Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.
As many as 10 to 15 percent of American adults may suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)—a chronic disorder that affects the large intestine and causes abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. Symptoms vary from person to person, there is no definitive diagnostic test, and although it is a chronic condition, symptoms may come and go. For these same reasons, IBS is a challenging disorder for researchers.
Overall, there is some emerging evidence from studies suggesting that certain complementary health practices may be useful for IBS symptoms. Probiotics, hypnotherapy, and peppermint oil, for example, have shown some promise. However, many of these studies have been small and poorly designed, so we can’t draw firm conclusions about their effectiveness.
The NCCIH Web site has information about the effectiveness and safety of complementary health approaches often used to help relieve IBS symptoms. If you or someone you know is considering a complementary health approach for IBS, I encourage you to take a look at these resources so that you can educate yourself on the scientific evidence and make informed health decisions. It’s always a good idea to talk with your health care provider about any decision that may affect your health. As always, be well!