What are the Warning Signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic condition that affects the digestive system. IBS can be extremely uncomfortable and may interfere with a person’s quality of life.

Many people with IBS find that making dietary changes, such as avoiding trigger foods, can help to reduce their symptoms. Stress-reduction techniques, such as yoga and meditation may also be helpful.

Some people with IBS may need medication to control their symptoms. For some people, IBS may be a lifelong condition. However, many people find that their symptoms improve over time.

What can be mistaken for IBS?

Most people ask, what are the red flags for IBS? What are the symptoms, and what can be confused with RIBS? Now, there isn’t one particular symptom that indicates you have IBS.

Rather, it’s a combination of several symptoms that last at least three months, with no underlying medical cause. The main symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits. These can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort that is relieved by passing a stool

If you have IBS, you may also experience symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headaches and
  • Sleep problems

Considering how IBS manifests itself, there are several other conditions that may be confused with IBS. It is important that you see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Some of the conditions that may be mistaken for IBS include:

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a digestive complication. It occurs when your body is not capable of breaking down lactose.

The lactose in this case is a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and nausea.

These symptoms can be mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), another digestive disorder that causes similar symptoms. However, IBS does not involve intolerance to lactose or any other food.

Gluten intolerance

Gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, is a condition that affects the digestive system. People with celiac disease tend to struggle with gluten intolerance.

Gluten is basically a protein that naturally occurs in wheat, barley, and rye. If you are gluten intolerant and you eat foods containing gluten, you may experience an immune reaction that damages the small intestine lining.

This can lead to a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and fatigue. Many people with gluten intolerance are also lactose intolerant.

IBS is often confused with gluten intolerance because the two conditions share many of the same symptoms. However, IBS does not involve an immune reaction to gluten and does not damage the intestines.

Treatment for IBS typically focuses on relieving symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes. On the other hand the only treatment for people with celiac disease is to avoid all foods containing gluten.

Ulcerative Colitis

This is an inflammatory bowel disease known to cause inflammation and ulcers (sores) that may be long-lasting in the digestive tract. The main symptom of active ulcerative colitis is abdominal pain, often accompanied by diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and weight loss.

However, symptoms can vary from mild to severe and may come and go in periods of remission interspersed with periods of active disease. It can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms of ulcerative colitis are similar to those of other gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease.

Ulcerative colitis is typically diagnosed by a combination of medical history, physical examination, blood tests, stool tests, and imaging studies. Treatment for ulcerative colitis often involves a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the affected section of the colon. With proper treatment, most people with ulcerative colitis are able to manage their symptoms and live relatively normal lives.


Gallstones are small, hard deposits that form in the gallbladder, a small organ located under the liver. The gallbladder’s primary function is to store and concentrate bile, a yellowish-green fluid produced by the liver that helps break down fats in the digestive process.

Most gallstones are made up of cholesterol, but they can also contain other substances such as calcium bilirubinate and calcium carbonate. Though they vary in size, most gallstones are smaller than a pea.

Gallstones can cause a variety of symptoms, including pain in the upper abdomen, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, gallstones can block the ducts that connect the gallbladder to the small intestine, resulting in pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas.

Gallstones are also sometimes mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS. However, there are several key differences between gallstones and IBS. For example, IBS is more likely to cause diarrhea than gallstones, and pain from IBS is usually relieved after a bowel movement (whereas pain from gallstones is not).

Treatment for gallstones typically involves surgically removing the gallbladder (cholecystectomy). In some cases, however, nonsurgical treatments such as sound wave therapy (lithotripsy) or dietary changes may be recommended.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. The most common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.

However, Crohn’s disease can also cause fatigue, fevers, and joint pain. It can even lead to life-threatening complications such as intestinal bleeding or perforation in some cases.

Because Crohn’s disease can cause such a wide range of symptoms, it is often mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, there are several key differences between these two conditions.

Crohn’s disease tends to affect the small intestine more than the large intestine, while IBS can affect either or both. In addition, Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition with no known cure, while IBS can often be managed with lifestyle changes and medication.

Finally, Crohn’s disease can lead to serious complications, while IBS generally does not. While Crohn’s disease and IBS share some similarities, it is important to be aware of the differences between them to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Final Thoughts

IBS can be a very debilitating condition, causing severe discomfort and disrupting everyday life. If you suspect that you may have IBS, it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

There are treatments that can help to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. If you are suffering from IBS, don’t suffer in silence – see your doctor today.

At Andrea’s Digestive, Colon, Liver and Gallbladder Clinic, our team of experienced gastroenterologists can help you manage your IBS and get your life back on track. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Call: +65 6264-2836.

Andrea’s Digestive Clinic: Colon, Liver, Gallbladder, GERD/Acid Reflux Specialist 

#21-11/12 Royal Square At Novena, 101 Irrawaddy Road Singapore 329565 

+65 6264 2836


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