Irritable bowel syndrome and its symptoms can have a significant impact on day-to-day life. Prescription drugs can help to a certain extent. However, you may be wondering what helps IBS symptoms naturally? What supplements can you use alongside standard therapy?
Some natural therapies like a low FODMAP diet, probiotics, and peppermint oil can help. But what else is there? In this article, we’ll review more natural ways to relieve IBS symptoms.
Vitamins and Minerals
IBS is often associated with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This condition causes a variety of nutrient deficiencies because the small intestine absorbs many vitamins and minerals. In fact, you should rule out other digestive conditions like SIBO and lactose intolerance before diagnosing IBS.
Nutrient absorption is also impaired when bowel movements change due to constipation or diarrhea. The following vitamin and mineral deficiencies are present with IBS and SIBO:
- Vitamins B, C, D, A, and E
Ideally, you should obtain vitamins and nutrients through your diet. However, IBS diets like the low FODMAP diet are restrictive. These can lead to more nutrient deficiencies. For this reason, it’s important to work with professionals to create a custom diet and supplement regimen.
For example, you’ll only need iron supplements if blood tests confirm low levels. Otherwise, a multimineral without iron would be a better choice. Magnesium oxide and citrate can be useful in IBS cases with constipation as it has laxative effects. Those with IBS-D may choose magnesium bisglycinate instead.
A randomized controlled study found Vitamin D supplementation helps improve the quality of life in those with IBS. Once case study showed correcting Vitamin D levels led to significant improvement in IBS symptoms. Vitamin D blood tests can help doctors prescribe the optimal dosage.
Be careful when taking zinc supplements. In excess, they can cause copper deficiencies.
B vitamins work best together. Therefore, a B complex formula containing all B vitamins is better than single B vitamins.
Regular Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can irritate the stomach. Instead, choose buffered C with bioflavonoids instead.
The pancreas naturally creates digestive enzymes. These enzymes in the small intestine, mouth, and stomach help break down food. There are different types and each one has its own role.
The enzyme amylase breaks down complex sugar molecules. Lipase breaks down fats. Lactase breaks down lactose, a milk sugar. Pepsin and trypsin break down proteins.
These digestive enzymes are also available in supplement form. Sometimes they also contain ox bile or probiotics. Just like natural digestive enzymes, these supplements support healthy digestion and the gut. They help break down fats, carbs, and proteins and help increase nutrient absorption. They also help your body process hard-to-digest foods. The result: reduced bloating, indigestion, and constipation.
Considering that certain sugars (FODMAPs especially) are key players related to IBS symptoms, improving digestion makes sense. Many research studies also looked into the effects of digestive enzymes on IBS. These studies reported success using multi-enzyme preparations and improvements in symptoms after meals. In one study, a combination of digestive enzymes beta-glucan and inositol were effective to reduce IBS bloating and pain.
Just as you may need to try different formulas of probiotics before finding the right one, the same applies to digestive enzymes. Look for a full-spectrum formula without added fillers, colors, or flavors. You may choose to take them on a regular basis or only when you have a large or fatty meal.
First and foremost, be careful taking prescription drugs as they can interact with herbs. See a doctor with knowledge of conventional and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They can make sure the herbs will not interfere with your medications. They can also explain the benefits and side effects of these herbal combinations.
Alternatively, you could choose acupuncture to manage IBS. There have been studies showing it benefits IBS symptoms.
Tong xie yao fang (TXYF) is a formula commonly used by TCM specialists for IBS. In research studies, researchers found this formula superior to placebo groups to manage IBS.
Padma Lax, a Tibetan herbal digestive formula, shows promising results for constipation-predominant IBS.
Herbal formulas STW 5 and STW 5-II include digestive herbs. Research showed significant improvement in abdominal pain and other related symptoms.
Other Natural Methods for IBS Symptoms
Try to look beyond diet and supplements. Manage stress with mindfulness meditation or yoga. They are both beneficial in managing IBS symptoms.
Sleeping well is important too. Lack of sleep correlates with more symptoms.
Staying active with regular exercise further promotes healthy digestion.
There are natural ways to manage IBS symptoms. Try different methods to find the one that works best for you.