National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

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Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

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Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Controlling Symptoms of IBS With Complementary Health Practices?

March 21, 2013

It is estimated that as many as 20 percent of Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic condition with painful and unpleasant symptoms such as periodic bouts of cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. We don’t know what specifically causes IBS, and there is no known cure. From a scientific perspective, IBS is challenging to study because its symptoms vary from person to person and are not specific. Symptoms can be episodic and may disappear for long periods of time. Plus, there are no definitive diagnostic tests.

Many patients find relief of symptoms using treatments such as dietary changes, medication, and stress management. However, some whose symptoms persist turn to various complementary health practices such as probiotics, acupuncture, or hypnotherapy. Overall, there is preliminary evidence that suggests that some complementary health practices may be helpful for IBS, although many of these studies have been small. Additional research supported by NCCAM and others is underway.

NCCAM’s Web site has evidence-based information on what the science says about some of the complementary health practices people turn to for IBS relief. If you are considering one of these practices, I encourage you to first talk with your health care provider. This will help ensure your safe and coordinated care. As always, take care and be well!

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