Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive condition that can cause uncomfortable symptoms. While there is no cure, people with IBS must learn how to manage it. Dietary changes are an essential part of IBS treatments. This is because changes in the gut flora play a key role in the condition’s development.
Gut flora depends on your diet. Therefore, you can improve it with dietary changes and probiotics. Low FODMAP is the most researched diet for IBS. However, gluten-free and low/high fiber diets can also be beneficial.
Probiotics and Peppermint Oil
If symptoms are mild, dietary changes and probiotic supplements are helpful IBS treatments. Bifidobacterium infants probiotic appears to be helpful for IBS bloating. Lactobacillus and Bifido species are also beneficial.
Not everyone may respond to the same formula. You may have to try different probiotics before finding one that works.
In addition to probiotic supplements, add probiotic-rich foods into your diet. These foods include homemade pickled vegetables, yogurt, and kefir.
Probiotics work by improving gut flora and limiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria. They also reduce gut inflammation and modulate the immune system.
Peppermint oil also helps provide symptomatic relief. It also has a good safety profile. People have used peppermint oil for thousands of years to treat upset stomachs. Researchers found that peppermint oil helps relax the smooth muscles of the gut. It consistently helps improve IBS symptoms including constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. To prevent acid reflux, do not chew the enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules.
Some severe cases require more intensive IBS treatment. There are many medications on the market that can help with symptoms.
Anticholinergic drugs like hyoscyamine can relieve smooth muscle spasms of the gastrointestinal tract when taken 30 to 60 minutes before meals. However, they are not recommended routinely due to their side effects. These include dry mouth, blurred vision, and difficulty urinating.
In cases of IBS predominant constipation (IBS-C), you can take Lubiprostone, linaclotide, plecanatide, and prucalopride. These prescription drugs have laxative qualities.
A variety of over-the-counter laxatives can also help manage constipation associated with IBS-C. These medications include lactulose, sorbitol, polyethylene glycol, glycerin, or bisacodyl.
For IBS predominant diarrhea (IBS-D), doctors recommend antidiarrheal like diphenoxylate or loperamide.
Alosetron works by decreasing serotonin levels helping to manage diarrhea in case other drugs fail. However, use it cautiously because it increases the risk of ischemic colitis, a form of intestinal inflammation.
Doctors reserve Eluxadoline for severe cases of IBS-D. You can use the antibiotic Rifaximin for both IBS-D and SIBO.
Older generation antidepressants like tricyclic antidepressants secondary amine (TCAs) can manage diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain.
Stress is a major trigger for IBS symptoms. Therefore, psychotherapy, either standard, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), or hypnotherapy could be useful IBS treatments. Research shows the combination of medical treatments and psychotherapy improves IBS in the short and long term.
Another study looked at the effects of hypnotherapy on 1,000 participants with IBS. 67% of them reported a 30% or more decrease in abdominal pain scores. They also saw improvement in anxiety and depression.
Both IBS-C and IBS-D responded favorably to hypnotherapy.
Alternative IBS Treatment Therapies
There are also alternative IBS treatment options that are more natural than medications.
Acupuncture is a key therapy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This is a 5,000-year-old system of medicine widely used in Eastern cultures. However, it’s becoming more popular in Western countries as scientists evaluate its benefits.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles in the skin at specific points. The goal is to balance the energy, or chi, that flows through meridians.
A review or meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled (RCT) studies involving over 1,300 participants was held. They concluded that acupuncture for IBS-D is superior to conventional treatment (standard medication). This therapy can improve the IBS symptoms and their recurrence rate. Another study found acupuncture superior to lactulose laxative to manage symptoms of IBS-C.
Osteopathy is another IBS treatment option. It is a drug-free, manual therapy that manages diseases and improves health by manipulating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework. In the US, osteopathic doctors undergo rigorous training and are fully licensed doctors. This training allows them to practice in the US and 44 other countries.
Osteopathic doctors can also prescribe drugs and perform surgeries in the US. They can also use osteopathic techniques with this. Osteopathic medicine was also evaluated for its potential to manage IBS. Multiple studies found that osteopathy may be a beneficial IBS treatment. However, we still need more research.
Try to improve your diet if your IBS symptoms are not sufficiently managed with prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Psychological counseling can also help since an emotional component can trigger flare-ups. Acupuncture and osteopathic medicine also show promising results and can be add-on therapies.
Talk to your doctor about IBS treatment options to find the one that works for you.