Some people choose to live with their IBS and put up with the symptoms they experience, perhaps because IBS treatments they have tried have not worked, or because they prefer not to take medication. Everyone is affected differently by their IBS. Here, we discuss the treatments for irritable bowel syndrome in more detail.
Medication for irritable bowel syndrome
There are lots of over the counter medications that are designed to help reduce irritable bowel syndrome symptoms:
• Laxatives – to reduce constipation or make it easier to poo. There are different types which may either make your poo bulkier so that your bowels can push it out, make it softer or more watery or make bowel movement faster. Read more about laxatives
• Diarrhoea treatments – to help firm up your poo e.g. loperamide is very commonly used. However, some people find that using this as a treatment for IBS means they then get constipated. Read more about loperamide
• Wind relief medicines – e.g. Deflatine, Wind Settlers, Windeze, etc. These help to relieve bloating and the pain of trapped wind
• Indigestion relief – e.g. Rennies are a popular brand and these contain calcium carbonate which helps to neutralise excess stomach acid
Some people living with IBS may find that their symptoms decrease whilst taking antidepressant tablets. It is unlikely that GPs will prescribe antidepressants to someone who does not experience mood issues alongside their IBS, but for those that do, they may find their mood issues improve as well as their gut symptoms. This is thought to be because antidepressants can positively affect pain receptors, making a person feel less pain, or reducing their anxiety and low mood, which may make their gut issues worse. Read more about antidepressants.
Natural supplements for irritable bowel syndrome
Some people choose to take natural supplements for IBS, such as peppermint oil, which is proven to help some people with IBS symptoms.
Irritable bowel syndrome supplements may suit some people but not others, and some may find that taking certain vitamins and minerals make their gut issues worse.
Other people find that taking minerals such as magnesium helps relieve their IBS symptoms. Many people also take probiotics, which come in various forms and can be bought in yoghurt drinks from the supermarket. These contain good forms of bacteria which may help some people who have an imbalance of bacteria in their gut. However, probiotics do not work for everyone and can actually make some IBS symptoms worse.
It is advisable for a person with IBS to discuss taking natural IBS supplements with their GP before doing so, as some vitamins, minerals and herbal substances can interfere with other medication or health conditions.
Holistic and complementary therapies for irritable bowel syndrome
There are lots of complementary therapy treatments for IBS such as:
• Acupuncture – the insertion of needles into key points around the body, which may help relieve pain, encourage the gut to have better movement of food waste, and reduce stress. Read more about acupuncture and IBS
• Colonic hydrotherapy – involves inserting water into the bowel via a tube, in order to cleanse the colon, which some people with IBS may find temporarily relieving
• Hypnotherapy – uses relaxation techniques to deeply relax the body and relieve stress, which may all contribute to IBS symptom relief. Read more about hypnotherapy and IBS
• Reflexology – involves massaging certain parts of the feet in order to relieve stress and help balance the body, helping internal organs to function better and improve digestion
Read more about complementary therapy irritable bowel syndrome treatments
Psychological treatments for irritable bowel syndrome
Some people with IBS also experience anxiety, stress and depression. Research now understands that there is a link between the gut and the brain, and that serotonin is made within the gut, so this connection is not surprising. It may be difficult to ascertain if mood issues occurred before IBS symptoms or vice versa, and really it does not matter which came first. This link suggests that finding ways to reduce stress/anxiety/depression may have a positive effect on a person’s experience of IBS. Therefore, some people benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as an irritable bowel syndrome treatment. Read more about CBT.
Diet and irritable bowel syndrome
Dietary changes may improve IBS symptoms, and we talk about this in more detail in the next section.
Read more about treatments for irritable bowel syndrome