Patient Care

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

It is a condition also known as 'sensitive gut' or 'spastic colon' or 'nervous colon'. In the US, it affects 20% of people. In Singapore, it affects about 10% of people. IBS tends to affect more women than men. IBS tends to occur most frequently in the 30s and 40s

No one knows the exact cause of IBS, but it has been associated with altered bowel motility (a gut that moves faster, or slower, or even tends to spasm), visceral hypersensitivity (people with IBS tend to be more aware of their gut contractions and movement), psychological factors (stress tends to trigger IBS symptoms and dealing with prolonged IBS symptoms can be stressful), neurotransmitter imbalance, and infection or inflammation of the gut (about 30% of patients report IBS symptoms after a bout of gastroenteritis).

What are the signs & symptoms of IBS?

Common symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

Symptoms that are will require a follow-up with a doctor include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Age of onset over 60
  • Family history of bowel or ovarian cancer
  • Unexplained, unintentional weight loss
  • Abdominal, rectal or pelvic masses
  • Anaemia
  • Raised inflammatory markers
  • How is IBS diagnosed?

    There is no specific test to diagnose IBS. It is mainly a clinical diagnosis after exclusion of certain 'red flag' indicators. There are certain diagnostic criteria that will help your doctor make a diagnosis.

    What are the treatment options for IBS?

    There is no 'magic pill' to cure IBS but there are certain things you can do to make yourself feel better.

    The first thing would be to have a better understanding of this problem, then learn what you can do to help yourself. There are certain food triggers that can bring about the symptoms, so be aware of the food you consume. Keep a food diary and take note of when your symptoms occur. With that you can slowly avoid the foods that 'trigger' your IBS. Stress too can also trigger off symptoms, so relaxation techniques can keep symptoms at bay.

    Depending on whether you are bothered by pain from spasms, diarrhoea or constipation, your doctor can prescribe some medication for you to help decrease the symptoms.

    Find A Doctor

    Click here to access our Find A Doctor directory for a list of doctors treating this condition across our NUHS institutions.

    You can search by -
    • Condition name 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome' AND
    • Institution
    1E Kent Ridge Road, NUHS Tower Block, Singapore 119228
    Last updated on
    Best viewed with Chrome 79.0, Edge 112.0, Firefox 61.0, Safari 11
    National University Health System
    • National University Hospital
    • Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
    • Alexandra Hospital
    • Jurong Community Hospital
    • National University Polyclinics
    • Jurong Medical Centre
    • National University Cancer Institute, Singapore
    • National University Heart Centre, Singapore
    • National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore
    • NUHS Diagnostics
    • NUHS Pharmacy
    • Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
    • Faculty of Dentistry
    • Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health
    Back to Top