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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

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Alternative Treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Herbs for IBS continued...

Registered herbalists never use peppermint on its own, nor do they recommend it for an extended period of time, says Jonathan Gilbert, who has a diploma in herbology and acupuncture from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). He is a senior consultant for traditional oriental medicine at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland.

For people who are interested in true herbal therapy, Gilbert recommends a visit to an herbalist who has comprehensive training and is certified by the NCCAOM.

"In order to get a solution to a complex disorder, you need a complex formula, and in order to get that, you need to see someone who can actually prepare it," says Gilbert, noting he could combine up to 30 to 40 herbs for one formula. He says classic Chinese medicine has thousands of preset formulas for different ailments.

A lot of these formulas can't be bought on store shelves, adds Gilbert.

If you are interested in herbal therapy, dietary supplements, acupuncture, or any other treatment for your IBS, make sure you talk with your doctor. Herbs may interact with other medications you may be taking. Dietary supplements may become toxic if not used properly. Your doctor can also advise you on medicines for IBS with constipation and IBS with diarrhea.

Probiotics for IBS

On the other hand, there's some evidence that taking probiotics help IBS sufferers. Probiotics are bacteria that naturally live in the gut. Some people believe that several intestinal disorders may arise when there isn't enough good bacteria in the gut.

One study found that probiotic treatment significantly improved IBS symptoms and quality of life. In the study, researchers primarily used the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria infantis. People with IBS reported fewer symptoms and, in general, a higher quality of life after taking the probiotics for four weeks.

Just as significant, the probiotic therapy did not appear to cause side effects, according to the study's author, Stephen M. Faber, MD, from Albemarle Gastroenterology Associates, PC, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

"These are organisms that are supposed to be in the gut. The body knows how to control them," Farber told WebMD.

Therapy and Hypnosis for IBS

Researchers have found that focusing the mind with hypnotherapy can improve the emotional and physical symptoms in those with IBS.

In one study, 20 men and 55 women received between five and seven half-hour hypnotherapy sessions over a three-month period. Afterwards, patients reported a 30% improvement in emotional quality of life and a 16% increase in overall physical health.

Two other studies conducted by one researcher included 135 people with IBS. The study participants who received 12 weekly one-hour hypnotherapy sessions focusing on their troubles with IBS showed a 52% improvement in their physical symptoms. Improvements were also maintained when researchers checked in with participants six months after the end of the study.      

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) trains people to identify and change inaccurate perceptions they may have of themselves and the world around them. It's also been used to help IBS patients ease symptoms and improve quality of life.

Researchers gave a group of IBS patients up to 10 weekly sessions of CBT in one study. The sessions covered information on IBS, muscle relaxation training, development of a flexible set of problem-solving skills related to IBS, and ways to curb worries about the illness. Results showed that 60% to 75% of participants had improvement in their symptoms.           

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on July 04, 2012

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