Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Symptoms & Treatment

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 10 May 2023

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Symptoms & Treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects your stomach and intestines. When you have IBS, symptoms manifest even without any visible signs of damage or disease in your digestive tract. 

IBS is considered a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which means symptoms appear because of how your brain and gut interact with each other. Research suggested that IBS affects one in 10 people in Singapore and people with this condition are typically under 50 years old. When suffering from IBS, your gut becomes more sensitive and it can even change how the muscles in your bowel contract. However, symptoms of IBS can be manageable, and in this article, we give you more insights into IBS and when to have it checked by a general physician in Singapore.

What causes IBS?

There isn’t a specific cause as to why IBS develops. Experts think that a combination of problems may lead to IB and different factors may cause IBS in different people. Several factors include:

  • Certain mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety, and somatic symptom disorder
  • Bacterial infections in the digestive tract
  • Bacterial growth in the small intestines
  • Food intolerances or sensitivities 

What are the symptoms of IBS?

Symptoms of IBS vary from person to person, but they are typically long term. The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Changes in bowel movement, whether it’s constipation, diarrhoea, or both
  • Bloating
  • Feeling that you haven’t finished a bowel movement
  • Whitish mucus in your stool

If you’re consistently experiencing a change in bowel habits or severe IBS symptoms, consult a general physician in Singapore. In some cases, we may need to eliminate a more serious condition, like bowel cancer. Other symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Iron deficiency
  • Unexplained vomiting 
  • Pain that does not disappear by passing gas or bowel movement

What are treatment options for IBS?

When you visit a private healthcare centre in Singapore for IBS, you may be required to undergo different types of treatment to see what works best for you. With this, your general physician can create a treatment plan suitable for your unique needs. IBS treatment typically involves the following:

1. Lifestyle changes

Following healthy habits can help manage your IBS symptoms and significantly improve your overall health. Lifestyle changes you can make include: 

  • Eating food rich in fibre as dietary fibre helps in increasing the weight and size of your stool and softening it.
  • Drinking plenty of water can improve the symbiotic relationship between the gut membrane and the friendly gut bacteria. When combined with healthy fibre-rich intake, this will also help with constipation as it makes the stool easier to pass through your bowel system.
  • Getting enough sleep helps in reducing or eliminating abdominal IBS pain as this ensures the proper functioning of the microbiome in your intestines, which helps in your digestion
  • Exercising regularly can help in managing stress, which is one of the triggers of IBS symptoms. It also promotes better sleep and improves bowel movements. 

Osler Health adopts a Lifestyle Medicine approach to IBS and has developed a Gut Health Programme, which analyses your gut health and partners with you on making lifestyle changes. 

2. Medication

Your doctor may also prescribe medications to help alleviate IBS symptoms. For constipation, you may be prescribed fibre supplements or over-the-counter laxatives. Fibre supplements are typically recommended if you can’t get enough fibre from the fruits and vegetables you consume. Over-the-counter laxatives, like polyethene glycol, can help increase stool frequency and improve stool consistency. If your problem is diarrhoea, you may be prescribed over-the-counter medication, like loperamide. Loperamide can help slow down food as it goes through your gut so that your body can draw in more water from your intestines. As a result, your stool gets firmer and you excrete stool less frequently. Should you be experiencing abdominal pain and bloating, you may also be prescribed pregabalin and gabapentin. Studies have shown that pregabalin can help in alleviating IBS-related symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating. On the other hand, gabapentin can reduce the severity of gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain and indigestion. Come and speak to an Osler doctor about our Gut Health Programme to find out more.

3. Probiotics

Probiotics are considered “good bacteria,” similar to the microorganisms in your digestive tract. You can find them in certain foods, like yoghurt, and dietary supplements. Research suggests they can help alleviate IBS symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhoea.

Manage IBS symptoms with help of our private primary care doctors

IBS symptoms can really affect your quality of life. Please visit Osler Health, your private healthcare clinic in Singapore, for a Gut Health consultation. At Osler Health, we have primary care doctors that will ensure that you get treatment tailored to your needs so that you can manage your symptoms and improve your overall well-being. If you want to learn more about our healthcare services, please reach out to us. For a consultation with our experienced and compassionate doctors, you can schedule an appointment.

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