Are there truly effective herbal remedies for irritable bowel syndrome? If you know all too well the pain and embarrassment of this gastrointestinal disorder, you've probably already asked yourself that very question. The good news is there are safe, effective natural supplements that, with your doctor's guidance, may just help you better manage the gas, bloating, cramping and urgency of IBS.
Psyllium is a member of the Plantago genus. It is one of the most commonly-used dietary fibers and is the main ingredient in supplements like Metamucil. In the body, psyllium acts as both a soluble and insoluble fiber. In other words, it both bulks and softens the stools. The softness makes bowel movements more comfortable, especially for people who have IBS with constipation while the extra bulk may benefit those people whose IBS manifests itself with diarrhea.
Enteric coated peppermint oil--the same oil that makes Christmas candy tastes so "Christmasy"--has been proven more effective than prescription medications in preventing and alleviating the spasms that cause cramping during IBS flare-ups. The best news of all may be that peppermint oil helps IBS with constipation and IBS with diarrhea.
If peppermint oil is offering relief, peppermint combined with caraway may be an even better choice. A 2007 study published in the journal American Family Physician found that the addition of caraway oil also soothed the spasms that cause acid reflux. Both these supplements can cause stomach upset in high doses but are well tolerated by most people.
Cautions & Warnings
IBS is only diagnosed after ruling out all other medical conditions and because its symptoms mimic those of other, more serious diseases, a frank discussion with your doctor is recommended by experts. Each of the supplements discussed here has at least some potential for side effects and all may interfere with other herbs and prescription medications.