IBS Alternative Treatments

IBS Alternative Treatments

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a collection of related symptoms involving the large intestine.  They include diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, bloating, and often extreme and prolonged discomfort.  They can be unpredictable, painful, and embarrassing.

Symptoms can occur sporadically or continue regularly for long periods, taking an emotional toll on the sufferer and complicating treatment.

Sufferers cite frustration, fear, and uncertainty as common emotional side effects of this troubling condition.  Even when not actively exhibiting symptoms, IBS sufferers often worry that they could present at any time, and it is not uncommon for them to limit their mobility and social interaction.

The causes of this condition are not clearly understood, further complicating strategies for its successful treatment.  It is not a disease or illness per se, and does not cause damage to the digestive system, but sufferers are often profoundly affected by the unpredictability and severity of its debilitating symptoms.

Whether the culprit is diet, stress, hormones, or bacterial growth, living with IBS and finding effective long-term remedies can be challenging.

Treatment Alternatives

Although currently the most prescribed course of treatment is a combination of diet modification, medication, and stress relief, alternative approaches are growing in popularity.  Recently Zelnorm, a popular drug in IBS treatment, was taken off the market because of unexpected and dangerous side effects.  This has spurred renewed interest in exploring alternative and complementary treatments. Two such treatments that have gained greater acceptance in recent years are acupuncture and hypnotherapy.


There is evidence that supports the contention that acupuncture reduces the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in some sufferers, although conflicting studies require more in depth evaluation.  The reasons behind its effectiveness are still in dispute, but a likely candidate may be that acupuncture causes changes in the nervous system that have an impact on the body’s perception of pain.

Among acupuncture professionals, IBS specific treatments vary.  Individual acupuncturists rely on their own unique methods to treat IBS, but the basic process involves the application of small needles, about the diameter of a human hair, to key locations on the body.

The careful selection of a practitioner who has documented success in treating IBS will improve the likelihood that this method of treatment will be successful.


The close link between stress and IBS has led to strategies that target the reduction of stress as a key element in successful treatment.  IBS specific (gut-specific) hypnotherapeutic techniques have been developed in recent years that are yielding promising results, changing the perception of hypnosis as a peripheral treatment to its inclusion as a more common element in a well-considered long-term approach to reducing the frequency and intensity of IBS flare-ups.

After an initial training period, hypnotherapy can sometimes be undertaken using self-hypnosis techniques.  This self-directed style of treatment is very popular because it can be conducted in the home without a practitioner present.


Treatments employing acupuncture and hypnotherapy specifically targeted to the IBS sufferer have had encouraging initial results.

Both methods are relaxing, noninvasive, and can have a positive impact on attitude and outlook.  They can be used in concert with medication and lifestyle changes and can be readily tailored to meet individual needs.