Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder marked by symptoms like pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. It’s a common condition that affects up to 15 percent of people in the United States, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.

There’s no cure for IBS. A few treatments are available, but many people instead experiment with natural ways to find relief from their symptoms. These remedies and supplements may help.

Up to 90 percent of people with IBS experiment with diet to help relieve IBS symptoms. The ACG recommends keeping a food diary to track what you eat and how you feel after to help determine which trigger foods to avoid.

Common IBS food triggers include:

  • beans
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • onions
  • fructose
  • lactose
  • wheat/gluten

See a dietitian

If you have IBS, consider working with a dietitian. Together you can identify an eating plan, such as the low FODMAP diet, to help you identify your food triggers to avoid. A dietitian can also recommend ways to incorporate the right nutrients into your diet that can help provide IBS relief.

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Adding more soluble fiber to your diet may help, particularly if you’re dealing with constipation. Good food sources of soluble fiber include:

  • barley
  • lentils
  • nuts
  • oats
  • flaxseed

Soluble fiber can also be found in supplement form known as psyllium.

When increasing your fiber intake, be sure to go slow and drink plenty of water. Upping your intake too quickly can bring on symptoms like gas and bloating. And ingesting too much fiber and not enough water can make constipation worse.

Adding more magnesium to your diet may help provide IBS relief, especially if you’re dealing with constipation. While magnesium is available in supplement form, start by incorporating more of these magnesium-rich foods into your diet:

  • legumes
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • spinach
  • whole grains

Magnesium works by drawing water into the intestines to soften the stool and make it easier to pass. Though magnesium may not be the answer if you’re dealing with diarrhea. It can also lead to diarrhea if you take too much.

Ask your doctor or dietitian if magnesium may be right for you, and if so, how much. The typical dosage is up to 350 milligrams (mg) daily for adults.

A recent review reported that, out of all potential remedies, most people with IBS turn to ginger to help calm digestive discomforts. Though most evidence to support the use of ginger for IBS relief is anecdotal.

Review authors noted that, in one control trial, ginger was not proven to help with relieve IBS symptoms any better than the placebo.

Some people also find relief from a soothing cup of tea. IBS-friendly teas include:

  • green
  • herbal
  • peppermint

When trying a cup of tea, start by keeping it on the weak side. Certain varieties, like a strong black tea, or any others that have caffeine, may worsen IBS symptoms.

Peppermint oil has been established as a safe, effective option for IBS relief. One research review found that peppermint oil had about a 58 percent success rate for IBS relief, double that of placebos.

Side effects of peppermint oil were found to be mild and temporary, including heartburn and discomfort. When compared to other solutions, the researchers said that peppermint oil could be viewed as the first go-to treatment if you have general IBS symptoms.

Just look for therapeutic-grade options, which are pretty easy to find.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland that helps with both sleep regulation and digestion. For those with IBS, melatonin works to regulate intestinal motility (the movement of intestinal muscles).

According to one research review,most clinical studies have found an improvement in IBS symptoms with the use of melatonin supplements — commonly given in the evening at a dose of 3 mg.

Melatonin can be found both online and at local drugstores. It’s often marketed as a sleep aid because of its wide use in the treatment of insomnia.

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.

Some research has shown that several problems associated with IBS can be aided by probiotics, such as:

  • bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine
  • inflammation
  • motility
  • hypersensitivity

Studies looking into which probiotics are most helpful is ongoing.

IBS: How to Tailor Your Treatment Options

Slippery elm is known for aiding digestive health. 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.

Slippery elm can be made into a tea, stirred into food, or put in capsules. You can find slippery elm powder supplements online and in drugstores.

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 involving treating IBS symptoms in study participants using Chinese herbal preparations — including herbs like Dang Shen, bupleurum, and magnolia bark — saw significant improvements compared with control groups.

Researchers are continuously evaluating the effectiveness of existing remedies and looking into new options.

Outside of specific nutrients and supplements to try, researchers have also found that stress can take a toll in IBS. Taking daily steps to manage or reduce stress levels can help relieve IBS symptoms. In particular, relaxation techniques like meditation and mindfulness may help improve bowel habits.

Evidence also shows that regular exercise can help improve IBS symptoms, especially constipation.

Consult with your doctor or dietitian

Talk with your doctor or dietitian before trying new IBS remedies. They may be able to offer additional solutions and tips on how to get the most out of these and other remedies.

While most are available in supplement form, supplements are not regulated in the United States, so checking with your healthcare team about the best brands to choose is a good practice. Many of these remedies can also be added to your diet through food sources.

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Most people with IBS experiment with various natural remedies to help relieve digestive symptoms. Work with your healthcare team to determine which options may be best help you.