Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

How do doctors treat IBS?

Doctors may treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by recommending changes in what you eat and other lifestyle changes, medicines, probiotics, and mental health therapies. You may have to try a few treatments to see what works best for you. Your doctor can help you find the right treatment plan.

Changes to what you eat and other lifestyle changes

Changes in what you eat may help treat your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend trying one of the following changes:

  • eat more fiber
  • avoid gluten
  • follow a special eating plan called the low FODMAP diet

Read more about eating, diet, and nutrition for IBS.

Research suggests that other lifestyle changes may help IBS symptoms, including

  • increasing your physical activity
  • reducing stressful life situations as much as possible
  • getting enough sleep

Medicines

Your doctor may recommend medicine to relieve your IBS symptoms.

To treat IBS with diarrhea, your doctor may recommend

To treat IBS with constipation, your doctor may recommend

Other medicines may help treat pain in your abdomen, including

Follow your doctor’s instructions when you use medicine to treat IBS. Talk with your doctor about possible side effects and what to do if you have them.

Woman taking medicine.
Your doctor may recommend medicine to relieve your IBS symptoms.

Probiotics

Your doctor may also recommend probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms, most often bacteria, that are similar to microorganisms you normally have in your digestive tract. Researchers are still studying the use of probiotics to treat IBS.

To be safe, talk with your doctor before using probiotics or any other complementary or alternative medicines or practices. If your doctor recommends probiotics, talk with him or her about how much probiotics you should take and for how long.

Mental health therapies

Your doctor may recommend mental health therapies to help improve your IBS symptoms. Therapies used to treat IBS include

  • cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on helping you change thought and behavior patterns to improve IBS symptoms
  • gut-directed hypnotherapy, in which a therapist uses hypnosis—a trance-like state in which you are relaxed or focused—to help improve your IBS symptoms
  • relaxation training, which can help you relax your muscles or reduce stress
November 2017
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Lin Chang, M.D., David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles