Alternative Therapies for IBS
Alternative Therapies for IBS
IBS is highly individual, and the treatment that works for one person may not work for another. This has led to a growing interest in the use of alternative therapies for IBS.
From herbs for IBS to gut hypnotherapy, there are many alternative therapies available for IBS. But do they actually work? Read on to learn about some of the most popular alternative therapies for IBS and the research behind them.
Herbs for IBS
Herbal remedies have been around for centuries, and there are various foods and herbs for IBS treatment. Here are some of the most common herbs for IBS:
Ginger and IBS
Ginger has long been used to treat nausea and vomiting, but does ginger help IBS?
A study done in rats found that ginger treatment significantly reduced the frequency of bowel movements, stool water content, and abdominal withdrawal reflex (an indicator of abdominal pain). They also found that ginger treatment reduced inflammation in the gut. However, since this study was done in rats, it cannot necessarily be applied to humans.
A double-blind, randomized, controlled pilot study of 45 people with IBS found that a ginger supplement was well tolerated but did not perform better than the placebo. Since this is the first human study examining the relationship between ginger and IBS, a larger study is needed before we can definitively say whether ginger can help relieve IBS symptoms.
Iberogast is a herbal supplement that contains extracts of nine different herbs. It has been used for over 50 years to treat functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS.
A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 208 people with IBS found that taking Iberogast was associated with reduced abdominal pain scores and lower IBS symptom scores after four weeks.
If you’re struggling with IBS and other treatments haven’t worked for you, it’s worth giving Iberogast a try, as it’s an evidence-based alternative therapy for IBS.
Peppermint Oil and IBS
Peppermint oil is another herbal remedy that has long been used to treat digestive concerns.
A meta-analysis that combined the results of 12 randomized trials with a total of 835 patients found that peppermint oil was a safe and effective therapy for pain and symptom management in adults with IBS. It’s thought that peppermint oil relieves symptoms by relaxing the muscles in the bowel, which can relieve stomach cramps, bloating, and gas.
A word of warning – if you struggle with heartburn, be sure to buy enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules. That way, the peppermint oil won’t be released until it reaches your intestines, which will reduce the risk of it making your heartburn worse.
Acupuncture for IBS
Traditional Chinese medicine describes acupuncture as a technique that balances the flow of energy through the body. It involves inserting very thin needles at specific points along pathways in your body. It is increasingly being used to treat various ailments, including IBS.
A meta-analysis published in 2019 combined the results of eight randomized controlled trials to see whether acupuncture was an effective treatment for IBS. They found that compared to sham acupuncture (i.e., needles that were not actually inserted into the skin), there was not a significant difference in IBS symptoms.
However, they also found that acupuncture was more effective compared to Western medicine for improving IBS symptoms. While more studies need to be done, this meta-analysis shows that acupuncture could be effective for treating IBS symptoms if used alongside Western medicine.
Mind-Body Therapies for IBS
More and more evidence shows that IBS is caused by a miscommunication between the gut and the brain. Therefore, treatments that aim to address this miscommunication are emerging as potential treatments for IBS. Yoga for IBS and gut hypnotherapy are two such treatments.
Yoga for IBS
Yoga is an ancient practice that involves movement, meditation and breathing techniques to connect the mind, body, and spirit. It is increasingly being used as a treatment for IBS.
A systematic review published in 2016 analyzed the results of six randomized controlled trials with a total of 273 patients to see whether yoga was an effective treatment for IBS. They found that compared to conventional treatment, people who practiced yoga had significantly reduced bowel symptoms. There were also significant improvements in quality of life and physical functioning after yoga compared with no treatment. Two of the trials analyzed also found that no adverse events occurred in the yoga groups. However, the quality of the studies analyzed was low, making it difficult to make recommendations about yoga as a treatment for IBS.
Overall, it’s likely that yoga could be effective for treating IBS if used alongside conventional treatments. It relieves stress, which can be a big trigger for IBS. In addition, certain yoga poses could help relieve IBS symptoms like gas.
Yoga poses for IBS:
- Downward-Facing Dog
- Half-Seated Spinal Twist
- Reclining Abdominal Twist
- Happy Baby Pose
As you move through the yoga poses for IBS, pay attention to your breathing. Try to breathe slowly and deeply to help relax your body.
Gut hypnotherapy is an emerging treatment that has been shown to effectively treat IBS. It involves a trained clinician providing education about the digestive system, guiding you into a hypnotic state, and the use of individually tailored images that have been designed to normalize gut function.
A study published in 2012 found that in patients for whom other IBS treatments had failed, gut hypnotherapy was effective for relieving IBS-related symptoms. The results seen at three months after the treatment (12 sessions for one hour per week) were sustained up to one year after treatment.
Gut hypnotherapy can be done by a trained therapist or by using an app. One of the most popular gut hypnotherapy apps is called Nerva. The app helps you address the miscommunication between your gut and brain in as little as 15 minutes per day for six weeks.
A recent study published in 2023 found that although adherence to an app-based gut hypnotherapy program was quite low, for those who completed the program, they saw significant improvements in their IBS symptoms. This means that if you’re able to stick with it, gut hypnotherapy delivered by an app could be an effective treatment for your IBS.
IBS is highly individual, so treatment that is effective for one person may not work for another. There is increasing evidence that alternative therapies can be used to effectively treat IBS. These therapies include herbs for IBS, gut hypnotherapy, and yoga for IBS.
If you’re struggling with IBS and need help navigating the treatment options available, a registered dietitian can help. At Blue Tree Nutrition, we’ve worked with many people struggling to find relief from their IBS. Click here to get in touch and book an appointment today.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist - CDN, RDN
My name is Valerie Polley. I am a Indianapolis-based registered dietitian and owner of Blue Tree Nutrition. I consult with clients both local and far away.
I have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Purdue University and I have been practicing for 20 years.
I thoroughly enjoy helping clients through their gut health journey. I see a range of GI issues including, but not limited to celiac disease, IBS and SIBO. I also specialize in the FODMAP elimination diet.
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