Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder of the colon. For unknown reasons, the colon acts in an abnormal way. It often causes cramps, bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements. People with IBS may experience predominately diarrhea, predominately constipation, or a mix of both.
There is no cure for IBS. Treatment is often a combination of steps that may help to manage the symptoms. Options include changes to diet and activity, counseling, a variety of medications, and probiotics. Since symptoms tend to naturally fluctuate, it can take some time to find the best treatment and needs may change over time.
Alternative therapies may be an additional step to help manage symptoms.
Natural therapies that are possibly effective:
Herbs or supplement that are possibly effective:
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements you are taking. Some may interact with your treatment plan or health conditions.
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B1. Liu JH, Chen GH, Yeh HZ, Huang CK, Poon SK. Enteric-coated peppermint-oil capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective, randomized trial. J Gastroenterol. 1997;32(6):765-768.
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C1. Simrén M, Ringström G, Björnsson ES, Abrahamsson H. Treatment with hypnotherapy reduces the sensory and motor component of the gastrocolonic response in irritable bowel syndrome. Psychosom Med. 2004;66(2):233-238.
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D1. Kuttner L, Chambers CT, Hardial J, Israel DM, Jacobson K, Evans K. A randomized trial of yoga for adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome. Pain Res Manag. 2006;11(4):217-223.
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E1. Keefer L, Blanchard EB. The effects of relaxation response meditation on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome: results of a controlled treatment study. Behav Res Ther. 2001;39(7):801-811.
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F1. Lembo AJ, Conboy L, Kelley JM, et al. A treatment trial of acupuncture in IBS patients. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104(6):1489-1497.
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Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine
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H3. Li Q, Liu F, Hou Z, Luo D. Treatment of constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome by focusing on the liver in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine: a meta-analysis. J Tradit Chin Med. 2013;33(5):562-571.
H4. Li CY, Ain Mohd Tahir N, Li SC. A systematic review of integrated traditional Chinese and Western medicine for managing irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Chin Med. 2015;43(3):385-406.
H5. Bensoussan A, Kellow JE, Bourchier SJ, et al. Efficacy of a Chinese herbal medicine in providing adequate relief of constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2015;13(11):1946-1954.
H6. Zhu JJ, Liu S, Su XL, et al. Efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine for diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016 Jul [Epub ahead of print].
I1. Chen C, Tao C, Liu Z. A randomized clinical trial of berberine hydrochloride in patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Phytother Res. 2015;29(11):1822-1827.
Last reviewed February 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board
Richard Glickman-Simon, MD
Last Updated: 2/22/2019