The Treatment Reviews section offers reviews of a wide range of IBS treatments, including medications, supplements, diets and alternative therapies. It also includes reviews of some best-selling IBS books and my personal list of 25 self-help tips.
Click here to visit the IBS Medications section.
This section contains reviews of a wide range of medications used for IBS. It includes IBS-specific medications like Lotronex and Zelnorm, anti-spasmodics such as Librax, anti-depressants like Paxil, bile-absorbing medications like Questran, anti-diarrheals like Imodium and laxatives such as Exlax and Dulcolax.
Click here to visit the IBS Supplements section.
This section includes reviews of fiber supplements like Metamucil, Citrucel and Fibercon, IBS-specific supplements such as Digestive Advantage, and general supplements that are often used by IBS sufferers like Caltrate Plus calcium for diarrhea and magnesium for constipation.
Click here to visit the IBS Diets section.
This section contains reviews of the most common diets used for irritable bowel syndrome, including the Heather Van Vorous Eating for IBS diet, exclusion diets, dairy-free diets, gluten-free diets, and diets that follow the results of an ELISA blood test.
Click here to visit the IBS Books section.
This section contains reviews of some of the best-selling books on the market, such as Eating for IBS by Heather Van Vorous and A New IBS Solution by Dr Mark Pimentel, as well as interviews with the authors themselves.
25 IBS Self-Help Tips
Please remember that I am not a doctor and I am not offering individual medical advice. If you want to try any of the supplements or treatments on this page I would strongly suggest that you consult your doctor first.
Here are 25 top tips for dealing with irritable bowel syndrome. These tips have been collected from my years of experience as an IBS sufferer and from the books and online research I have read, as well as from the reviews of IBS products submitted by visitors to this website.
And, while we're at it, here are some more things to do before you really start to tackle your symptoms...
Before you start
Make sure it's IBS!
I can't stress the importance of this enough - there is absolutely no way that IBS can be self-diagnosed, because there are so many other conditions which cause bowel problems. At the very least you will need to rule out conditions such as Crohn's Disease, celiac disease, and bowel cancer. If you are a woman you could have endometriosis, and anyone can suffer from lactose intolerance. If you haven't had a doctor say to you that you have IBS, your first step is to get a definitive diagnosis.
Make double sure it's IBS!
So important, it's worth doing it twice. Seriously though, even if you have been told you have IBS, if you still have any doubts about your symptoms then ask for a second opinion. It might be worth making sure you see a gastrointestinal specialist rather then just accepting a diagnosis from your GP or primary care physician.
After the diagnosis, follow your doctor's advice carefully.
This website, and this page in particular, is aimed at people who have been dealing with IBS for quite a while and have found that their doctor's suggestions have not improved their symptoms. However, there are some sufferers who find that their doctor's advice or prescription is enough to help them deal with IBS, so please don't just skip straight to self-help measures - the medication or advice your doctor gives you may be just what you need.
Accept the bad news and the good news.
The bad news is that there is no cure for IBS, and it can be difficult to treat. The good news is that you live in a time when IBS is finally beginning to get the attention and research it deserves - and the drugs. The internet has lead to a huge amount of support being available online, with plenty of support groups and messageboards available, and you're really not alone!
Get a good IBS book.
I would highly recommend getting hold of a copy of The First Year - IBS by patient expert Heather Van Vorous. This book gives a clear, easy to understand explanation of what IBS is and what it is not, and carefully sets out some of the best treatment options available. Reviews and extracts from The First Year - IBS
Tackling general IBS symptoms
Think about hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy, and gut-directed hypnotherapy in particular, is one of the few therapies which has shown consistently good results in IBS sufferers. The theory behind it is that in many IBS sufferers the symptoms are caused by problems within the mind-gut connection - the theory is quite difficult to explain, but the results for many sufferers have been quite dramatic. The IBS Audio Program in particular has a good reputation and clinical trials to back it up. Reviews of the IBS Audio Program 100 Reviews of gut-directed hypnotherapy
Try a fiber supplement.
It can be easy to dismiss fiber supplements as a bit of a feeble option, but in reality they can provide some real relief for many IBS symptoms. If you have diarrhea they can help to bulk up the stool; if you have constipation they can help to soften the stool and make it easier to pass. Popular fiber supplements include acacia fiber and Citrucel (Celevac in the UK). Reviews of acacia fiber Reviews of Citrucel Reviews of Celevac
Take peppermint oil capsules.
Peppermint oil can act as a natural anti-spasmodic, which means it can help to cut down on the spasms in the gut which can cause such pain in IBS sufferers. There have been several studies which show that peppermint oil can be a genuine help to IBS sufferers, and anecdotal evidence seems to back this up. Reviews of peppermint oil
Consider Digestive Advantage IBS.
Digestive Advantage is a supplement which has been developed specifically for IBS symptoms. It contains so-called
friendly bacteria, combined with an amino acid to help digest certain foods. I've included it here because there are some good reviews of Digestive Advantage on this site, and although it may not tackle all your symptoms it may help reduce your suffering at least a little. It is also inexpensive and available from most US drug stores. Reviews of Digestive Advantage IBS
Cut down on stress and known triggers.
If there is any stress in your life that you can fairly easily cut out, then do it - and don't feel guilty if it means 'letting people down' - you're ill, you need to put yourself first. And if you have any other 'known triggers', things that you know will bring on symptoms, then try to cut them out as well - it sounds obvious but we tend to be quite a stoic lot as IBS sufferers and sometimes grit our teeth through things that make us miserable. Just say no - you've got a damn good reason!
