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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) health centre

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Alternative and complementary treatments for IBS

Although some people turn to alternative and complementary therapies to help with their IBS, scientific evidence to support many of these treatments is often lacking.

Always seek medical advice before trying a new therapy, even if it is described as 'natural', to check that it won't interfere with other medicines and treatments.

Acupuncture for IBS

The British Acupuncture Council says there's evidence that this needle treatment may help with IBS pain relief, regulating the digestive tract and avoiding colon spasms.

Herbs and supplements for IBS

Diet changes can be helpful for IBS, but some people also try herbs, oils or probiotics.

No herbal remedy has received a specific traditional herbal registration from the regulator MHRA for IBS. However, some herbal products have been registered for symptoms, such as bloating and constipation. These include lemon balm, agnus castus, melissa leaf, horsetail and senna leaf.


Our digestive tract contains trillions of 'good' bacteria that are important for good health, but IBS can knock them out of balance. Taking probiotics may help rebalance the 'good' bacteria inside us. Probiotics are living microorgasims, often bacteria, which are much like the bacteria that are normally found in the digestive tract. The NHS says there is no evidence to show that probiotics help with IBS. However, if people do decide to try them, they should follow the manufacturer's instructions. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises that if someone with IBS decides to take probiotics then they should take these daily for at least 4 weeks to determine if taking them helps reduce IBS symptoms.

Prebiotics are preparations of complex sugars, designed to feed the beneficial strains of probiotics. It is thought they may encourage the natural probiotic bacteria within the digestive tract. There is little scientific evidence of this, but one study has found that it may reduce bloating. Symbiotics combine the prebiotics and probiotics in one product.

Hypnotherapy and relaxation therapy for IBS

Some people find that hypnotherapy and relaxation therapy help with their IBS symptoms.

Make sure you find a practitioner registered with an appropriate body covering these therapies.

GPs may recommend an approach with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on April 18, 2017

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