In addition, IBS affects quality of life, such as emotional health. Irritable bowel syndrome treatment focuses on limiting these symptoms and the discomfort they cause as much as possible. While a focus on IBS pain is the most common approach for any type of medicine, complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies will often reduce many types of discomfort. You might also hear these referred to as holistic or integrative therapies.
Because IBS is a functional disease with no known specific cause, most people have to address it with a combination of treatment approaches, from lifestyle changes to complementary medicine. Individuals will have different symptoms and different responses to treatment.
Before seeking complementary therapies for IBS
Because IBS symptoms and treatment are often highly individualized, you will more than likely have to investigate more than one form of therapy. The first step should be to talk with your doctor.
Things to talk with your provider about at your visit include:
Make a list of any medications, including over-the-counter medication, that you take regularly.
Take note of any lifestyle changes your doctor has recommended, such as mindfulness practice, exercise, or dietary changes.
Consider what symptoms are most urgent and haven’t been alleviated by standard medical approaches.
Let your doctor know you’re looking into complementary medicine, and ask if they have any recommendations or referrals.
Once you know exactly what you’re looking for, visit the Bright Belly provider directory to find CAM providers near you.
CAM therapies for IBS symptoms
There are several CAM therapies with research support of their effectiveness for IBS. The best approach for you may be to combine conventional Western treatment with one or more of the following:
Acupuncture for IBS
Symptoms it can help most with: Abdominal pain and discomfort
Acupuncture medicine is mostly used by IBS patients to treat pain, although there are reports that it helps with bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. You should sit down with a board-certified acupuncturist and discuss your symptoms and treatment goals.
Homeopathy for IBS
Symptoms it can help most with: Bloating, gas, pain
From a Western perspective, homeopathy for irritable bowel syndrome needs more study, although there is some intriguing data available. Homeopathy is based on the principle that “like cures like,” treating a condition with an extremely dilute solution of a natural substance that can cause the condition.
While homeopaths can offer possible treatments for every IBS symptom, most tend to focus on bloating, gas, and pain and recommend against mixing treatments. Talk with a reputable homeopath about what approach will work best for you.
Herbal medicine for IBS
Symptoms it can help most with: Pain, discomfort, gas
Most herbal medicine traditions are the ancestors of modern medical practice, so the two can work together in surprising harmony. Herbal medicine is especially useful when doctors don’t want to use medication or the side effects of medication are seen as worse than the disease.
These reactions were generally due to one of two things:
1) Study participants combined therapies without telling both their herbalist and their doctor, or
2) A remedy they used wasn’t fully metabolized before another one was introduced.
This underscores the importance of working closely with both your doctor and your herbalist to avoid potentially dangerous herb-drug interactions.
Some herbalists also provide acupuncture. Look for one near you with our provider directory.
Nutritionist/dietitian support for IBS symptoms
Symptoms it can help most with: Stool consistency, frequency of bathroom visits, bloating, gas
Working with a nutritionist for irritable bowel syndrome symptoms is a common and popular approach; in fact, many doctors recommend a change in diet as part of treatment. What we eat has a direct impact on our digestive systems, so anyone living with the condition can benefit from learning which foods are best and which foods to avoid for IBS symptoms.
A nutritionist or dietitian can help you plan out a diet that you’ll enjoy eating while limiting certain foods, like diary or FODMAPs (e.g. the Low-FODMAP diet). They’ll also help you increase your overall intake of soluble fiber, which helps manage bloating and gas and will make bowel movements more comfortable.
Behavioral therapy for IBS
Symptoms it can help most with: IBS-related mental health issues
These approaches can help you manage your mental health in the long term by learning how to put yourself into a state of relaxation, which can lower your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure as well as reducing muscle tension, essentially using your mind to control your body.
This is another behavioral technique that may help by encouraging you to visualize a happier, healthier body.
Whether you’re considering a new approach or just want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to feel better, finding the right practitioner is key. We can help. Follow our blog for information you can trust, and visit our provider directory to find a practitioner near you.