Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder that can have a significant effect on a person’s quality of life. Treatments include medication and lifestyle changes.
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 are still not sure exactly
Treatment for IBS
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.
The treatment for IBS depends on the specific type of disorder.
- 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)
- 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
- lubiprostone (Amitiza)
- linaclotide (Linzess)
- plecanatide (Trulance)
Other medications are available that may help treat abdominal pain in people with IBS. These include:
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
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
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume between
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:
- 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.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
Limiting or avoiding the following gluten-rich foods
- 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
- 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
Mild physical activity
- 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
Different probiotic strains may be implicated in different types of IBS.
For example, a
The study concluded that Bacillus coagulans could be a “potential agent” in managing diarrhea-predominant IBS.
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.
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
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- gut-directed hypnotherapy
- relaxation training
The effects remained significant in both short-term and long-term follow-up.
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.