IBS treatment with natural herbs, vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements, alternative treatment
March 9 2017 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a problem with the intestines. In people with IBS, the intestines squeeze too hard or not hard enough and cause food to move too quickly or too slowly through the intestines. IBS is also called functional bowel syndrome, irritable colon (the large intestine is also called the colon), spastic bowel and spastic colon. It's not the same as inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease.


IBS treatment naturally
Many people turn to natural treatments to relieve IBS symptoms because there is no one treatment for IBS that works for everyone. Supplements that could be tried include turmeric, 5-HTP, psyllium, probiotics, and artichoke leaf extract, 

Natural treatment for IBS, use of vitamins, herbs, dietary supplements
Studies of some natural alternatives for IBS have had preliminary promising results. Some traditional herbal medicines may relieve the abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation that are the hallmarks of irritable bowel syndrome, according to a comprehensive review of published studies on the topic. Thus far, research suggests that certain nutrients may be beneficial in reducing symptoms of IBS in some individuals. These natural products or nutrients include artichoke leaf extract the spices turmeric or curcumin, probiotics bacteria, and 5-HTP for serotonin.


Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering from concomitant dyspepsia: a subset analysis.
J Altern Complement Med. 2004.
Does artichoke leaf extract ameliorate symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering concomitant dyspepsia? A subset analysis of a previous dose-ranging, open, postal study, in adults suffering dyspepsia. Two hundred and eight (208) adults were identified post hoc as suffering with IBS. IBS incidence, self-reported usual bowel pattern, and the Nepean Dyspepsia Index (NDI) were compared before and after a 2-month intervention period. There was a significant fall in IBS incidence of 26% after treatment. A significant shift in self-reported usual bowel pattern away from "alternating constipation/diarrhea" toward "normal" was observed. NDI total symptom score significantly decreased by 41% after treatment. Similarly, there was a significant 20% improvement in the NDI total quality-of-life (QOL) score in the subset after treatment. This report supports previous findings that Artichoke leaf extract ameliorates symptoms of IBS, plus improves health-related QOL.


Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in a post-marketing surveillance study.
Phytother Res. 2001.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a problem reported to affect 22% of the general population. It is characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habit, but has so far defied elucidation of its pathogenesis and proved difficult to treat. There is a growing body of evidence which indicates therapeutic properties for artichoke leaf extract. Dyspepsia is the condition for which the herb is specifically indicated, but the symptom overlap between dyspeptic syndrome and IBS has given rise to the notion that artichoke leaf extract may have potential for treating IBS as well. A sub-group of patients with IBS symptoms was therefore identified from a sample of individuals with dyspeptic syndrome who were being monitored in a post-marketing surveillance study of artichoke leaf extract for 6 weeks. Analysis of the data from the IBS sub-group revealed significant reductions in the severity of symptoms and favourable evaluations of overall effectiveness by both physicians and patients. Furthermore, 96% of patients rated artichoke leaf extract as better than or at least equal to previous therapies administered for their symptoms, and the tolerability of artichoke leaf extract was very good. These results provide support for the notion that artichoke leaf extract has potential value in relieving IBS symptoms and suggest that a controlled trial is justified.


IBS and probiotics, friendly gut bacteria
Good news for those with irritable bowel syndrome. A beneficial strain of bacteria called Bifidobacterium infantis has been found to stabilize bowel movement frequency in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who experience either constipation or diarrhea. Lab animals with ulcerative colitis, and in humans with IBS, treatment with Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 reverses severe inflammation of the colon and restores the immune balance from a pro-inflammatory state to an anti-inflammatory state. To determine the impact of the probiotic on bowel movement frequency, Dr. Quigley, from University Cork College in Ireland, and colleagues assigned 85 female patients with IBS to treatment with the probiotic for 4 weeks and 80 to treatment with a placebo. For patients with very frequent or very few bowel movements, the bacteria had a significant effect in normalizing the frequency. This appears to be a unique finding since other agents used or tested in IBS have tended to have efficacy in either a diarrhea-predominant group or a constipation-predominant group, but not in both. Changes in bowel frequency were accompanied by very significant improvement in individual symptoms, such as pain and bloating.


The etiology of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is thought to be multifactorial, with several factors (including alterations in gut motility, small-bowel bacterial overgrowth, microscopic inflammation, and visceral hypersensitivity) potentially playing a role. Recent studies have suggested that probiotics may be useful in the treatment of IBS. Although the exact mechanism for how probiotics may aid in the reduction of symptoms commonly found in IBS is unknown, the effects of probiotics on alterations in gut bacteria appear to play a part. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2010 Jan; Probiotic therapy for irritable bowel syndrome. Aragon G, Graham DB, Borum M, Doman DB.Drs. Aragon and Graham are Gastroenterology Fellows at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC.

IBS symptom reported by patients
IBS symptoms include crampy abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Additional IBS symptoms include gas, bloating, and nausea. An IBS symptom may appear suddenly at any time of day or night, and may occasionally wake a person from sleep. Vomiting is not a common IBS symptom.


IBS diet, food
It's difficult to come up with a diet that would work in most people with IBS. However, consider making some of the following diet changes: cut back on sugar, cut back on dairy products, especially milk.

