals, and so the treatment would be different. These include:

  1. Assessing for any microbial imbalance such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) by breath testing – this is available at GUTCARE
  2. Assessing for dietary intolerances, such as intolerance to FODMAPs, which can also be done by breath testing
  3. Medication for symptom control – there are new medicines that can help
  4. Working out an overall biopsychosocial approach with our specialists, that would address the possible psychological effects as well

If you are easily stressed out or suffering from psychological issues with an added case of tummy troubles, contact GUTCARE clinic and talk to our doctor regarding IBS. Our team of highly-trained gastroenterologists consists of specialists with a subspeciality interest in IBS who can carefully assess your condition before recommending any medication or treatment for IBS. Your medical history, current medication and symptoms will be reviewed.. Besides performing a physical exam, he may also order other tests such as blood test and stool test and possibly endoscopies to check for any other underlying health problems.

The treatment costs for IBS will vary depending on your health needs. You can also approach our staff who will be happy to assist you with further enquiries like payment methods and medical service costs.

Depending on factors like lifestyle and dietary, which varies from individual to individual, there will be a customised approach to identify and reduce those factors. This is aimed to improve the physical and mental health, resulting in lessened IBS pain. Book your appointment with GUTCARE clinic for IBS today.