Supplements That Can Help IBS

There’s no cure for IBS, but along with a healthy diet, nutritional supplements may help ease your symptoms.

But while most supplements aren’t harmful, some may not be right for you if you have another health condition. You could also have side effects.

Talk with your doctor before trying any of the ones below.

Fiber

It's the first line of defense against the symptoms of IBS, especially constipation. The best way to get it is naturally, like through whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans. Over-the-counter supplements that dissolve in water (called soluble fiber) may help if you have a hard time getting it in your diet. Be sure to drink lots of water while you take them.

Too much fiber can sometimes make cramping and gas worse. If your symptoms don’t get better, talk to your doctor. She may recommend a dietitian who can give you a meal plan that can help you.

Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics

Probiotics are “good” bacteria that may ease the belly pain and gas you get with IBS. There aren't specific recommendations on how much you should take, which kinds, or how often. Studies have shown there is a potential for benefit, but more research is needed.

You can take supplements as capsules or sprinkle them as a powder on food. You also can get probiotics naturally in foods like yogurt, aged cheeses, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh.

Prebiotics: These sugars serve as food for “good” bacteria and can help them grow. There’s not a lot of research on these supplements and how they can help with IBS, but they’re not harmful for most people. Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of prebiotics, especially bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and artichokes, plus soybeans and whole wheat foods.

Synbiotics: These are a combination of probiotics and prebiotics. Early studies show these might help people with IBS. But doctors need more research to learn if and how they should be recommended.

Guar Gum

This soluble fiber supplement may boost the number of good bacteria in your intestines. Research shows it may also ease constipation and diarrhea and help with belly pain.

People in some studies said taking it gave them a better quality of life.

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Peppermint Oil

This supplement traces its roots as far back as ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. Though it’s been used for tension headaches, it’s most common use now is to help with IBS.

It can ease pain caused by inflammation. There’s no standard recommendation for how much to take or for how long, but some studies have shown that one or two capsules three times a day for 6 months can help with constipation, diarrhea, and other issues.

You can take it in many forms, like capsules or a liquid. You can put it in drinks like tea.

More Study Needed

Many other supplements have a connection to IBS. For example, some people find that chamomile or blond psyllium helps with their symptoms. Certain combinations of Chinese herbs could ease IBS pain for others.

But there’s not enough research related to IBS on those, or on any of the following, for doctors to recommend them:

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 04, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You.”

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics – approaching a definition.”

Harvard Health Publications: “Best ways to battle irritable bowel syndrome.”

IBS Network: “Probiotics and Prebiotics. Can They Help IBS?”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

Mayo Clinic: “Irritable bowel syndrome.”

National Center for Biotechnology Information: “Efficacy of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation: systematic review and meta-analysis,” “Probiotics and prebiotics in the management of irritable bowel syndrome; a review of recent clinical trials and systemic reviews,” “Role of partially hydrolyzed guar gum in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Peppermint Oil.”

Melinda Ratini, DO, family practitioner; clinical assistant professor, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia.

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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