Gut Health Series: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Defined as abdominal pain or discomfort associated with defecation or change in bowel habits. It is suggested to affect 1 in 7 people globally and more predominantly in females than male.


The main symptoms are:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Altered bowel habits

  • Bloating

  • Excessive wind

  • Abdominal distention

  • Fatigue

IBS is categorized in 4 domains:

  • IBS-C (Constipation)

  • IBS-D (Diarrhoea)

  • IBS-M (Mixed)

  • IBS-U (Unspecified)

The number and severity of symptoms varies between individuals and can fluctuate time to time.

Obtained from: Gastroenterology and Hepatology


The cause of IBS remains unknown and requires ongoing research to determine this. However, there are a few factors that are proposed to cause IBS:

  • Altered GI motility - the pace contents move in the gut is abnormally quick or slow. 1 in 3 with IBS may experience this.

  • Visceral hypersensitivity - this mean highly sensitive gut wall, especially to normal movements of the gut such as stretching and distention. 60% are thought to experience this.

  • Dysbiosis or altered gut microbiome - the gut microbiome is still an area which still needs lots of research however latest findings have suggested differences in the microbiota of people with IBS and without.

  • Intestinal permeability

  • Gut inflammation

  • Disturbance in the gut-brain interaction

There is no diagnostic test available currently to adequately diagnose IBS. Generally, a number of tests are recommended prior a proper diagnosis. This includes:

  • Testing for Coeliac Disease: due to overlap of common symptoms

  • Screening and test for Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Bowel Cancer

  • Testing for conditions such as Endometriosis and hyper/hypothyroidism

Breath tests, IgG food intolerance tests and faecal microbiota tests are not recommended for the diagnosis of IBS.


If you suspect you have IBS, speak with your doctor. They may ask you to do a series of tests prior to a diagnosis but it will be worthwile to have them excluded. In the mean time, you could keep a food and symptom diary documenting the meal timing, food eaten, symptoms, severity and frequency of symptoms. This will be useful for you to determine what may be your potential triggers or if you decide to see a Dietitan, it would make your management plan much easier.

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