Treatment Options for IBS

Addressing IBS One Step at a Time

Abdominal pain accompanied with cramping, bloating, diarrhea or constipation feels terrible and can interfere with your daily life. When stomach pain causes you to call in sick and forces you to stay near a bathroom at all times, you may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS. About one in six Americans, and twice as many women than men, live with IBS.

Normally, muscles in the colon wall contract periodically to push stool through.

In IBS, these contractions happen either too quickly, causing diarrhea, or too slowly, causing constipation. irritable bowel syndrome can develop from GI illness, antibiotics, or emotional trauma. Here’s what can help:


There is research suggesting that acupuncture releases chemicals within the brain that work to fight against pain. A 2012 study showed that up to 50 percent of people that supplemented conservative treatment with acupuncture found relief from pain, diarrhea and constipation associated with IBS for up to a year.


Irritable bowel syndrome can be caused by abnormalities in the number or species of bacteria in the gut. Because of this, research is now focused on antibiotic treatments. A 2011 study showed that 40 percent of patients who were treated with the antibiotic rifaximin three times a day for two weeks experienced a relief in their IBS symptoms including pain, bloating and diarrhea 10 weeks after the end of the antibiotic treatment.


Many people have watched the yogurt commercials advertising probiotic “gut-friendly” bacteria, but IBS research on probiotics focuses on probiotics supplements. Probiotics work to balance out the bacteria within your gut, and this can help alleviate some of the painful symptoms associated with IBS.

You can take one capsule a day of probiotics that have been clinically studied, such as Align or Culturelle, to take advantage of their IBS-fighting properties.


Sometimes a change in diet is necessary to keep the stomach cramps away. Caffeine, beer, artificial sweeteners, chips and other processed foods may be aggravating your IBS symptoms. Since the body may not be able to process these foods, they can cause bloating and abdominal discomfort. Try eating foods like fish, oatmeal with berries, and egg whites, which are all easier to digest. Lactose intolerance can be confused with IBS, so you can try cutting out dairy for a few weeks to see if the symptoms improve.

Stress management

Everyday stressors do not cause IBS, but day-to-day ups and downs can often make symptoms worse. There are many neural connections between the brain and the digestive system, so when you are emotionally stressed, your state of mind can stimulate spasms in the colon. Learning how to cope with the stress through relaxation therapy, behavioral therapy or other techniques have been shown to decrease IBS symptoms.


Regular activity such as biking or running decreases stress, enables the colon muscles to work better, and helps gas move through the GI tract more quickly.

Studies show that 20-60 minutes of exercise three to five times each week significantly decreases IBS symptoms.

Fiber and over the counter medication

Over the counter treatments can help relieve mild IBS symptoms. A daily dose of fiber supplement can help relieve constipation. Imodium slows down the rate at which colon muscles squeeze, reducing diarrhea.

Prescription drugs

Currently, there are three FDA-approved drugs for IBS. Linzess is the most recently approved medication and it increases the frequency of bowel movements. It also eases abdominal pain when taken each day without food. Amitiza is another prescription medication that works to increase fluid secretion into the small intestine in order to loosen stool.

Nausea and diarrhea are possible side effects. Lotronex is the third approved drug for IBS treatment, and this is designed to relax the colon in order to treat diarrhea.

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