Alexandra Burke is a well-respected singer who has been recognized for her vocal power and presence on stage over the past 10 years. However, her feelings of power have often been a bit naive.

She has suffered from irritable stool syndrome for many years. This has led to excruciating stomach pain and constipation.

Alexandra, 33, says that she was trying to exude confidence, but really just wanted to curl in a ball.

Alexandra was suffering from IBS when she experienced new symptoms last year while performing for the tour of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Alexandra Burke, a singer from Canada has been well-known for her strong vocals and charismatic stage presence over the last ten years. However, her true feelings have been anything but strong.

It affects anywhere from 10 to 25% of the UK’s population. This condition is more common in the younger age group, and it often affects people who are in their twenties or thirties.

Alexandra says she is amazed that it has taken her this long to get help.

‘All the signs were there — the pain, cramping and bloating which followed every meal — but I didn’t realise it was IBS,’ says Alexandra, who is talking publicly about her condition for the first time. “As someone in public, it is important to maintain this image.”

She regrets that she didn’t consult her GP earlier. She said, “I didn’t want her to be troubled with something so many people are experiencing,”

To reduce her symptoms of bloating, she ate only salads and kept her calories low. She also eliminated wheat from her diet.

‘I had a blood test some years ago which showed that I can’t digest dairy and wheat properly — in common with many Caribbean people — but I still had IBS symptoms,’ she says.

In an effort to improve her health, she also changed to a plant-based diet. She lives with Darren Randolph (West Ham) in Hertfordshire.

But she did not need to see a doctor until her symptoms subsided.

Fiber supplements, laxatives or fibre (for constipation) are some of the standard IBS treatment options.

Tricyclics are antidepressants that work by slowing the digestive process through the inhibition of chemical messengers.

Researchers at the universities of Leeds and Bristol are working with GPs on a trial to see if very low doses of tricyclics (a tenth of the normal amount) can ease the discomfort of IBS — potentially paving the way for them to be more widely used.

The condition affects between 10 per cent and 25 per cent of the UK population. It’s more prevalent among the under-50s and often appears first in people in their teens or 20s. A file photo is used above

It affects anywhere from 10 to 25% of the UK’s population. This condition is most common among those under 50 and occurs first in teens or young adults. The above file photo was used.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibits (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant, are another. The brain can block the transmission of pain signals between the brain and the stomach by using Prozac. According to official guidelines, antidepressants can only be used if IBS treatments fail.

Alexandra had IBS from Alexandra’s doctor. She recommended probiotics or “friendly” gut bacteria supplements.

They are believed to restore the natural balance in the intestinal microbiome. Research has shown that changes to the microbiome of the gut (the billions of microorganisms living in the intestinal tract), can cause inflammation and pain.

While the NHS suggests probiotics in general, they warn that some over-the counter products might not be as potent as the probiotics found in pharmaceutical-grade trials.

Probiotics had a swift effect for Alexandra — but only after a lot of trial and error. “I tried several tablets, but there was no reduction in my discomfort,” she said. Only the product her GP recommended (Symprove, a fruit-flavoured daily drink costing around £2.80 a day) was effective.

Alexandra had to deal with her anxiety for years, which is closely related to IBS.

Scientists at First Hospital of Lanzhou University in China concluded in a major review that IBS was a “combination of anirritable bowel syndrome and anirritable brain”.

According to the study, stress and anxiety can trigger overactivity and diarrhoea in early life.

Recent research from more than 50k people suffering IBS has shown that IBS and anxiety might have the same genetic roots. An analysis of DNA revealed the same genetic makeup that increases the likelihood of IBS, as well as anxiety and depression.

Miles Parkes is a consultant gastroenterologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge and was a leading investigator in the study. He said to Nature that although IBS can be more common in people who have anxiety-provoking tendencies, it doesn’t seem like one of them causes the other.

“Our research shows that these conditions share genetic roots, and the genes affected may lead to brain changes or symptoms in the stomach.”

Ingvar Bjarnason is a Professor of Digestive Diseases at King’s College London. He says that anxiety and depression may lower pain thresholds in gut disorders like IBS.

Good Health stated that IBS is often characterized by anxiety in about half of the cases. This is why treatment usually involves anxiety-reduction therapy.

In 2011, he was part of a King’s College London study in which 186 IBS sufferers failed to respond to traditional treatments were treated with Symprove probiotic drinks or a placebo. Symprove helped 60% of patients, while the placebo had little to no effect.

Alexandra has been suffering from anxiety since childhood, even though she is happy. Alexandra blames her anxiety on being perfectionist who stresses about everything.

However, there were other factors. Her late mother — Melissa Bell, a singer with the 1980s band Soul II Soul — died of kidney failure in 2017, aged just 53. Alexandra had a busy performing schedule, and she also needed to deal with the stress caused by the pandemic.

She said that there wasn’t any relief for her symptoms. My symptoms were constant pain and I felt bloated.

Reluctance to seek treatment is not uncommon. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence NICE, although there are 3.9million people who have sought help for IBS in the UK, approximately twice as many self-treat.

Many people suffer from intermittent symptoms.

‘It can come on really badly for two or three months and then go away — in the milder cases, for years — without treatment,’ says Professor Bjarnason.

Alexandra certainly felt this way. She said that she was sometimes struggling but at other times, was doing well.

Historical case notes 

That’s why old medical techniques still hold value today. This week: Weather patterns can be used to predict disease trends

In ancient Greece, doctors examined patients and noted their location and the weather. Climate was believed to influence disease. ‘Over half of the most common infections in England and Wales display a strong seasonal pattern — for example, every 1c rise in temperature over 6c increases the risk of salmonella (a common cause of food poisoning) by 12.5 per cent,’ says Dr Mark Cherrie, an expert in environmental epidemiology at the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh.

While rotavirus — which causes diarrhoea and vomiting — thrives in cooler temperatures, the bacteria that cause salmonella flourish when it’s warm.

The summer season is when salmonella outbreaks are at their highest.


She was in her teens and 20s when gastric discomfort was not something she paid much attention to. In fact, she initially blamed America for America’s large portion sizes. But, now that she is 25 years old, she sees how she has suffered with bloating since childhood.

Her symptoms really kicked in when she returned to the UK in 2014 and starred in The Bodyguard in the West End, with a heavy schedule of performances and rehearsals — and stress.

She says that her bloating was a result of eating most foods, and that my stomach would bulge as if she’d had a large pasta dinner. She began skipping meals — and eating her main meal after the show.

By July 2021 — while filming for Pretty Red Dress and rehearsing a very energetic role as the narrator in Joseph at the London Palladium — it had all become too much.

Alexandra finally consulted with her GP. He diagnosed IBS, and suggested the daily probiotic. In less than a week, she noticed a significant improvement in her constipation and pain.

She says that anxiety is now lessened and she has taken up life coaching, which gave her the skills to handle my concerns.

“I practice yoga. I also switch off my smartphone once a weeks and take a moment to reflect on the things that are most important.

Alexandra, proud mother of a boy last month, says that she feels like herself again after so many years.