Alternative Treatments for IBS

Some natural remedies can help you ease the pain, gas, bloating, stress -- and yes, diarrhea -- from irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D). They might also make your bowel movements more regular.

They shouldn’t take the place of your regular treatment, but they can work with it. Some are things you can do on your own at home. Others you can do with the help of your doctor or therapist.

Talk to your doctor before trying any of the options below. Make sure you let him know if you're taking any over-the-counter herbs or supplements, or if you’re changing what you eat to treat your IBS.

Changes to Your Diet

Some simple tweaks may help calm your symptoms. Sugary foods, sodas, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods may be bad for your digestion. Instead, eat whole, natural foods. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats found in salmon or nuts are better choices.

Be careful about getting too much fiber, including through fiber powders or drinks. There’s no proof these ease IBS-D symptoms.

Chew food well and take your time to help digest your meals. It’s better to let your teeth and saliva break down your food slowly than to wash it down with water or other drinks.

If you think some eats or drinks may trigger your symptoms, keep a food diary for a few weeks. Write down what you eat and when you have stomach problems. You may discover which meals or treats make you feel worse.

Keep Your Stress in Check

Some natural ways to relax may help ease your IBS-D symptoms.

Hypnotherapy and meditation. A trained therapist can teach you to focus on soothing images or thoughts. This can help you learn to relax your tight stomach muscles.

You can practice these techniques alone or in group sessions. You’ll probably need to do hypnotherapy for a few months to feel any relief. You can learn to meditate so you can do it at home whenever you need to relax.

Massage. This is a solid way to help you relax. A massage therapist can work on you in a day spa, and some can come to your home.

Exercise. People with IBS who make working out part of their routine have fewer symptoms. You can take walks, train at your local gym, or take exercise classes like gentle yoga.

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Probiotics

Millions of tiny bacteria live in your gut. The right mix of “good” bacteria in your intestines could help fight the bad bacteria. Foods or supplements with probiotics are one way to try and change the makeup in your gut.

Some experts think those products can help you ease the gas, pain, bloating, and diarrhea that come with IBS-D. It’s still unclear if eating foods with probiotics or taking the supplements can really boost good bacteria, though.

Yogurt with live cultures is one natural source. And one “good bacteria” that may have promise for IBS is Bifidobacterium infantis. We don’t yet know which mix of bacteria or how much could help against the disease.

Herbs

Herbal treatments may help you ease gas pain and upset stomachs. They may also help with regularity. You can take these as supplement pills or liquids, or add them to your food.

Make sure to talk with your doctor before taking any of the supplements below.

Peppermint oil. Some researchers say this can ease muscle spasms that lead to pain as you digest your food. It could give you short-term relief from IBS-D pain, but it can also make heartburn worse.

Ginger. This pungent plant can ease your nausea and make your stomach feel better. It may help calm inflammation in your gut, or even make your stomach lining stronger.

STW-5 (Iberogast). This is a blend of nine different herbs: angelica, bitter candy-fruit, caraway, celandine, chamomile, licorice, melissa, milk thistle, and peppermint. It may help reduce gas and stomach acid. It can also improve digestion.

Chinese medicine also uses herbs to treat IBS-D symptoms. These may contain mixes of things like barley, cardamom, licorice, rhubarb, or tangerine peel.

Acupuncture

This is a Chinese treatment that’s been around for centuries. An acupuncturist or therapist will insert very thin needles into the surface of your skin at particular points. It’s supposed to stimulate and regulate your flow of energy -- you may hear it called “qi” -- to ease pain and anxiety.

Acupuncture may ease your stress and help you relax. If you’re tense, your IBS-D symptoms may flare up. Acupuncture may also calm stomach pain and muscle spasms in your gut.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on February 25, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: “Natural Elimination of IBS Symptoms.”

British Acupuncture Council: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).”

Mayo Clinic.org: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

Wilkins T, et al. American Family Physician. September 1, 2012.

Canadian Society of Intestinal Research: “Iberogast: Product Review.”

Liu, CY. Neurogastrogenterology and Motility, 2004.

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