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7 Tips: Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Complementary Health Approaches

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder that interferes with the normal functions of the colon. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Many people with IBS turn to complementary health approaches to help relieve their symptoms, and there is emerging evidence that some of these approaches may have modest benefits.

Here are 7 things to know about complementary health approaches for IBS.

  1. ProbioticsThere is evidence that some probiotics may improve IBS symptoms, but benefits have not been conclusively demonstrated, and different probiotics may have different effects. 

  2. Gut-directed hypnotherapy (hypnosis). Some research suggests that gut-directed hypnotherapy may be helpful for gastrointestinal symptoms, anxiety, depression, disability, and health-related quality of life in people with IBS. Hypnosis may also help relieve pain in children with functional abdominal pain disorders, but the amount of evidence is small.

  3. Peppermint oilEnteric-coated peppermint oil capsules may have modest short-term benefits for several common IBS symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and gas.

  4. Herbal products. Besides peppermint oil, several other herbal products have been suggested as possible treatments for IBS. Very little high-quality research has been done on these products.

  5. AcupunctureIn studies in which real acupuncture was compared to sham (fake) acupuncture, real acupuncture wasn’t more helpful than sham. 

  6. Yoga. A small amount of research suggests that yoga and other types of exercise may be helpful for symptoms of IBS.

  7. Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.