To tackle diarrhea
Try taking calcium supplements.
Calcium is a mineral supplement which can naturally slow down the bowels. One supplement in particular, Caltrate Plus, has become well-known in the online IBS community as an effective treatment for IBS diarrhea. Caltrate Plus is available OTC in the US, or look for a calcium supplement in the form of calcium carbonate. Reviews of Caltrate Plus
Look into Lotronex.
Lotronex is one of the newest medications for IBS, and by all accounts it is one of the most effective. It is only for IBS sufferers who are diarrhea-predominant, and at the moment it is only available in the United States. The drug has been somewhat controversial because it was linked to a small number of fatalities, but has been put back onto the market after an outcry from IBS sufferers who argued that any drug will have risks. Reviews of Lotronex
Watch out for coffee, alcohol, spicy foods and sweeteners.
Coffee is known to be a mild laxative, and cutting down on coffee or cutting it out completely can only help diarrhea sufferers. Alcohol and spicy foods such as curries can also easily cause diarrhea, and artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol and aspartame can upset the gut in even quite small amounts. Keep in mind that artificial sweeteners can turn up in unexpected places, so be careful to check labels before you buy.
If you've had your gallbladder out, it might be bile.
Quite a few people find that they suffer from diarrhea following surgery to remove their gallbladder, because the gallbladder normally takes care of bile in the body, and when it is removed the excess bile can cause diarrhea. The reviews of Questran on this site show that patients without gallbladders can find some serious relief through the use of Questran, so this medication might be worth a try if you are gallbladder-less. Reviews of Questran
Don't forget Imodium.
Imodium is probably one of the first medicines we try when we get diarrhea, and it does work. I would say that Imodium is to diarrhea sufferers what laxatives are to constipation sufferers - a short-term solution only, but certainly one that works. Don't feel guilty if you have to use Imodium from time to time, and certainly for special occasions it can be great. It's best to use it as a stop-gap solution only, but while you are looking for a longer term solution there's no point in suffering unduly in the meantime. Reviews of Imodium
To tackle constipation
Try magnesium supplements.
Magnesium supplements are effectively the opposite of the calcium supplements I recommend for diarrhea sufferers. There is no one supplement which sufferers seem to use, and there are various forms of magnesium, so you may need to experiment with different types and dosages before you find a program that works for you. You could start with magnesium oxide or possibly magnesium citrate tablets. Reviews of magnesium
Take a gentle laxative (but only occasionally).
Doctors don't recommend that any laxative is taken over a long period of time because your colon may become dependent on laxatives. However, that doesn't mean that occasional use will do any harm. One of the most gentle laxatives available is milk of magnesia, the famous chalky-tasting liquid which can be used in small doses to treat indigestion, but in larger doses can effectively treat constipation. Nowadays you can get some nicer cherry versions of milk of magnesia if you really hate the taste of chalk. Reviews of milk of magnesia
Experiment with your fiber supplements.
fiber supplements are recommended for all IBS sufferers, as mentioned above, but they can be particularly helpful for constipation sufferers - as long as you find one that suits your own body. You may find that a flaxseed/linseed supplement (for example, Linusit Gold in the UK) is very helpful. Flaxseed or linseed can be bought from health foods stores in the form of small, whole seeds which can be swallowed with water or soft foods such as yogurt. Reviews of flaxseed
Take some exercise.
Bet you've heard this one before! Yes, I know, I'm bored too, but there's no doubt that exercise can be very good for some constipation sufferers.
Drink loads of water.
Another boring one, but the fact is that if you don't drink enough water it's just going to make things worse. You really do need to drink at least a liter of water a day and preferably more. That sounds like a chore, but it's actually not that much if you have a large glass with breakfast and another with your dinner, and maybe keep a bottle on your desk at work. And if you're taking fiber supplements remember that the only way they will work is if they're taken with loads of water - otherwise they'll just block you up even more.
Examining your diet
Talk to a nutritionist.
It can be surprisingly difficult to isolate trigger foods in your diet, and you also have to be careful that you are not doing more damage to your health by cutting out too many foods. A nutritionist can help you examine your diet from all angles. Try to find one who has experience of working with IBS patients or people with digestive disorders.
Try Heather Van Vorous' Eating for IBS diet.
This diet has helped a huge number of people tackle their IBS, and is based on using soluble fiber to soothe the gut. Heather clearly describes the diet and provides lists of safe and unsafe foods in her book Eating for IBS.
Try an exclusion diet.
This should probably only be done with the help of a nutritionist, but it always seems like a sensible approach to me. Basically you cut out certain foods from your diet, or certain groups of foods such as gluten-containing foods, one at a time and record your symptoms as you go. It can be quite difficult to follow as you may have to cut right down to a pretty basic diet at first, but it is a good way to try to identify some of your worst trigger foods. Reviews of an exclusion diet
Try cutting out some of the most common culprits.
You could start by excluding wheat and gluten-containing foods such as pasta, bread and cakes (remember that if you see a significant improvement after cutting out gluten then you may have celiac disease rather than IBS). You could also try excluding citrus fruits, dairy products and excessive sugar from sweets and chocolates, as well as things that affect even healthy guts, such as alcohol. Reviews of a gluten-free diet Reviews of a wheat-free diet Reviews of a dairy-free diet
Keep a food diary.
It can be useful to keep a simple diary of everything you are eating to see if you can isolate any trigger foods or drinks. Make sure to keep a careful record of absolutely everything you eat or drink, as well as any medications or supplements you are taking, and then record your symptoms for each day.