Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder with embarrassing, uncomfortable, and often painful symptoms. The cause is unclear, and treatments vary from prescription drugs to dietary changes. For many with IBS and other chronic conditions, natural solutions are often more enticing than drugs that come with many possible side effects.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two drugs prescribed specifically for IBS: Alosetron and Lubiprostone. They come with many potential side effects and are prescribed as a last resort in IBS treatment.

Because IBS is a digestive condition — resulting in symptoms such as diarrhea, cramping, gas, and constipation — many people find relief by changing their diet. Still others may find symptom relief with the following natural products.

1. Peppermint Oil

Therapeutic-grade peppermint oil is easy to find, and could offer significant benefits to people with IBS. A review of existing research in Phytomedicine looked at 16 clinical trials that tested the use of peppermint oil as an IBS treatment. The researchers found that success rates for peppermint oil average at 58 percent, double that of placebos. Side effects of peppermint oil were mild and temporary, including heartburn and discomfort. When compared with other solutions, the researchers said that peppermint oil could be viewed as the first go-to treatment if you have general IBS symptoms.

2. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland, but it can also be found in capsule form as a supplement. It is important for both sleep regulation and digestion. In the treatment of IBS, melatonin works to regulate intestinal motility (the movement of intestinal muscles). According to recent research reviews, most clinical studies have found there to be an improvement of IBS symptoms when you take melatonin supplements — most commonly given in the evening at a dose of 3 mg. Melatonin can be found both online and at local drugstores. You may find it marketed as a sleep aid because of its wide use in the treatment of insomnia.

3. Probiotics

Probiotics are the so-called “good bacteria” found in our digestive system. Available as supplements as well as in food, probiotics are used to keep digestive systems healthy and symptom-free. In people with IBS, they may work similarly, restoring balance in otherwise troubled intestines. According to recent findings, several problems associated with IBS can be aided by probiotics. Those include: bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, inflammation, motility, and hypersensitivity. Research into which probiotics are best is ongoing.

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4. Slippery Elm

Slippery elm powder is known for aiding digestive health. It can be made into a tea, stirred into food, or put in capsules. You can find slippery elm powder supplements online and in drugstores. In the treatment of IBS, slippery elm is said to be particularly useful in treating diarrhea, constipation, and digestive discomfort. One study found that supplements containing slippery elm also aid in gas, bloating, stool consistency and frequency, and abdominal pain.

5. Chinese Herbs

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may offer relief from IBS symptoms, too. TCM uses herbs to treat medical conditions, and those that could provide relief for IBS symptoms include peony powder, citrus, and licorice. One study that treated people with IBS symptoms using Chinese herbal preparations — including herbs like Dang Shen, bupleurum, and magnolia bark — saw significant improvements compared to control groups.

The Takeaway

As with any medical condition, it’s important to discuss your treatment options and plans with your doctor. You may find they can offer additional solutions and tips on how to best utilize these natural remedies and others like them. Also, be sure to research the products you are interested in to be sure you purchase high quality supplements. Supplements are not regulated in the United States, so checking with your pharmacist about the best brands to choose is a good practice.