A Guide to IBS Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed By Saurabh Sethi, M.D., MPH

Several options may be beneficial in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) treatment. These options include dietary changes, increased physical activity, medications, and certain types of therapies. Because there is currently no cure for IBS, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms, avoiding triggers, and improving quality of life for people with the condition.

Read on to learn more about IBS treatment.

Dietary changes

A bag of almonds set against a pink background
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The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) notes three dietary changes below that doctors may recommend to aid in IBS treatment.

Eating more fiber

Constipation and diarrhea are common symptoms of IBS, and eating more fiber may help provide relief. A 2017 research review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source noted that fiber supplementation was safe and effective for people experiencing IBS symptoms.

The review authors noted that psyllium, a type of fiber derived from Plantago ovata seeds, produced low levels of gas and other symptoms.

Other sources of dietary fiber include:

  • whole grains, including cereals, barley, or oat bran
  • fruits, including raspberries, blueberries, or grapefruit
  • vegetables, including artichokes, beans, or sweet potatoes
  • almonds, pine nuts, or pistachios

Learn more about dietary fiber sources.

Adding additional fiber to your diet too quickly can worsen IBS symptoms. Talk with your doctor about safe ways to slowly add fiber to your diet.

Limiting gluten intake

Research from 2020 Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggested that a gluten-free diet can have beneficial effects on IBS symptoms. However, a gluten-free diet can be challenging, and some people may experience sufficient relief from limiting their intake as opposed to avoiding gluten completely.

Foods that contain gluten include:

  • grains
  • pasta
  • many processed foods
  • certain alcohols, like beer and ale

Learn some tips for going gluten-free.

Following the low FODMAP diet

Some foods contain carbohydrates are called FODMAPs, which stands for fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides, and polyols. These carbohydrates can worsen Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source IBS symptoms like bloating, cramping, and diarrhea.

Limiting your intake of foods containing FODMAPs may provide some relief. These foods can be:

  • fruits, including apples, cherries, and watermelons
  • vegetables, including garlic, mushrooms, and onions
  • dairy products, including yogurt and cheese
  • rye and wheat products

Learn more about the low FODMAP diet.

Increased physical activity

Researchers note Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that getting physically active may help improve IBS symptoms and increase colonic transit time. This refers to the time that stomach content takes to travel through the colon. A faster colonic transit time could be beneficial for people who experience IBS-C, or IBS with constipation.

More research is necessary to determine how else physical activity can affect people with IBS. Talk with your doctor about safe ways to incorporate more physical activity into your life.

Medications

Some people may require medications in their IBS treatment plans.

Medications for diarrhea

To treat diarrhea, doctors may prescribe:

  • loperamide (Imodium)
  • eluxadoline (Viberzi)
  • rifaximin (Xifaxan)

Medications for constipation

To treat constipation, doctors may prescribe:

  • linaclotide (Linzess)
  • lubiprostone (Amitiza)
  • plecanatide (Trulance)

They may also recommend fiber supplements or laxatives.

Medications for abdominal pain

Medications that doctors may use to treat abdominal pain include:

  • antispasmodics
  • antidepressants
  • peppermint oil capsules

Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms. A 2022 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source showed that certain strains of probiotics, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, could have beneficial effects on IBS symptoms. Talk with your doctor about adding probiotics to your treatment regimen.

Learn more about medications for IBS.

Certain types of therapy

Therapy provided by mental health experts may also play a role in IBS treatment. The NIDDK notes three types of therapy that could be beneficial:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of therapy involves changing your behavior and thought patterns to alleviate IBS symptoms.
  • Relaxation training: Learning how to relax the body and relieve stress may help some people relieve their symptoms.
  • Gut-directed hypnotherapy: This therapy involves undergoing hypnosis to improve symptoms.

FAQ

Here are a few common questions about IBS treatment. Saurabh Sethi, M.D., M.P.H., reviewed the answers.

What is the best treatment for IBS?

The best treatment for IBS can change from person to person. You may need to try different treatment methods to find one that works for you.

What makes IBS go away?

While there is currently no cure for IBS, symptom relief may come from avoiding certain foods or taking medications. Some people may also benefit from increasing their physical activity or participating in some types of therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Summary

IBS treatment can involve dietary changes, increased physical activity, medications, and therapy. These treatments focus on relieving symptoms and improving quality of life for people with IBS.

Talk with your doctor about treatment methods that may be right for you.

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  1. El-Salhy, M., et al. (2017). Dietary fiber in irritable bowel syndrome (review). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5548066/
  2. Irritable bowel syndrome. (n.d.). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome
  3. Kumar, L. S., et al. (2022). Probiotics in irritable bowel syndrome: A review of their therapeutic role. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9116469/
  4. Patel, N., et al. (2022). Irritable bowel syndrome. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534810/
  5. Syed, K., et al. (2022). Low-FODMAP diet. ​​https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562224/
  6. Usai-Satta, P., et al. (2020). Irritable bowel syndrome and gluten-related disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7231142/

Medical Reviewer: Saurabh Sethi, M.D., MPH
Last Review Date: 2022 Dec 15
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