What is the treatment for IBS?
There is no cure for IBS, but there are things you can do to feel better. Treatment may include:
- Changing your diet
- Taking medication
- Counseling and stress relief
Changing your diet
Foods do not cause IBS, but eating certain food may start some IBS symptoms. You can ease the symptoms of IBS by changing some eating habits.
Find out which foods make your symptoms worse by writing in a journal:
- What you eat during the day
- What symptoms you have
- When symptoms occur
You will want to limit or avoid these foods. Problem foods may be:
- Milk and milk products like cheese or ice cream
- Caffeinated drinks like coffee
- Carbonated drinks like soda, especially those that contain artificial sweeteners (like sorbitol) or high-fructose corn syrup
- Some fruits and vegetables
Other ways to ease symptoms are:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet.
- Eating more high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (especially for people with constipation). Add foods with fiber to your diet a little at a time to let your body get used to them. High-fiber diets may not help with pain or diarrhea, and may make gas and cramping worse. Check the information on foods such as cereals. You should aim to eat 20 grams of fiber per day.
- Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day (especially for people with diarrhea). It is unclear whether this helps IBS symptoms, but it can help treat dehydration that sometimes happens with diarrhea.
- Avoiding large meals, which can cause cramping and diarrhea in people with IBS. If this happens to you, try eating 4 or 5 small meals a day. Or, eat less at each of your usual 3 meals.
Your doctor may give you medicine to help with symptoms:
- Fiber supplements such as psyllium (Metamucil) to help control constipation.
- Anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide (Imodium), to help control diarrhea.
- Antispasmodic agents such as peppermint oil or dicyclomine to slow contractions in the bowel, which may help with diarrhea and pain.
- Antidepressant medications such as a tricylcic antidepressant or a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) if symptoms include pain or depression.
- IBS medication. A medication known as Lubiprostone is approved by the FDA for women with severe IBS-C (constipation).
Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you to. All drugs have side effects and may affect people differently. Tell your doctor about any over-the-counter medicines you take.
Counseling and stress relief
Many people who seek care for IBS also have anxiety, panic, or depression. Stress is also an issue for people with IBS because it can make the symptoms worse. Research shows that psychological therapy can help ease IBS symptoms. Therapies that can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a short-term treatment that mixes different types of therapies and behavioral strategies. The type of CBT used to treat IBS may focus on managing life stress. Or, it may focus on changing how a person responds to anxiety about IBS symptoms.
- Dynamic psychotherapy, an intensive, short-term form of talk therapy. It may focus on in-depth discussions about the link between symptoms and emotions. The therapy may also help people identify and resolve interpersonal conflicts.
- Hypnotherapy, where people enter an altered state of consciousness. Visual suggestions are made to imagine pain going away, for example.
General stress relief is also important. Exercising regularly is a good way to relieve stress. It also helps the bowel function better and improves overall health. Meditation, yoga, and massage may also help.