Irritable bowel syndrome is a common gastrointestinal condition, affecting 10% to 15% of the global population. This issue causes abdominal pain and altered bowel habits that can be a minor nuisance or severe enough to interrupt daily life.
With symptoms ranging from mild to severe, this condition can be tricky to manage. Doctors may recommend medications to control symptoms and offer relief. However, some patients may find that they do not respond to the medications, or the medications prompt undesirable side effects. Incorporating IBS supplements into your diet may offer some help with certain symptoms of IBS.
Supplements and Their Purpose
Supplements deliver additional nutrients that may not be consumed through food. Your body requires a certain amount of nutrients each day to function its best. Supplements may include vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes, amino acids, and other nutrients lacking in your daily consumption. These should not be taken in place of a balanced diet, but as an additional boost as required by the body.
We only need to consume nutrients based on how much the body needs—ingesting additional nutrients beyond what is required is not usually recommended. Supplements come in a variety of form; depending on the supplement, it may come as a pill, liquid, capsule, or more.
When taking supplements, seeking the advice of a dietician or medical professional is the best course of action. As supplements come in varying doses and combinations, it is best to have professional advice on which supplement levels are lacking. Supplements need to suit the reasons you take them, such as the case with supplements you take for relieving IBS symptoms.
How Supplements Help IBS Symptoms
There are a few different supplements that people may take to ease their IBS symptoms. When the right IBS supplements give the body the nutrients it needs, some potential improvements include:
- Maintaining higher levels of helpful gut bacteria in the large intestine (gut flora)
- Reducing unhelpful gut bacteria
- Improving digestion
- Reducing abdominal pain by affecting nerve receptors in the linings of intestines
- Reducing intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
- Strengthening the intestinal lining
- Decreasing bloating/gas
- Normalizing bowel movements
Are Supplements Effective?
Supplements may help, based on an analysis of several studies. The results of the analysis show that around 1,800 patients demonstrated that probiotics reduced their pain and symptom severity compared to a placebo. While this is encouraging, results of some supplements have been mixed between positive results and seeing little to no difference after taking supplements for IBS.
Pros and Cons of Supplements for IBS
Some positives about using supplements for IBS symptoms include:
- Most people do not experience serious side effects
- They provide nutrients your body lacks
- Some substances are natural, an alternative for those who do not want to take medication
- They help maintain your general health
- Some may support the immune system as well as alleviate IBS symptoms
Some negative news about supplements for IBS symptoms include:
- There’s no guarantee they will relieve symptoms
- They’re not proven effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being marked for sale
- Some doctors may advise against them with certain health conditions, including allergies or weakened immune systems
- They may interact poorly with some medications and cause additional health concerns
The Best Supplements for IBS
As with making any changes to your health status, do your research before adding supplements to your diet. Determine the dosage requirements and how best to take a supplement—some vitamins and minerals absorb better when taken with other elements, such as healthy fats. When in doubt, ask for help from a professional.
Some of the preferred supplements for IBS include:
- Probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria the gut needs to digest food properly. Probiotics, such as Acidophilus Plus, promote the number of friendly bacteria in the gut and helps treat and alleviate diarrhea.
- Psyllium powder. This fiber laxative comes from ground psyllium seed husks. Fiber helps bulk up diarrhea and loosen constipation. With fiber, large quantities can affect the absorption of medication; this supplement needs to be timed a couple of hours after taking medication. Psyllium powder fiber supplements, like Metamucil, should be used as directed.
- Peppermint oil. This natural supplement traditionally treats digestive problems by helping relax and smooth the muscles of the gastrointestinal system. It contains menthol, a chemical that helps relax muscles in the GI tract. Taking peppermint oil can also reduce abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and constipation that may come with IBS.
- Turmeric. This supplement is a potent anti-inflammatory that helps reduce inflammation in the bowel.
- Vitamin E. This antioxidant helps prevent constipation and has a soothing effect on the bowel, possibly reducing inflammation.
- Chamomile or green tea. Drinking one of these teas may help calm the digestive system.
- Flaxseed. A source of fiber, flaxseed helps prevent constipation.
- Magnesium. This mineral helps bodies absorb calcium and potassium. Taking this supplement may help relieve constipation due to the calming effect it has on the bowel. This supplement is not for everyone; users should consult a doctor before taking it.
- Ginger. This dietary supplement may help when IBS symptoms include nausea.
- Melatonin. For nighttime IBS symptoms, melatonin may relieve symptoms when you are ready to sleep. Melatonin may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and have a positive effect on the gastrointestinal tract.
Before starting a supplement regimen for your IBS symptoms, consult a medical professional. They’ll help you create a schedule for the best times of day, dose, and other considerations to get the best benefit from IBS supplements.