The gut has a mind of its own. Keep it happy and life is good. Make it angry, and, well, if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you know the drill.
IBS is a bowel disorder, with symptoms of pain and discomfort including:
While it’s not uncommon to experience these symptoms on a sporadic basis, if they occur several times a month you could have IBS disease.
To make matters worse, there is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome. Triggers and symptoms of IBS are often unique to each patient, and despite a surging demand, a generic solution remains fleeting.
Fortunately, there are supplements for IBS that can bring relief. These are some of the more common treatments for IBS that, while not guaranteed, appear to work in a number of patients. And if you’re of the estimated 14% of Americans who suffer from the disorder, these supplements for IBS are worth a look.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that occur naturally in the gut. Probiotics promote balance among the intestinal flora and can aid in smooth digestion.
Probiotic supplements, especially those with Bifidobacterium infantis, appear to ease abdominal pain and bloating and encourage regular bowel movements. They’re effective enough that many doctors recommend probiotics to treat IBS, but be aware that probiotic supplements don’t specify between bacterial strands and doses. Your best bet might be to try products with bifida bacteria.
These are nondigestible food ingredients that stimulate microorganisms to grow in the gut. They’re found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including artichokes, onions, asparagus and bananas. You’ll also find prebiotics in oatmeal and whole grain products.
There hasn’t been much research into prebiotics for their ability to treat IBS, although in one study, a combination of prebiotics and probiotics reduced abdominal pain, bloating and constipation.
Fiber plays an important role in treatment of IBS, but shows mixed results when taken as a supplement. Some say fiber supplements cause bloating and gas. Others say they reduce constipation and diarrhea.
Psyllium is a soluble fiber that might relieve IBS symptoms in some patients and is widely available as a powder, tablet, breakfast bar, cookie or seed husks. If psyllium supplements make constipation worse, add magnesium citrate to balance the effects.
Guar gum and calcium polycarbophil are additional fiber supplements that might ease IBS symptoms, the latter of which can harden or soften stools, depending on the symptom.
Peppermint oil is one of the better-known and well-established supplements for IBS, especially for constipation and mild diarrhea. For IBS patients who don’t tolerate peppermint, a combination of chamomile and pectin can relax the colon muscles and produce similar results.
Supplements for IBS are a process of elimination. What works for one patient might not work for another. As such, it’s important to keep a journal, of triggers and symptoms, and which treatments work. Take notes, speak to your physician, and take a deep breath. IBS can make life uncomfortable, but with time and patience, and a little diligence, there is relief.