Treatments exist for managing irritable bowel syndrome symptoms

You may find that only lifestyle changes may not be adequate in managing your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms; you may want to know what other resources are available to you. It is important to keep in mind that IBS is a group of symptoms. Different treatment options will be relevant for you depending on your symptoms. Most available medicines are intended to treat only one symptom. If IBS is interfering with your daily life, your doctor may suggest or prescribe a medicine based on your most troubling symptom. 1 Not all treatments will be appropriate for you, and you might find you only need to take medication some of the time.2,3

Treatment for Pain

Various treatments may be used for pain symptoms:

  • Antispasmodics are medications that may reduce pain or discomfort for some people with IBS, particularly if symptoms occur soon after eating.2
  • Anti-anxiety medications can be helpful for some people with IBS, particularly those with psychological distress. Low-dose anti-depressants may relieve pain and support changes in bowel habit. 2,3
  • Probiotics contain live microbes, usually bacteria.3 As the gut contains trillions of bacteria, certain probiotics may help improve IBS symptoms2, including pain1. However, researchers are still studying the benefits of probiotics for treatment of IBS symptoms. It is recommended to speak to your doctor before using probiotics.3

Treatment for diarrhea

Treatments specific for diarrhea include

  • Anti-diarrheal agents, such as loperamide may be prescribed by your doctor.  There are many types of anti-diarrheal medications that work in different ways. These can help prevent or relieve symptoms of diarrhea but may not help with pain.2
  • Antibiotics (specific for the GI tract) may help relieve IBS symptoms such as diarrhea by reducing the numbers of bad bacteria growing in your gut.2

Treatment for constipation

Solutions to treat constipation include

  • Fiber supplements or bulking agents may be used when slowly increasing fiber in your diet hasn’t helped. Again, these will not help with pain. 2
  • Laxatives should only be used under supervision of a doctor. There are many types of laxatives that work in different ways. These can help relieve constipation but may not reduce pain. 2

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

If conventional medical therapies prove unsuccessful or have unwanted side effects, you may want to consider complementary or alternative therapies (CAM). Complementary therapies are done in addition to traditional medical treatments, and alternative therapies are done instead of medical treatments.4

You should always discuss any treatment for your symptoms with your doctor or gastroenterologist. As every IBS patient is different, they will be able to advise on treatments appropriate for you. A specialist may be able to prescribe a more tailored treatment plan. Once you have decided on the best treatment plan for you with your healthcare professional, make sure you follow your doctor’s recommendations to improve your experience with IBS.

References
1. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. IBS Symptom Treatments. https://www.aboutibs.org/ibs-symptom-treatments.html.  Accessed 5 October 2020
2. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Treatments for IBS. https://www.aboutibs.org/what-is-ibs-sidenav/treatments-for-ibs.html.  Accessed 5 October 2020
3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/treatment. Accessed 5 October 2020
4. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders Complementary and Alternative Treatments. https://www.aboutibs.org/complimentary-or-alternative-treatments.html.  Accessed 5 October 2020

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