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Is There a Cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Source: Chinnapong/ Adobe Stock

Everyone experiences digestive issues at least a few times throughout their lifetime. However, some people may experience persistent symptoms from digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a chronic functional disorder of the digestive tract with symptoms involving chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel habits without the presence of an underlying disease.

Up to 15% of adults and adolescents have IBS symptoms and not all individuals with IBS seek medical help.¹ Patients with IBS actually make up a significant portion of outpatient visits to gastroenterologists and other healthcare providers.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

  • Chronic abdominal pain – Described as periodic cramping sensation with varying intensities. The location and sensation of the pain can vary widely among individuals, although it is usually related to bowel motion. Some find relief after defecating while others report worsening pain with passing of stools. ²

  • Bloating and gas – IBS patients often report excessive gas in the form of a bloated belly, passing of gas and burping.²

  • Diarrhea – Frequent loose stools generally occurring in the morning or after meals. Approximately 50% of IBS patients complain of mucus in stools. ²

  • Constipation – Stools are hard and small. Patients may also experience the sensation of incomplete evacuation even when the rectum is empty.²

What causes IBS?

IBS is a functional disorder that is not caused by any underlying conditions or detectable abnormalities.

  • Gastrointestinal Infection

    • Some develop IBS after a severe gastrointestinal infection (eg. Salmonella or Campylobacter).³ However, it is not clear how the infection triggers IBS and some IBS patients lack a history of these infections.

  • Food intolerance

    • Food intolerances (eg. lactose or gluten intolerance) are common in IBS patients, leading to the possibility that IBS might be caused by food sensitivities.³

  • Stress and Anxiety

    • Stress and anxiety are known to affect the intestine so it is likely that anxiety and stress worsen symptoms.³ This is why some may feel nauseous or experience abdominal discomforts when they are nervous.

Source: marilyn barbone/ Adobe Stock | If your IBS symptoms are predominantly constipation, consumption of high fibre foods may help improve symptoms.

Can IBS be cured?

The short answer is no. There is currently no therapy to cure IBS. However, over time, IBS symptoms may lessen, disappear for a while or vanish permanently.

Nevertheless, these are steps you can take to manage IBS symptoms:

  • Change your diet

    • Eliminate foods that may worsen your IBS symptoms. You can also keep a food diary to record your meals and highlight those that seem to aggravate your IBS symptoms. However, do seek advice from your healthcare provider before making any drastic changes to your diet.

  • Avoid foods that cause gas

    • If you experience bloating often, stay away from poorly-digested foods that may cause excessive gas, which may include milk and dairy products, certain fruits or vegetables, whole grains and carbonated beverages.

  • Take probiotics

    • Probiotics are good bacteria that have beneficial properties for the host. Studies have shown that consumption of probiotics specific for the gut (eg. Pro-Gut™) may provide benefits for IBS patients.⁴

  • Increase daily fibre

    • For constipation-dominant IBS, it may be beneficial to increase your dietary fibre.³ High fibre foods include fruits, vegetables and wholegrains. If it is difficult to get enough fibre from your diet, you may take bulk-forming fibre supplements.

  • Learn to relax

    • If stress and anxiety seem to worsen your IBS symptom, you should try to learn to manage these feelings. Do something you enjoy like a hobby or even learn to meditate. Some people may benefit from formal counselling.

  • Stay active

    • Studies have shown that increased physical activity can benefit IBS patients in regards to symptoms and also general health.⁵ It is recommended to exercise 20 – 60 minutes most days of the week.

  • Medications

    • There are medications that you can get from the pharmacy or your doctor to manage some of your IBS symptoms. Be sure to seek advice from your healthcare provider to find the most suitable medication for you.


  • Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional digestive disorder that has no detectable underlying cause.

  • There is no cure for IBS but there are steps you can take to manage your IBS symptoms.


  1. Wald A. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome in adults. In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021

  2. Wald A. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome in adults. In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021

  3. Wald A. Patient education: Irritable bowel syndrome (Beyond the Basics). In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021

  4. Butel M-J. Probiotics, gut microbiota and health. Médecine et Maladies Infectieuses. 2014;44(1):1-8.

  5. Wald A. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome in adults. In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021

Disclaimer: The article content is intended for informational or educational purposes only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. The disclaimer also provides that no warranties are given in relation to the medical information supplied in the article, and that no liability will accrue to Miraco Nutripharm Pte Ltd or any affiliated authors in the event that a user suffers loss as a result of reliance upon the information.


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