   People with irritable bowel syndrome have high levels of antibodies that indicate they are allergic to common foods like wheat, beef, pork, and lamb. The idea of food allergy as a cause is supported by studies that systematically eliminated certain dietary components and then reintroduced them to see how symptoms were affected. In one study, researchers compared levels of antibodies to common foods in 108 patients with irritable bowel syndrome and a comparison group of 43 unaffected "control" subjects. As well as the antibody measurements, the researchers also conducted skin prick testing to 16 common foods including milk, eggs, cheese, wheat, rice, potatoes, various meats, and soya beans. Antibody levels to wheat, beef, pork, lamb and soya beans were significantly higher in IBS patients, and tended to be higher for egg yolk and egg white. However,  there was no significant correlation between symptom severity and frequency and antibody levels. Nonetheless, the researchers note that elevated levels of food-specific antibodies have been seen in asthma, which suggests there could be a similar process going on in irritable bowel syndrome. SOURCE: American Journal of Gastroenterology, July 2005.
Cause of IBS
Scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of IBS. A bout of bacterial dysentery greatly increases the chances of developing irritable bowel syndrome). People who experience traveler's diarrhea appear to be at significantly increased risk of subsequently suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


Clin Epidemiol. 2014 Feb 4. The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional condition of the bowel that is diagnosed using clinical criteria. This paper discusses the nature of the diagnostic process for IBS and how this impacts epidemiological measurements. Depending on the diagnostic criteria employed, IBS affects around 11% of the population globally. Around 30% of people who experience the symptoms of IBS will consult physicians for their IBS symptoms. These people do not have significantly different abdominal symptoms to those who do not consult, but they do have greater levels of anxiety and lower quality of life. Internationally, there is a female predominance in the prevalence of IBS. There is 25% less IBS diagnosed in those over 50 years and there is no association with socioeconomic status. IBS aggregates within families and the genetic and sociological factors potentially underlying this are reviewed. Patients diagnosed with IBS are highly likely to have other functional disease and have more surgery than the general population. There is no evidence that IBS is associated with an increased mortality risk.

IBS studies and research
Turmeric extract may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptomology in otherwise healthy adults: a pilot study.
J Altern Complement Med. 2004.
To assess the effects of turmeric (Curcuma longa) extract on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptomology in otherwise healthy adults. Design: Partially blinded, randomized, two-dose, pilot study. Subjects: Five hundred (500) volunteers were screened for IBS using the Rome II criteria. Two hundred and seven (207) suitable volunteers were randomized. Interventions: One or two tablets of a standardized turmeric extract taken daily for 8 weeks. Outcomes measures: IBS prevalence, symptom-related quality of life (IBS QOL) and self-reported effectiveness. Results: IBS prevalence decreased significantly in both groups between screening and baseline (41% and 57%), with a further significant drop of 53% and 60% between baseline and after treatment, in the one- and two-tablet groups respectively. A post-study analysis revealed abdominal pain/discomfort score reduced significantly by 22% and 25% in the one- and two-tablet group respectively, the difference tending toward significance. There were significant improvements in all bar one of the IBS QOL scales of between 5% and 36% in both groups, approximately two thirds of all subjects reported an improvement in symptoms after treatment, and there was a favorable shift in self-reported bowel pattern. There were no significant differences between groups. Conclusions: Turmeric may help reduce IBS symptomology. Placebo controlled trials are now warranted to confirm these findings.


IBS emails
I am responding to Dr. Sahelian's article about IBS. I am 56 years old with a moderate case of IBS. I think you should know that colostrum is highly effective for this condition. I have been taking it for about 3 years and do not suffer from IBS symptoms if I avoid some of the foods, such as wheat, that Dr. Sahelian recommends. I am amazed at the number of articles about IBS that do not mention colostrum! By the way, the colostrum being used needs to be "first milking", collected within 6 hours of the calf's birth.
   Thank you for your email regarding your benefit from colostrum for IBS.


Can you please tell me if magnesium is not tolerated by IBS patients as I have tried the different forms and find that it gives me more gas, bloating and cramping.

   Some people with IBS may not tolerate certain supplements, each person with IBS may be different on what they can or they cannot tolerate.

IBS and Asian Herbal Medicines
There is evidence that some Chinese, Tibetan and Indian herbal medicines "improve global symptoms of IBS," investigators write in a report published by The Cochrane Library. There is no cure for IBS, leading many sufferers to try herbal remedies to find relief. To gauge the effectiveness of herbal medicines for IBS, statisticians reviewed 75 published studies evaluating the effects of 71 different herbal preparations including single herbs or standard herb mixtures. These studies included more than 7,900 IBS patients. Compared to treatment with an inactive placebo, several herbal medicines produced significant improvement in IBS symptoms. These include a standard Chinese herbal formula and individualized Chinese herbal medicines, STW 5 and STW 5-II; the Tibetan herbal medicine Padma Lax; the traditional Chinese formula Tongxie Yaofang; and the Indian Ayurvedic preparation of two herbs. None of the trials reported serious side effects with the use of herbal medicines for IBS. Source: The Cochrane Library 2006.


Chinese Herbal Combination for IBS Symptom Provides Uncertain Results

A centuries-old Chinese herbal medicine prescribed for treating IBS symptoms showed no conclusive result. The Chinese herbal medicine consisted of 11 herbs. Dr. Wai K. Leung of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and colleagues compared the formulation with placebo in a group of 119 patients with IBS primarily characterized by diarrhea. All had a diagnosis of IBS that had been verified by Western criteria and by the rules of traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese remedy used for these IBS symptoms is the Tong Xie Yao Fang formulation, which dates back to the 1600s. In the study, patients dissolved the Tong Xie Yao Fang formulation or a placebo herbal mix in hot water and took it twice daily for eight weeks. After the 8-week treatment period and eight weeks after treatment ended, there was no difference between the two groups in IBS symptoms or quality of life. However, the results were difficult to interpret since the placebo effect at 46 percent was very high, much higher than reported in most other IBS studies. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2006.