Can Complementary Medicine Help Treat IBS?

When faced with chronic illness, such as IBS, many wonder about the non-pharmaceutical treatment options available to them in an effort to curb the number of medications needed to keep symptoms in check. If you’re one of these individuals, you may consider talking to your doctor about complementary and alternative medicines to treat irritable bowel syndrome. Here are some of the options that research suggests can provide relief:


There’s been a lot of buzz in the news about probiotics over the past decade, and for good reason: These beneficial bacteria have been shown to alleviate gastrointestinal issues with a low risk of side effects. Probiotics are thought to balance the gut environment and assist in digestion.

One meta-analysis published earlier this year in the World Journal of Gastroenterology suggested that probiotics can significantly reduce pain and symptom severity in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Talk to your doctor about factors like the strain, preparation, dosage, and species of probiotic that may benefit you.

Yoga and Meditation

Yoga and meditation for treating IBS symptoms
Yoga and meditation for treating IBS symptoms

The ancient practices of yoga and meditation have been studied in IBS patients with promising results. Studies show that they can reduce stress and tension, which are often associated with IBS, as well as ease pain symptoms.

Yoga, in particular, is good for digestion because it helps to connect the mind and body, and the physical activity gets things moving in the digestive tract.


This is an ancient form of medicine in which very thin needles are inserted into strategic points through the skin. Traditionally, this was thought to affect the flow of energy through the body. However, modern practitioners believe it alleviates pain through stimulation of nerves, muscles, and connective tissue.

Research findings on acupuncture vary. Some studies show significant effects and others showing no statistical significance in symptom alleviation between people who received acupuncture and control groups. It could be that some people respond better to the treatment than others, or that the differences in how the therapy is administered affect efficacy. As such, ask for a recommendation from a trusted provider if you’re interested in trying acupuncture.

Therapy for IBS Patients
Therapy for IBS Patients

Hypnotherapy and IBS

When performed by a good professional, hypnosis has been shown to reduce pain and symptoms in IBS patients. During this type of therapy, your practitioner may ask you a series of questions and bring you into a different state of consciousness to induce feelings of calm and relaxation.

One meta-analysis of the use of hypnotherapy in treating IBS was published by researchers from the University of Melbourne earlier this year. It showed that 24% to 73% of volunteers who received hypnotherapy responded to it. That’s a pretty large gap, but it’s a low-risk intervention that may provide even long-term relief for patients.

When considering complementary or alternative medicine, keep in mind that they come with varying degrees of risk and efficacy. Never start a new regimen without first talking to your gastroenterologist about your specific risk factors and how to use the therapies to gain the most benefits.