Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments are popular with many people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). CAM treatments for IBS may include acupuncture, herbal or nutritional supplements, hypnotherapy, and mind-body practices such as meditation. Some CAM therapies have been studied in clinical trials, but in many cases, there is limited or inconsistent evidence that they are beneficial for IBS.
Before you choose to try a CAM therapy, it is important to check with your doctor. Some herbs and supplements can cause dangerous interactions with medications.
What does it involve?
At this time, several CAM treatments are accepted by doctors as potentially benefiting some people with IBS.
Herbal treatments such as peppermint oil and ginger are popular as treatments for IBS symptoms. Raw ginger and ginger preparations may be found at grocery stores, while peppermint oil can be purchased at health food stores.
Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of illnesses. During an acupuncture treatment, you will lie still on a table. A trained acupuncturist or TCM practitioner will insert fine needles into the skin or connective tissue just beneath the skin. The needles are left in the skin for up to 30 minutes. Different regions of the skin are targeted during acupuncture depending on the condition being treated. The practitioner may gently twist or move the needles. Heat or electricity may be applied to the needles. Acupuncture is usually painless.
Yoga consists of moving your body into an array of different positions that provide stretching and various levels of challenge for strength, flexibility, and balance. Controlled breathing is another important aspect of yoga. Some yoga teachers incorporate aspects of meditation designed to reduce stress. There are many types of yoga and many different teaching styles. You may need to ask several questions before finding an appropriate class and an experienced teacher who understands what poses will work best for your condition. You may also practice yoga at home using a book or online videos as guidance. However, if you learn yoga in a class first, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback about your poses.
During hypnotherapy, a trained therapist will guide you through progressive relaxation until your mind and body are calm and receptive. Then the therapist will suggest imagery and emotions designed to soothe your IBS symptoms. People receiving hypnotherapy are generally awake and aware during the process, and can remember what happened afterward.
Meditation is a practice that involves clearing the mind or focusing on guided imagery. Meditation can be practiced at home or in classes.
Some people claim that one CAM treatment or another reduces the symptoms of their IBS. However, most CAM treatments have not been studied in rigorous clinical trials to establish their safety and effectiveness.
Herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Their safety and effectiveness have not been evaluated. The strength and purity of the ingredients may vary from brand to brand or batch to batch.
Some CAM treatments can cause interactions with medications. Some CAM treatments may exacerbate other health conditions.
Health insurance may not cover CAM therapies. Some CAM treatments can be expensive.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to a class for yoga or meditation. Thera may not be a trained acupuncturist or hypnotist located near you.
For more information, visit:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: In Depth – National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Complementary and Alternative Treatments – About IBS
Complementary and alternative medicine for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome –
Canadian Family Physician
Hypnosis for IBS – About IBS