Related Terms:

  • IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder of the colon. For unknown reasons, the colon acts in an abnormal way. It often causes cramps, bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements. People with IBS may experience predominately diarrhea, predominately constipation, or a mix of both.

There is no cure for IBS. Treatment is often a combination of steps that may help to manage the symptoms. Options include changes to diet and activity, counseling, a variety of medications, and probiotics. Since symptoms tend to naturally fluctuate, it can take some time to find the best treatment and needs may change over time.

Natural Therapies

Alternative therapies may be an additional step to help manage symptoms.

Likely Effective

  • Probiotics —Used to help restore a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria or yeast in the colon. Look for Bifidobacterium bifidum MIMBb75 (adults) and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (children). Other strains may be helpful as well. The probiotics used should contain at least one billion colony-forming units per daily dose.A1-A5
  • Peppermint (enteric coated)—Appears to reduce muscular spasms in the colon, which helps ease abdominal symptoms.B1-B6
    • Note: Peppermint oil is safe when taken as directed, but can be toxic at high or excessive doses
  • Hypnotherapy —Involves deep relaxation and focus. Attention may be directed to the gut. It appears to work better in people with IBS that is unresponsive to other treatments.C1-C6

Possibly Effective

Natural therapies that are possibly effective:

  • Yoga —Appears to be more effective in reducing stress and anxiety than easing IBS symptoms in adolescents and young adults.D1-D2
  • Relaxation therapy , including mindfulness mediationE1-E5
  • Acupuncture —When added to other treatments.F1-F4
  • Moxibustion—Adding heat to acupuncture points with or without needles.F1-F4

Herbs or supplement that are possibly effective:

  • Anise oil G1
  • Traditional Chinese herbal medicine (TCHM)—Herbal mixtures vary widely.H1-H6
    • Note: Some TCHM herbs may be toxic and have severe side effects
  • Berberine—Possibly effective for IBS with diarrhea.I1
    • Note: Berberine should be avoided with certain medical conditions.

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution

Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements you are taking. Some may interact with your treatment plan or health conditions.

  • Peppermint oil is toxic in high or excessive doses. Take care with how much you use.
  • Probiotics should not be taken in people who have:
    • A suppressed immune system
    • Acute pancreatitis
  • TCHM—Toxicities and side effects of TCHM vary depending on the herb and amount used.
  • Berberine may be harmful in:
    • Newborns
    • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Herbal combinations—Toxicities and side effects of herbal combinations vary depending on the herb and amount used.

Revision Information