Treatment options for IBS symptoms include medication and lifestyle changes.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that can have a significant effect on a person’s quality of life.

People who have IBS commonly report digestive symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and abdominal cramps.

With IBS, symptoms occur without physical signs of damage to the digestive tract. In addition to gastrointestinal manifestations, some people experience additional symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, also called a disorder of the gut-brain interaction. Doctors believe that this dysfunction between the gut and brain is what causes IBS symptoms.

Doctors are still not sure exactly what causes IBS. However, they believe that many factors — including food sensitivities, stress, depression, and bacterial infections — play a role.

Treatment for IBS often involves a combination of diet and lifestyle changes, medications, probiotics, and mental health therapy to reduce stress and cope with symptoms.

Some treatment strategies may work for some individuals but not for others, and people may need to try different treatments before finding one that works.

Keep reading to learn more about IBS treatments and remedies, including medications, natural remedies, and dietary and lifestyle changes.

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The treatment for IBS depends on the specific type of disorder.

There are three main types of IBS:

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
  • IBS with mixed bowel habits, which people may refer to as mixed IBS (IBS-M)

Doctors may recommend the following drug treatments for IBS with diarrhea:

  • loperamide (Imodium)
  • rifaximin (Xifaxan)
  • eluxadoline (Viberzi)
  • alosetron (Lotronex) (prescribed only to people assigned female at birth with special precautions)

People with IBS and constipation may receive the following treatments:

  • fiber supplements, in cases where dietary fiber intake is insufficient
  • laxatives
  • lubiprostone (Amitiza)
  • linaclotide (Linzess)
  • plecanatide (Trulance)

Other medications are available that may help treat abdominal pain in people with IBS. These include:

  • antispasmodics, which relax the smooth muscle in the small and large intestine, thereby reducing abdominal spasms and cramps
  • low dose tricyclic antidepressants
  • low dose selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • coated peppermint oil capsules

Lifestyle changes, including diet modifications and exercise, are often the first line of treatment when managing IBS symptoms.


Certain foods can help alleviate IBS symptoms, while others may trigger IBS episodes.

A dietitian can provide tips on which foods to eat and avoid. People with IBS will need to try each dietary strategy for at least a few weeks to determine whether it helps.

Below are some strategies that a dietitian or doctor may recommend for managing IBS symptoms.

Keeping a food and symptom diary

Some people with IBS may notice their symptoms worsening after they eat particular foods.

These individuals may benefit from writing down the foods that they eat throughout the day, along with any IBS symptoms that they experience.

This is called keeping a symptom diary.

The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) has created a symptom diary template that can help people with IBS better understand how their body reacts to certain foods.

Doing this can help them identify the foods that trigger their IBS so that they can exclude them from their diet.

Eating more fiber

Fiber may help relieve IBS-associated constipation.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume between 22.4 and 33.6 grams of fiber each day. The exact amount depends on a person’s age and sex.

There are two types of dietary fiber:

  • soluble fiber: found in vegetables, fruits, and oat cereals
  • insoluble fiber: found in leagues, seeds, root vegetables, and bran

Soluble fiber is particularly beneficial for relieving IBS symptoms and is often recommended as the first line of treatment.

This type of fiber mixes with water to form a gel-like substance that aids digestion.

Sources of soluble fiber include:

  • beans
  • fruits (apples, oranges, grapefruit)
  • oat products
  • legumes (beans, lentils, peas)
  • vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, turnips, carrots)

Psyllium husk, a natural fiber found in vegetables, is widely used to treat constipation. It appears in stores under the brand name Metamucil.

A randomized, double-blind study from 2017 found that supplementation with Psyllium reduced the number of abdominal pain episodes in children with IBS.

People should add fiber to their diet slowly, by adding 2 to 3 grams per day. Having too much fiber can cause constipation and possible side effects, including gas and bloating.

Avoiding gluten

Some people may notice that their symptoms worsen after they eat foods that contain gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.

Limiting or avoiding the following gluten-rich foods may help alleviate IBS symptoms in some people:

  • cereals
  • grains
  • pasta
  • bread
  • most processed foods, particularly those containing thickening agents, flavorings, or colorings

Following a low FODMAP diet

Some people also have difficulty digesting certain foods that contain hard-to-digest carbohydrates called fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols — or FODMAPs.

A low FODMAP diet eliminates or limits foods that contain these difficult-to-digest carbohydrates.

