5 IBS treatment options

If you have received a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and want to consider natural IBS treatment options here are 5 of the most cutting edge:

IBS treatment option 1 – Dietary exclusion

Cut down fermentable carbohydrates, these are found in in vegetables, milk, breads, cereals, pasta, legumes and certain fruits, such as apples, pears, nectarines, peaches, plums, apricots and cherries (livestrong). This is the basis for the FODMAP diet, which has been demonstrated to produce good results (Ross et al 2016) comparable to counselling (Jankovich & Watkins 2016). However the need to consult a specially trained FODMAP Dietician is stressed.

IBS treatment option 2 – Probiotics 

Toping up with a bit of healthy gut bacteria is beneficial for many people. A recent review of studies published by the British Dietetic Association found that 59% of randomised control trials (RTC’s) for the use of probiotic treatment showed some benefit, either to symptoms or quality of life. This also means that 41% showed no benefit and they were unable to identify a particular strain which proved more beneficial than any other.  However, it clearly can be beneficial and a short course of probiotic therapy is very cheap so it’s probably more than worth it. (Mckenzie et al 2016)

IBS treatment option 3 – Acupuncture

A much anticipated follow up by MacPherson et al (2016) found no significant difference between the treatment as usual group and the acupuncture groups. This doesn’t mean that acupuncture doesn’t work for IBS it simply doesn’t appear to be any better than the normal treatments, however attending for acupuncture may still be quicker and easier that other options.

IBS treatment option 4 – Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy has been part of National Institute of Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for the treatment of IBS since 2008, typically being based on a 6-7 session intervention.  And validation of this is clear in Shahbazi, Solati & Hasanpour-Dehkordi’s (2016) study of 60 IBS patients comparing hypnotherapy with standard treatment which found significant benefits to hypnotherapy above standard treatment.

IBS treatment option 5 – Exposure based Cognitive Behavioural therapy 

Based on a 12 session intervention Boersma et al (2016) found that over 70% of patients improved significantly on gastrointestinal symptoms, pain catastrophizing, and quality of life. Effects on avoidance behaviour were modest.


Most of the findings are positive, however there is a lack of clarity to which approach is the best, what seems to be the way forward is a combination of dietary and psychological therapies to maximise positive outcomes.

IBS therapy

The author

Matt Krouwel is a hypnotherapist in Birmingham who is currently working with the University of Birmingham (UoB) on refining IBS treatment with hypnosis. he also works extensively with anxiety, addictions and sexual issues.



Boersma, K., Ljótsson, B., Edebol-Carlman, H., Schrooten, M., Linton, S. J., & Brummer, R. J. (2016). Exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy for irritable bowel syndrome. A single-case experimental design across 13 subjects. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 1-16.

Jankovich, E., & Watkins, A. M. (2016). Is the restriction of Fermentable Short Chain Carbohydrate (FODMAP) a credible solution for the Irritable Bowel Syndrome patient?. South African Gastroenterology Review, 14(1).

http://www.livestrong.com/article/507667-what-are-fermentable-carbohydrates/ – accessed 1 July 2016

MacPherson, H., Tilbrook, H., Agbedjro, D., Buckley, H., Hewitt, C., & Frost, C. (2016). Acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome: 2-year follow-up of a randomised controlled trial. Acupuncture in Medicine, acupmed-2015.

McKenzie, Y. A., Thompson, J., Gulia, P., & Lomer, M. C. E. (2016). British Dietetic Association systematic review of systematic reviews and evidence‐based practice guidelines for the use of probiotics in the management of irritable bowel syndrome in adults (2016 update). Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

Ross, E., Lam, M., Andrews, C., & Raman, M. (2016). The Low FODMAPS Diet and IBS: A Winning Strategy. Journal of Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics.

Shahbazi, K., Solati, K., & Hasanpour-Dehkordi, A. (2016). Comparison of Hypnotherapy and Standard Medical Treatment Alone on Quality of Life in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized Control Trial. Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, 10(5).