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IBS: What you need to know and how to seek help

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers are often unaware of their condition as the symptoms are also indicative of common ailments of the digestive system. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers are often unaware of their condition as the symptoms are also indicative of common ailments of the digestive system. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

What is IBS?

IBS is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. Sufferers are often unaware of their condition as the symptoms are also indicative of common ailments of the digestive system like gastritis, indigestion and reflux.  The signs and symptoms of IBS also vary widely from person to person.

IBS is a chronic condition requiring long-term management. Although sufferers are unable to get complete relief from IBS, some can control their symptoms through diet, lifestyle and stress management. Those with more severe and persistent symptoms may do so through medication and counselling.

Profile of an IBS sufferer

Studies have shown that one in five of the population in Singapore suffers from IBS and women in their 20s to 40s are in the highest risk group.

IBS sufferers experience symptoms like abdominal pain and discomfort, as well as changes in bowel movement habits (frequency) and/or stool form.

80-year-old Jack Tan, who was diagnosed with IBS 10 years ago, had been experiencing constipation since he was 40 years old.

Mr Tan says: “Over time, my condition got worse; symptoms fluctuate between constipation and diarrhoea.

“I’ve learnt to cope by developing a ‘warning system’ to determine whether I should stay home or go out. When I do go out, I avoid ‘accidents’ by equipping myself with a self-invented IBS kit, which includes an extra pair of nylon pants with lining,” he adds.

Mr Tan has also gained greater self-confidence in managing IBS through the activities and sharing sessions organised by the IBS Support Group.

Roles of IBS Support Group

As there is no clear-cut test for IBS, the best way of dealing with it is to learn more about its symptoms and ways of managing it rather than simply — pardon the pun — go with your gut feeling.

For more than a decade, the efforts of the IBS Support Group have helped raise awareness and change common misconceptions about IBS, as well as educate and empower sufferers, like Mr Tan, to better manage their symptoms.

Founder Dr Gwee Kok Ann explains: “Essentially, sufferers learnt that they are not alone, and members have a platform to share their experiences and self-discovered remedies for alleviating the syndrome.”  

How VITAGEN helps ease IBS

IBS sufferers and IBS Support Group will find yet another trustworthy partner — VITAGEN Less Sugar — in their quest to overcome IBS. This popular cultured milk drink brand has been championing good gut health for 40 years!

VITAGEN Less Sugar contains 50 per cent less sugar than regular options, and is the only cultured milk drink with Prebiotics (dietary fibres) and Probiotics. These two vital ingredients work together to support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut while fighting harmful bacteria, thus maintaining a desirable balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut and promoting a healthy digestive system.

Creating islandwide awareness of IBS

VITAGEN has rolled out a campaign to drive people’s attention to this common but under-recognised disorder. In partnership with the IBS Support Group, VITAGEN aims to increase awareness of IBS to help people understand the symptoms and learn how to cope with it.

In addition, VITAGEN has started a donation campaign to support the IBS Support Group — 10 cents will be given for every VITAGEN Less Sugar 5s pack purchased.

Visit www.vitagen.com.sg for more details.