Examples of FODMAP foods include:

  • certain fruits and their juices, including apples, cherries, apricots, blackberries, mango, nectarines, pears, plums, and watermelon
  • canned fruit
  • certain vegetables, including artichokes, asparagus, beans, cabbage, garlic, lentils, mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, and sugar snap peas
  • dairy products, including milk, soft cheeses, yogurt, custard, and ice cream
  • wheat and rye products
  • honey and high fructose corn syrup
  • candy and gum
  • products with sweeteners ending in “-ol,” including sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and maltitol

A doctor may recommend that a person try a low FODMAP diet for a few weeks to determine if it reduces IBS symptoms.

If symptoms improve, a person may be able to slowly add FODMAP foods back into their diet.


Research suggests that moderately increasing physical activity may improve symptoms and quality of life in people who have IBS.

Mild physical activity may help to:

  • reduce symptoms of abdominal bloating
  • enhance intestinal gut clearance
  • improve constipation
  • reduce stress
  • improve fatigue, depression, and anxiety symptoms

A small 2019 pilot study of 20 women with mild and moderate IBS found that completing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on a treadmill three times per week for 6 weeks was associated with a significant improvement in the severity of IBS symptoms.

Many people try natural remedies to relieve their IBS symptoms. These remedies include those below.


Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the bacteria found in the digestive tract.

Different probiotic strains may be implicated in different types of IBS.

For example, a 2016 study found that people with IBS who took a type of probiotic called Bacillus coagulans for 90 days saw a significant decrease in bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and stool frequency compared to a placebo group.

The study concluded that Bacillus coagulans could be a “potential agent” in managing diarrhea-predominant IBS.

In a 2022 study, IBS patients who took a probiotic called Bifidobacterium longum 35624 for 30 days saw a significant decrease in symptom severity compared to baseline measurements.

Researchers concluded that supplementation with Bifidobacterium longum 35624 can reduce disease severity and improve quality of life in patients with IBS, particularly those with the most severe form.

In a 2019 systematic review, researchers noted that multi-strain probiotics tended to be more beneficial in reducing IBS symptoms than mono-strain probiotics.

Notably, one strain called Lactobacillus acidophilus was found in all of the multi-strain studies that produced beneficial effects.

Other probiotics reported to have beneficial effects when used in multi-strain studies include:

  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Bifidobacterium longum

Despite growing evidence, there is a need for more research to determine what strains and combinations of strains are most effective in treating IBS symptoms.

All probiotic products differ in their composition and dosage, meaning that some may prove less effective than others. People should also consult a doctor before taking probiotics to ensure that the product is safe.

Peppermint oil

A small amount of research suggests that peppermint oil in enteric-coated capsules may improve IBS symptoms in adults.

In a 2019 review, researchers assessed 5 decades of randomized clinical trials. They concluded that treatment with peppermint oil capsules can significantly improve abdominal pain and IBS symptoms compared to a placebo.

There are various types of stressors that may exacerbate IBS symptoms. Stressors may be physical, such as an infection or illness, or psychological, such as stress at work or in a relationship.

Psychological therapies have demonstrated good efficacy in reducing the severity of IBS symptoms. They are primarily based on the approach that stress exacerbates IBS symptoms, and symptom relief may be possible through stress reduction techniques.

Doctors may recommend the following mind-body therapies as a complementary treatment for IBS:

In a 2016 meta-analysis, researchers analyzed 41 clinical trials. They found that, on average, individuals with IBS who received psychotherapy had a greater reduction in GI symptoms after treatment than 75% of individuals assigned to a control group.

The effects remained significant in both short-term and long-term follow-up.

The following are answers to commonly asked questions about IBS treatment.

How do you get rid of IBS fast?

There is no quick way to get rid of IBS. However, people can manage their symptoms with prescription medications and antispasmodics, a type of medication that relaxes abdominal spasms and cramps. Peppermint oil and probiotics may also help.

How can I treat IBS myself?

In addition to prescribed and recommended medications, people can treat their IBS with dietary and lifestyle changes. For example, they may try keeping a food diary to identify triggers, getting regular exercise, and eating more fiber. Certain supplements, like probiotics, can also help.

What are the worst foods for IBS?

While IBS triggers vary from person to person, some common causes include highly processed foods, gluten, dairy, coffee, and carbonated beverages. A person can identify foods that worsen their IBS by following a low FODMAP diet under the guidance of a dietitian.

Today, doctors can use a range of different strategies to treat and manage IBS. Medications, diet, and lifestyle are important factors to consider as part of this treatment plan.

Some medications help alleviate abdominal spasms, while others relieve constipation and diarrhea or target the central nervous system.

Some people try natural remedies such as probiotics and peppermint oil to relieve their IBS symptoms.

Some may also find therapies to relieve stress and promote relaxation beneficial. However, further well-controlled clinical trials are necessary to establish the extent to which these treatments are effective.